December 10, 2004


Directed by Jerry Ciccoritti Starring Emily Hampshire and Jacob Tierney

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

Best known for the inaugural International 3-Day Novel Contest winner Dr. Tin (1979), cult Canadian playwright/novelist Tom Walmsley was dreaming up violent, perverse gonzo pulp before Quentin Tarantino took a job at a video store or Takashi Miike got his break working as Shohei Imamura’s assistant director. Without the benefit of a major hit though, Walmsley struggled at the margins of relevance during the past two decades by maladroitly inserting social grit into his typical absurdist excess. Although he wrote the one-act, two-hander play Blood (1995) to eulogize his late sister and resolve personal issues, he managed to turn even that into sensationalist, exploitative nonsense.

The story’s ex-con/junkie/prostitute Noelle (Emily Hampshire) is trying to score money for a fix when her estranged brother Chris (Jacob Tierney) unexpectedly turns up having recently recovered from alcoholism and a failed marriage. Apparently the siblings share a poisonous history tainted by betrayal, and this blood-doping reunion breaks loose just about all hell. They tirelessly spar about money, addiction, religion and suicide, while occasionally engaging in incestuous debauchery whenever a topic runs dry.

It’s unclear if anything here is symbolic or just plain irrational, as Blood constantly drifts between a weighty exposé akin to The Dreamers and an irreverent parody like Visitor Q. The story touches on a variety of issues, but Walmsley does not tackle any of them meaningfully. Each time the faux-philosophical psychobabble is palpably going around in circles, he injects bloodcurdling shock value by transfusing taboos drained from his play The Jones Boy (1977) and screenplay for Paris, France (1993) – his first collaboration with writer/director Jerry Ciccoritti.

Following Walmsley’s lead, Ciccoritti here recycles some shots from Paris, France. He has filmed Blood digitally on a one-room set and tried to pep it up visually by employing just about every function that comes with iMovie or Avid Xpress. But all the random split-frames, layered images, slow motions and colour changes serve no dramatic or thematic purpose, and they seem like gimmickry rather than ingenuity.

Even though it updates the protagonists from 1970s middle-aged Vancouverites to contemporary twenty-something Montréalers, Ciccoritti’s adaptation still feels archaic in a post-Irvine Welsh world. Hampshire single-handedly salvages the film, engaging the audience throughout with a performance that channels her inner Parker Posey. Still, fans of The Sopranos may wonder if this would have actually been a convincing film had it starred Aida Turturro and James Gandolfini.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2004 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.