exuberant adultery and liberation from
the dread allegorical Zone Wars
in the allegorical film art of Sarah Polley
by Gary W. Wright
Curiously, and unlike many of her contemporary film artists, Sarah Ellen Polley has been involved in the dread allegorical Zone Wars dating back to her role as the sweet and feisty girl feminist, Sally Salt, in the twilit, allegorical and implicitly Steven Spielberg roasting Terry Gilliam film, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1988), making her a living symbol of Zone War film art. And how fitting that John Neville’s irrepressibly and indomitably optimistic and implicitly Spielberg linked Baron Munchausen should toss a rose to Sally at the end of the film before he disappeared, given that Polley went on to become a film artist like Spielberg. However, despite symbolizing the dread Zone Wars, Polley had little implicit interest in the Zone Wars in her own film art. This made Polley one of the first film artists of the post-Zone War era, a commitment to a brave and liberated new era of film art seen in her first allegorical film, AWAY FROM HER (2006), based on the allegorical Alice Munro story, ‘The Bear Came Over The Mountain’ (1999).
‘Oh, we don’t go to the movies much any more, do we, Grant? All those multiplexes showing the same American garbage.’
Significantly, AWAY FROM US saw the implicitly Sir Ridley Scott linked Grant Anderson-played by Gordon Pinsent-a retired Nordic mythology teacher, slowly lose his wife, Fiona, a Canadian of Icelandic descent-played by Julie Christie-to Alzheimer’s over the course of the film. It was also noticeable that Anderson refused to abandon his wife of forty-four years even when Fiona lost interest in him for a while and turned to Aubrey-played by Michael Murphy-at her elderly care centre. Indeed, the film ended with Anderson hugging Fiona fiercely and lovingly, in the end, as a wistful memory of her as a beautiful, bewitching and implicitly Hollywood linked blonde-played by Stacey Laberge-flashed through his mind. A wistful and bewitching memory that was one of many in AWAY FROM US, reminding us that wistful and bewitching memories and dreams haunted imperfect humans and perfect replicants throughout the eerily and presciently twilit and allegorical Sir Scott film, BLADE RUNNER (1982), affirming Anderson’s implicit link to Sir Scott. As this wistful and bewitching memory of the young Fiona implied that she symbolized the film art of Sir Scott, Polley implied that Sir Scott had lost touch with his film art by 2006 as surely as Anderson lost touch with the fading Fiona in AWAY FROM US.
Intriguingly, Fiona and Aubrey evoked Barbara Sue ‘Babs’ Jansen and Robert Hoover-played by Martha Smith and James Widdoes, respectively-in the allegorical John Landis film, ANIMAL HOUSE (1978). This link to Landis reminded us that Sir Scott had implicitly sympathized with Landis in such twilit and allegorical films as GLADIATOR (2000), HANNIBAL (2001), BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001) and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005). A sympathy with Landis that offended anyone who felt that Landis deserved no sympathy, given that his callous direction led to the fatal helicopter crash that killed Renee Chen, Myca Le and Vic Morrow around 2:20 am in the early morning hours of July 23, 1982 on the set of a recreated Vietnamese village for his George Folsey produced segment of the Frank Marshall executive produced, Kathleen Kennedy associate produced, Landis and Steven Spielberg produced and Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller film, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983). Thus, Polley implied that she was one of those people who were offended by Sir Scott’s cinematic sympathy for the devilish Landis, explaining why Anderson’s loss of Fiona was implicitly linked to Sir Scott’s loss of his cinematic touch.
Curiously, however, and despite this implicit disapproval of Sir Scott and his pro-Landis stance, Polley held out hope for at least one last good film from Sir Scott. For the relationship Anderson developed with the coffee and cigarette loving and implicitly David Lynch linked Marian-played by Olympia Dukakis-the resigned wife of Aubrey, suggested that Anderson was not as helpless as he appeared. Indeed, the sight of Anderson with Marian implied that a new commitment to higher film art was in the works, a new beginning that would allow him to come to grips with Fiona’s fate or even fully release Fiona in time. For the relationship with Marian, taken up without the knowledge of Fiona and perhaps in jealous fury for her relationship with Aubrey, showed that Anderson was not as faithful to the implicitly Landis linked Fiona as he implied in his visits to her. Marian’s implicit link to Lynch also reaffirmed the implicit link of Anderson to Sir Scott, reminding us that Sir Scott implicitly sympathized with Lynch and reached out to him in such twilit and allegorical films as SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (1987), and WHITE SQUALL (1996). A full release of the Twilight Zone and the cold, white and skeletal tree filled minimalist landscape of the Brantford, Ontario in winter and an embrace of the kaleidoscope of colour that was Toronto in summer that occurred when Polley returned with composer Jonathan Goldsmith and director of photography Luc Montpellier on her next allegorical film, TAKE THIS WALTZ (2011).
Significantly, TAKE THIS WALTZ opened with writer Margot-played by Michelle Williams-visiting historic Louisbourg in Nova Scotia on a mission to gather impressions and insights so as to update their tourist brochure. Here in the old fort, she was soon pressed into whipping a reviled adulterer-played by C.J. Plowright-as he crouched helplessly in the stockade. This returned the theme of adultery to a Polley film, linking the film to AWAY FROM HER and preparing us for the return of adultery in TAKE THIS WALTZ. An adultery that slowly developed over the course of the film, as Margot made her opening fantasy come true by leaving her chicken loving husband, Lou-played by Seth Rogen-and the constant splashing of cold water on her dreams-particularly her dreams of motherhood-that had made a Lou-isbourg of their home, and exuberantly embraced the handsome artist, Daniel-who looked like a fusion of Joseph Boyden and a young George Lucas, and was played by Luke Kirby. Allowing her to finally assert and enjoy her own independence, as seen in the end with her smiling as she rode an amusement park ride by herself free from all control to the tune of the allegorical Buggles song, ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ (1979), wearing a sleeveless flower print blouse, its blue and white colour combination linking her to Toronto and its film art and artists.
A fittingly implicit link to Toronto film art and artists, as the happy and liberated ending also implied that Polley was equally eager to make her fantasy of leaving behind the Zone Wars and heading off into a brave, daylit and free new world of indie and idiosyncratic film art come true, as 1979, the year of the release of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, was also the year of her birth. Polley also implied that this brave new world of liberated and idiosyncratic film art would be unabashedly Canadian as well as Torontonian, as unabashedly Canadian as the beautifully shot Toronto locations-shots which somehow managed to avoid the ubiquitous CN Tower-and the classic Canadian pop songs heard in the film like the allegorical Parachute Club tune, ‘Rise Up’ (1983), and the allegorical Leonard Cohen tune, ‘Take This Waltz’ (1988), from which took its title did TAKE THIS WALTZ. Indeed, the red and white Maple Leaf flag evoking track suit coats, t-shirts and summer dresses that Margot liked to wear, and the fact that Margot’s name evoked Canadian actress Margot Kidder, perhaps best known for her role as Lois Lane in the SUPERMAN films of the Eighties, reaffirmed Polley’s implicit commitment to Canadian film art. Rogen’s links to Canadian film artists who had been seduced by Hollywood and lured south to serve the insatiable and loot lusting blockbuster beast also implicitly affirmed that Polley wanted to leave behind Hollywood as much as the Zone Wars in her Canadian film art, avoid the limelight and devote herself to the realization of Polleywood in Canada. A commitment to her own path linked yet again to exuberant adultery that was on open display when Polley returned with Goldsmith to meditate on the year of her birth again in her next allegorical film, STORIES WE TELL (2012).
‘A truth like that opens up, kind of begets other truths.’
Curiously, this time the adultery was real and had a huge impact on the life of Polley. For over the course of STORIES WE TELL, a film as haunted by memories as AWAY FROM HER and BLADE RUNNER, we discovered that her beautiful, beguiling, exuberant, vivacious and acting loving mother, Diane, frustrated by the fact that her husband, Michael ‘Mick’ Polley-who had a cameo as an artillery gunner in THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN-gave up his acting career to work as an insurance salesman to pay for the growing Polley family, had an adulterous fling with Montreal film producer, Harry Gulkin, while acting in Montreal in an allegorical play about Toronto, and this adulterous fling led to the unexpected birth of Polley. Of course, the beautiful and beguiling young Diane recalled the equally beautiful and beguiling Fiona in AWAY FROM HER, while the bored and art loving married woman and the adulterous relationship of Diane and Harry recalled the bored and art loving Margot and the adulterous relationship of Margot and Daniel in TAKE THIS WALTZ, linking all three films together-indeed, in many ways STORIES WE TELL came across as a real life remake of TAKE THIS WALTZ. In fact, the actors who played Diane, Mick and Harry-Rebecca Jenkins, Peter Evans and Alex Hatz, respectively-in the film’s enacted scenes even looked like Margot, Daniel and Lou in re-enacted home movie clips, affirming the link between STORIES WE TELL and TAKE THIS WALTZ.
Of course, the real and re-enacted home movie clips and the documentary interviews not only linked Diane, Harry and Mick, the rest of the members of the Polley family-including Sarah-and family friends interviewed for the film to film art, but also made them implicit symbols of film art. Thus, the death of the exuberant and high spirited Diane to cancer in 1990 was more than the death of the mother of Polley. Indeed, the death of Diane also implicitly symbolized the death of film art, evoking the twilight shadow that fell over film art after the TZ disaster and implying that Polley used STORIES WE TELL to address the dread allegorical Zone Wars on one level. And perhaps my website, as the arrival out of nowhere of the mysterious Harry Gulkin in Polley’s life evoked my Zone War website appearing out of nowhere in 2010. The fact that the first name of Harry evoked Gary, and the fact that the surname of Gulkin had the same six letters of Wright tantalizingly implied as much. As such, one wondered how much significance one should put in the sight and sound of Polley concernedly warning Gulkin not to release his side of the story too quickly and without sound and thoughtful editorial collaboration, as if Polley had tried to read some of the stuff on my site and been horrified by the incoherent shape the Lucas chapters and Zonebuster essays were in at the time and was gently urging the poor ol’ Gardevil to be a little more careful and patient before releasing his ‘scholarship’ on the web, for fear of embarrassing Canadians, the rest of the citizens of Earth, and any other denizens of the galaxy-like the lonesome and embattled but determined and persevering survivors of the doomed planet of Krypton.
For Mark Polley, one of Sarah’s two brothers, resembled Superman, curiously evoking Margot’s evocation of the SUPERMAN films of the Eighties in TAKE THIS WALTZ. The implicit link of STORIES WE TELL to Superman was increased by the fact that Diane hid the fact that Harry was the father of Sarah from Mick after the birth of Polley so as to avoid another scandalous divorce, only too well aware that her first adulterous relationship with Mick had broken up her first marriage to the impeccably respectable but fantastically dull George Deans-Buchan. For hiding Polley’s secret identity reminded us that the human Kent and Danvers families hid the secret Kryptonian identities of Kal-El and his female cousin, Kara Zor-El, from the world in superheroic narrative art. All of which implicitly inspired telefilm artists to link Polley to Melissa Benoist’s Kara ‘Supergirl’ Zor-El Danvers in the allegorical telefilm series, SUPERGIRL (2015-).
‘She always tries to do the right thing.’
Indeed, Benoist shared the same skin colour, height, frame and hair as Polley, implicitly affirming the link of Polley and Supergirl. Family friend Pixie Bigelow-whose surname fittingly evoked Polley’s role as Maren Hontvedt in the allegorical and implicitly David Lynch roasting Kathryn Bigelow film, THE WEIGHT OF WATER (2000)-looked like the boss of Danvers, Calista Flockhart’s commanding and intimidating CatCo. World Wide Media CEO Catherine ‘Cat’ Grant-whose name evoked Grant Anderson in AWAY FROM HER-reaffirming the implicit link of Polley to Supergirl. The resemblance of her adoptive mother, Eliza Danvers-played by Helen Slater-to Fiona in AWAY FROM HER, and of her adoptive sister, Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) Agent Alexandra ‘Alex’ Danvers-played by Chyler Leigh-to Polley’s sister Susy and family friend Marie Murphy-and to Sofia Coppola-also reaffirmed the implicit intent of SUPERGIRL. Thus, Supergirl’s determination to defeat Evildoers and maintain peace and harmony in her adopted city of National City implicitly symbolized the determination of Polley to defeat twilit film artists-particularly those most responsible for the TZ disaster-and bring peace and harmony back to the Temple Theatre.
Or did it? For there were also all sorts of curious implications that tragicomic Zone War film ‘scholar’ Gary W. ‘Gardevil’ Wright was linked to Supergirl in the telefilm series. In particular, Kara’s job as a secretary to Cat evoked Gary’s job as a secretary classified Library Technician at Streetsville Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario. Indeed, Cat’s offer to get a Doctor Shewman to take a brain scan of Kara when both she and Supergirl give in to their Dark Sides after being unknowingly exposed to red Kryptonite in the allegorical Larry Teng telefilm, ‘Falling’ (2016), reminded us that Wright was working under Miss Jayne Shewman at the time ‘Falling’ aired on television. The implicit interest in Gardevil continued in season two, when Kara gave up on the secretary gig and became a run-on sentence loving reporter for the NATIONAL CITY TRIBUNE, reminding us of Gary’s run-on sentence loving ‘film scholarship’ at www.zonewarsonfilm.com. The black and orange striped shirt that Kara showed up wearing at CatCo. at the beginning of the allegorical Glen Winter telefilm, ‘Crossfire’ (2016), reaffirmed the implicit link of Kara to Gary, reminding us that black and orange were the school colours of his place of employment, Streetsville Secondary School.
However, the arrival of Katie McGrath in a recurring role as Lena Luthor also reaffirmed the possibility that Kara was linked to Sarah, as Luthor resembled Veronica-played by Deanna Dezmari-Anderson’s first exuberant adulterous fling in AWAY FROM HER. One thing was sure, and that was that the arrival of Tyler Hoechlin in a recurring role as the Dan Levy resembling Clark ‘Kal-El/Superman’ Kent and Chris Wood in a recurring role as the Ryan Reynolds resembling Daxamite, Mon-El, and the fact that the second season of SUPERGIRL was created in locations around the Greater Vancouver Area-including the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library-affirmed the implicit interest of the series in Canada. The resemblance of supervillainess Livewire-played by Brit Morgan-to ex-Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat in the allegorical Kevin Tancharoen telefilm, ‘Livewire’ (2015), also affirmed the implicit Canadian theme of SUPERGIRL and the implicit link of her hometown of National City to Toronto. The allusions in the prologue of the allegorical Teng telefilm, ‘Changing’ (2016), to the eerily prescient, twilit and allegorical John Carpenter film, THE THING (1982), reaffirmed the implicit interest of SUPERGIRL in Canada, as THE THING was also created in always beautiful British Columbia. Of course, alluding to THE THING also reaffirmed the implicit interest in the series in the TZ disaster, as THE THING was released in early July of ’82. Clearly, more study and reflection was needed in order to determine whether Kara was linked to Gary or Sarah. For his part, Kenneth Branagh implicitly linked Polley to Cinderella-played by Lily James-in his sympathetic and allegorical film, CINDERELLA (2015).
Indeed, the death of Ella’s beautiful and vivacious blonde mother-played by Hayley Atwell-at the beginning of the film evoked the death of Polley’s equally beautiful and vivacious blonde mother, affirming the implicit Polley addressing intent of CINDERELLA. In addition, Ella’s father-played by Ben Chaplin-also evoked Mick enough to reaffirm the implicit Polley addressing intent of the film. Significantly, as Ella wooed the handsome and charming Prince-played by Richard Madden-away from the implicitly James Cameron linked King-played by Derek Jacobi-and his implicitly Sir Scott linked major domo, the Grand Duke-played by Stellan Skarsgard-Branagh also implicitly hoped that Polley would one day triumph over Cameron and Sir Scott with a hit film, an implicit hope affirmed by the film’s allusions to the twilit and allegorical Cameron film, TITANIC (1997). The resemblance of Ella’s wicked stepsister, Drisella-played by Sophie McShera-to Drew Barrymore also implied that Branagh was hoping that Polley would triumph over her with a good film.
For her part, Elle Fanning’s Mary Shelley was also implicitly linked to Sarah Polley in the allegorical Haifaa Al-Mansour film, MARY SHELLEY (2017). One thing was clear, though, and that Polley was just as determined as Gardevil and Supergirl to liberate the world from dread allegorical Zone Wars and insatiable Hollywood blockbuster beasts, and to fill the world with bigger hearted, freer spirited and higher minded film art, like the exuberantly adulterous and unadulteratedly exuberant film art of Polleywood.