09 November 2010

Acknowledging Hugh MacLennan

Hugh MacLennan died twenty years ago today. I never met the man, though I did once nod reverently as we passed each other in an otherwise deserted university hallway. He smiled. I should have stopped. I've since learned not to let such opportunities slip by.

Another regret: I've never seen the screen adaptation of MacLennan's Two Solitudes. When offered the opportunity I chose Superman: The Movie. Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel beat Stacy Keach's Huntly McQueen. This happened back in 1978 when I was still a young pup – shouldn't I be given a second chance? As far as I can tell, Two Solitudes never made it to Beta or VHS or LaserDisc or DVD. YouTube doesn't have so much as the trailer.

Is it any good? All I have to go on is the poster, a publicity photo, Macmillan's movie edition and a handful of contemporary reviews. It seems no one was particularly crazy about the film... "letdown" is the most accurate one-word summation, though Jay Scott provided a particularly detailed and damning review for the 30 September 1978 Globe and Mail:
Stylistically, Two Solitudes is pure Hollywood, Old Hollywood. It is not enough that we make exploitation films for the Americans: now we are copying their ponderous historical dramatizations, employing composer Maurice Jarre, the once-favored treacly symphonizer of those lumpen ethics. It is a characteristically Canadian irony that the dramatizations being Xeroxed no longer exist in their original form. Two Solitudes does not resemble any contemporary American film of quality as much as it resembles made-for-TV novels like Washington: Behind Closed Doors and Rich Man, Poor Man; it's a passionless political soap opera.
A few months later, Scott named Two Solitudes as one of ten worst films of 1978, while pointing to Superman was one the ten best.

Wonder if I'd agree.

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