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THE RUBBER GUN (1977).

Lensed over a two-year period by a Montreal arts collective (which earlier created 1974's MONTREAL MAIN) and directed by first-timer Allan Moyle (PUMP UP THE VOLUME, EMPIRE RECORDS), this experimental Canadian feature about a makeshift "family" of dope-pushing junkies is a throwback to the edgy, self-indulgent arthouse films of the late-'60s. Employing a Cassavetes-esque fusion of documentary and narrative style, it's raw, rambly, surprisingly genuine, and laced with casual drug use and sexuality -- which earned it a spot at MoMA's "New Directors/New Films" series, followed by a brief New York City theatrical run. Most of the castmembers play fictionalized versions of themselves, with Stephen Lack starring as the father figure of a Montreal counterculture clique, who subsidizes his unprofitable artwork by dealing. Pierre is an ex-Leather Boy "faggot," Pam is his frustrated baby mama, Peter is an abrasive addict, and although this group peddles hard drugs, they're less like vicious criminals than free-spirited, anti-establishment misfits. Moyle also appears in the film as Bozo, a jittery college student who's recruited by Lack and becomes his "new toy." In truth, this sociology major is secretly studying their diverse personalities for his McGill University master's thesis. Don't bother looking for a concrete story though, because the film zigs and zags without any apparent destination. When they aren't selling or personally doing drugs, these oddballs roam the streets or annoy pedestrians with their bullhorn-equipped sedan, blather and argue incessantly, or Lack toils away on his art projects. The "plot" ultimately hinges on a suitcase containing a huge stash of heroin, currently sitting in a locker at the Windsor train station. Although undercover cops have the area staked out, the more desperate members of this group are prepared to idiotically risk it all for that one big score, even as Stephen finds himself at a crossroads. Lack is loose and charismatic -- he's the glue holding this unfocused film together (which makes you wonder why the guy was so laughably one-note in David Cronenberg's SCANNERS) -- while the rest of his ragtag quartet (Pam Holmes-Robert, Pierre Robert, Peter Brawley) barely acted again. The script by Lack, Moyle and editor John Laing has a heavily-improvised feel (which is sometimes fascinatingly intimate; other times, aggravatingly vapid) and decidedly radical leanings (although little judgment is made about the family's dubious activities, the police are your standard hard-ass heavies), with off-the-cuff cinematography by Frank Vitale (director of 1976's EAST END HUSTLE, which was co-written by Moyle) meticulously capturing the characters' downbeat, dead-end lives. Regarding its title, "The Rubber Gun Show" seems to be slang for some type of police bust, as well as lyrics from one of Lewis Furey's soundtrack tunes.

© 2014 by Steven Puchalski.