Director: Larry Kent
Screenplay: Bill Marchant
Cast: Shane Twerdun, Niall Matter
Producers: Bill Marchant, Cheryl Smith, Michael Chase, Andrew Moxham
Long thought of as a kind of cinematic equivalent of a secret handshake, South African-born filmmaker Larry Kent is the founding father of Canadian independent film. His landmark, Vancouver-shot 1962 post-beatnik/pre-hippie drama THE BITTER ASH was filmed on the fly and the was the first Canadian film exhibited in the U.S. It was also controversial, being the first Canadian film to feature nudity and profanity, and its counterculture success birthed a whole wave of Kent-helmed, West Coast “nouvelle vague”-styled pictures that captured aimless, angst-ridden Canadian youth. After his move to Montreal, Kent unleashed his most important picture, 1967’s HIGH, a psychedelic free-for-all of dark drama and kitsch that defined the city circa the late ’60s, vying for the same screen space at the 1968 Montreal Film Festival as the Arthur Penn/Warren Beatty landmark BONNIE AND CLYDE. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Kent continued making personal pictures for the likes of Cinepix, the NFB and most importantly… himself.
Now in his 70s, Kent continues to make bold, angry yet never exploitative pictures that challenge, confound and amuse. His latest is the no-budget wonder EXLEY, a rough, open sore of a neo-realist trip that is as surreal and ludicrous as it is cynical and profound. Skid row hustler Exley is a jittery mess, living a life on the edge and on the cheap. He whiles his days away having sex and existing for the moment until a phone call from his half-mad, estranged mother throws him off. She’s dying and before the day is out, Exley must find some way, by hook or crook, to round up the dough, a quest that literally drags him through a nickel-and-dime hell that gets progressively more perverse as the running time winds down.
Loose, rough, sexual and violent, and almost 100 per cent improvised by its bright cast from a script outline by Bill Marchant, EXLEY will make you laugh out loud even when the weirdest and worst things imaginable befall our hapless anti-hero. Vintage Larry Kent all the way…