In When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan famously argued over whether men and women could be friends without one of them wanting to have sex with the other. When I first saw the film 11 years ago, I found it funny, entertaining and a good conversation piece, but I couldn’t help thinking that Crystal and Ryan — neither of whom seemed to have any family beyond their fellow single New Yorkers — had overlooked something. I could certainly think of a few women in my own life for whom this was a non-issue, and one of them was sitting right next to me in the theatre. I refer, of course, to my sister.
John Murdoch has a problem. He just woke up in an old, decrepit hotel suite — the sort where the shadows seem to be painted on the walls — to find blood on his forehead and a murdered prostitute beside his bed. The police are on their way, and a mysterious group of bald men, raspy-voiced and pale as ghosts, are after him too. Even worse, Murdoch has no memories; he only knows his name from the ID in his wallet. He might, indeed, be guilty of this murder. Then again, he might not.
So begins Dark City, the latest gothic fantasy from former music-video director Alex Proyas. His last film, The Crow, was a bloodthirsty comic-book adaptation in which a man returned from the dead to get revenge for the murder of himself and his fiancée. The Crow looked good, but it didn’t have much to say. With Dark City, based on a story he wrote, Proyas ups the style quotient and shoots for something more significant, plugging into current debates on the nature of the mind and soul. Murdoch (played by Rufus Sewell) discovers that the bald men are members of a race of aliens known as the Strangers, who have mastered the ability to control, create, and reshape the physical world through the power of their minds. But this power offers them little satisfaction because they have, so we are told, no individuality, no freedom, and no hope of eternal life. They have gained the world, you might say, but they have no soul to lose.
For Dan Ireland, directing The Whole Wide World is a dream come true. More than three decades after he first fell in love with film, Ireland is bringing his first feature, about the frustrated love life of Conan the Barbarian author Robert E. Howard, to Vancouver.
“I don’t think Howard ever had a choice in his life of what he would be,” says the 46-year-old Vancouver native, who says he felt a bond of sorts with Howard. “He was a writer. And I was a film enthusiast, I was a total film nut. And I didn’t know where it would lead me.”
The first film Ireland remembers seeing was Them!, the sci-fi flick about giant ants, which he saw at the age of five in a drive-in theatre with his parents. He got his first job at 14 as a doorman for the Vogue theatre. He eventually tried studying political science at UBC, but gave that up to embark on a career that saw him work at almost every theatre in town.