Recommended Screenings: FILMS OF PATRICIA ROZEMA – A RETROSPECTIVE (Toronto, NYC, L.A.)

Post image for Recommended Screenings: FILMS OF PATRICIA ROZEMA – A RETROSPECTIVE (Toronto, NYC, L.A.)

by Tony Frankel on March 19, 2024

in Film,Theater-International,Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-New York

Considered part of the informally defined collection of independent filmmakers to make up the Toronto New Wave in the 1980s and early 1990s, filmmaker, television director, artist, and educator Patricia Rozema (b. 1958) found breakout success at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival when her first feature, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, nabbed the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Director’s Fortnight section, making it the first English-language Canadian film in the festival’s forty-year history to win an award. Rozema’s subsequent career, which has encompassed narrative features, shorts, documentaries, and episodes of hit television series as both director and writer, maintains her first feature’s lighthearted irreverence, stylistic bravado, eye for magical realism, and distinctly queer sensibility.

Currently inspiring the next generation of filmmakers as an adjunct professor at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television, Patricia Rozema’s work will be on the big screen with newly 4K restored films at the Lightbox in Toronto (March 21-31); at the Roxy Tribeca in New York City (April 5-11) and in Los Angeles at the Academy Film Museum and at the UCLA Film Archive (April 26-30). Select films will also screen at Laemmle Theaters in LA on May 7-8 and 13-14. Rozema will be present for Q&As at select Toronto, New York and Los Angeles screenings. Patricia Rozema’s films, though varied in style and content, have always been marked by a humane and tender sensibility. This is the first large-scale tribute in the U.S. to this award-winning Canadian director.

4K restored – I’VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING (1987) – Winner of the Prix de la Jeunesse at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival – became a Queer and indie cinema classic. The film opened the Toronto International Film Festival and went on to win numerous awards and was ranked in TIFF’s list of Top 10 Canadian Films of all time. A charming and whimsical story about a daydreamer with artistic aspirations, Patricia Rozema’s fanciful character study follows an amateur photographer Polly (Sheila McCarthy) as she lands a temp job at a Toronto art gallery run by elegant and sophisticated Gabrielle (Paule Baillargeon), who is also a painter. Polly is impressed with Gabrielle’s paintings, but as Polly gets to know Gabrielle’s lover, Mary (Ann-Marie MacDonald), and becomes entangled in their lives, she realizes that Gabrielle isn’t exactly who she appears to be. The absent-minded temp with spiky orange hair and the polished curator with a gift for gab are like night and day, yet a strong connection builds between these two women through their shared love of art, and their genuine curiosity and need for love. 

4K restored – WHITE ROOM (1990) – never before released in the United States, Patricia Rozema’s second feature WHITE ROOM, is a harrowing fairy tale, as much about the consequences of naive romanticism as it in about our uniquely modern obsession with celebrity. In this “journey through genres”, WHITE ROOM centres on would-be writer Norman (Maurice Godin), a directionless soul who, afflicted with writer’s block, takes to wandering the suburban boulevards at night and peeping on his neighbours – especially one “Madeline X” (Margot Kidder) – a famous singer who is murdered one night as the horrified Norman watches, too stunned to intervene. Overcome with guilt, Norman attends her public memorial, where he meets an enigmatic woman (Kate Nelligan) with unexplained connections to Madelaine X. He follows her home to see her slip into a secret room every night. Set in the cultural landscape of bohemian Toronto at the dawn of the ’90s, WHITE ROOM explores the incompatibility of the fragile openness needed to create art and the impossibly thick skin required to sell it.

4K restored – WHEN NIGHT IS FALLING (1995) – the film had its world premiere in the Official Competition at the 1995 Berlin Festival, and went on to become an instant lesbian classic. Camille (Pascale Bussières) is a mythology lecturer at a conservative Christian college. She’s engaged to be married and is on the path to a stable career. But, when her dog dies, Camille finds her life unraveling. At a low ebb, she crosses paths with fiery circus performer Petra (Rachael Crawford), and sparks fly. With Petra pursuing her ardently, Camille experiences a sexual awakening and must confront the daunting prospect of changing her entire existence.

35mm – MANSFIELD PARK (1999) – Patricia Rozema’s daring adaptation of Mansfield Park is a witty look at romance and reality, Jane Austen style. Rozema has taken Jane Austen’s third and most controversial novel and infused its lead character with the irreverent and mischievous nature at the heart of Austen’s own letters and early writings. The result is an original social satire with a strong-willed heroine at its centre who, á la Austen, attempts to outsmart the dizzying labyrinth of marriage and social status — without compromising her ideals or her heart. This is the story of Fanny Price (Frances O’Connor), who emerges from this comedic maze having discovered the rightness of one true love.

DCPBECKETT ON FILM: HAPPY DAYS Conceived as a project to make 19 of Samuel Beckett’s plays available on film, BECKETT ON FILM (2000) featured a different cast and director — drawn from theater, film and other artistic fields — for each play. Happy Days is Patricia Rozema’s contribution to the canon, wherein she masterfully directs the plight of two characters stuck in the desert sand, which, like many of Beckett’s works, has them in a bad situation that by the second half gets much worse. Starring the captivating Rosaleen Linehan, this rarely screened TV movie is a delight of dialogue that purposefully uses the confines of the space, the situation, and the screen to bring the absurd to life.

4K restored – MOUTHPIECE (2018) – won the Directors Guild of Canada Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film Award and was voted a Canada Top Ten of in 2018. The film is a tender, innovative examination of the shattering experience of grief shot through with a darkly surreal streak of humor. Adapted from the multi-award winning play of the same name, MOUTHPIECE unfolds through raucous jokes, musical numbers and heartbreaking memories that add up to a deeply moving and political portrait of a mother and a daughter as seen through the eyes of one conflicted young woman.

New York Screenings at The Roxy Tribeca
7:15p Friday April 5th / White Room with Patricia Rozema Q&A
5:15p Saturday April 6th / Mansfield Park
7:30p Saturday April 6th / When Night Is Falling
5:15p Sunday April 7th / Mouthpiece 
Los Angeles Screenings / Q&As
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing 7:30p Friday April 26 2024 Academy Museum
Mansfield Park 7:30p Saturday April 27 2024 Academy Museum
White Room 7:00p Sunday April 28 2024
Beckett on Film: Happy Days 7:30p Monday April 29 2024
Laemmle Theaters:
May 7 & 8 – When Night is Falling // May 13 & 14 – MouthpieceCuration and notes by K.J. Relth-Miller, Academy Museum; Amanda Salazar, UCLA Film & Television Archive.BIO:

Patricia Rozema’s films, though varied in style and content, have always been marked by a humane and tender sensibility. Described as “so fresh, so funny, it amazes the heart” to “visually sensuous” and “wryly sophisticated,” her work invariably shows social prescience and deep humanity.

Born in Kingston, ON and raised in the small town of Sarnia, ON in a Dutch Calvinist immigrant family where television was severely restricted, Rozema didn’t go to a movie theatre until she was 16 years old. Rozema then studied philosophy at Calvin College and Seminary in Michigan (Paul Shrader’s alma mater).

After a brief stint in journalism, her first feature, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, a magical realist film about a socially inept secretary in an art gallery made one of the most outstanding feature debuts in the history of Canadian cinema. At the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, in the Director’s Fortnight, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing won the Prix de la Jeunesse and was runner-up for the Camera D’Or (best first feature). The film opened the Toronto International Film Festival and went on to win numerous awards including being ranked in TIFF’s list of Top 10 Canadian Films of all time. Miramax released the film in the US to great acclaim.

Rozema directed Six Gestures as part of the Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach series. It debuted at the Venice Film Festival. Rozema’s film was nominated for a Grammy and was awarded a Prime Time Emmy, as well as a Golden Rose at the Rose d’Or Global Television Festival, the highest prize in television in Europe.

In 1995, she wrote and directed a lesbian love story, When Night is Falling, which won festival audience prizes around the world and remains a classic in the gay community.

Her next films were made outside of Canada. Rozema’s elegant progressive adaptation of Mansfield Park (1999, UK, Miramax) included a controversial inclusion of a sub-plot about slavery “paying for this tea party”. Roger Ebert called it “uncommonly intelligent” and declared it the film most likely to receive an Oscar best picture nomination (he was, sadly, wrong). It opened the 1999 World Film Festival in Montreal and was featured as a Special Presentation at TIFF.

Her socially conscious children’s film which eerily predicted the economic collapse, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008) starred Abigail Breslin, Stanley Tucci, Julia Ormond, Chris O’Donnell, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, Glenn Hedley, and Jane Krakowski. The film earned a Director’s Guild Best Director nomination and New York Times critic A.O. Scott hailed the film as featuring one of the Top 5 Female Performances of the year.

In 2000, Rozema was invited to direct Happy Days (2000), part of an Irish production filming all of Beckett’s plays which included Anthony Minghella, Neil Jordan, and David Mamet.

In 2009, Rozema co-wrote Grey Gardens for HBO starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. She received an Emmy nomination, a Writer’s Guild nomination, and a PEN USA award.

Other television credits include the pilot and several episodes of the groundbreaking sexually explicit Tell Me You Love Me (2008) with Jane Alexander, Adam Scott, Luke Kirby, and an episode of the critically acclaimed HBO series In Treatment (2010) starring Gabriel Byrne and Debra Winger.

In 2016, Rozema completed adapting and directing the feature film Into the Forest with Elliot Page and Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Callum Keith Rennie and Wendy Crewson, a story about two sisters surviving in the forest when all power has gone out for reasons unknown. She directed two episodes of Amazon’s Golden Globe-winning Mozart in the Jungle starring Gael García Bernal and Lola Kirke and an episode of CBC’s Anne with an E.

Rozema’s latest feature, MOUTHPIECE (2018), was adapted from a play of the same name by Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava who also star in this powerful, funny and highly original look into a women’s conflicted psyche in the first 48 hours following her mother’s sudden death. The film premiere as the Special Presentation Opening Night Film at the Toronto International Film Festival and was named one of TIFF’s Top Ten Canadian Films of the year. MOUTHPIECE is currently touring on the international film festival circuit.

Rozema holds an honorary doctorate from the Ontario Academy of Art & Design University.

She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Leave a Comment