Airport in

This bleak, slow-moving B&W effort could give "Institute Benjamenta" a run for its money at a glacial-pics-that-should-have-been-shorts competition, but no other honors will be forthcoming. Neophyte helmer Erik Whittaker does have an intriguing eye for harshly artificial detail, which could prove useful with more thoughtful material, but distribs that check "In" will just as soon check out.

This bleak, slow-moving B&W effort could give “Institute Benjamenta” a run for its money at a glacial-pics-that-should-have-been-shorts competition, but no other honors will be forthcoming. Neophyte helmer Erik Whittaker does have an intriguing eye for harshly artificial detail, which could prove useful with more thoughtful material, but distribs that check “In” will just as soon check out.

Whittaker took a page from the prairie-Gothic book of Guy “Tales From Gimli Hospital” Maddin to make this creepy, rummage-sale tale, set almost entirely at a podiatry convention at a crumbling Winnipeg hotel.

The non-action nominally takes place during the last game of the Soviet-Canadian hockey playoffs in 1972, and the whole thing is skewed toward — and limited to — irony-minded Northern males of a certain age.

Some of the stark, near-campy design makes a striking virtue of its cheapness , and Vancouver actor George Majoros injects a splash of needed humanity as a hangdog bellboy who is always behind the beat. Majoros also plays that character’s smarter twin and, in flashbacks, a deceased Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, but this is a parlor trick of no great interest.

Co-scripter Scott Tate plays the dead Mountie’s surviving partner, a half-mad lieutenant whose bald pate and bushy beard make him look like Lenin doing Santa Claus. He’s an impressive presence, but Tate’s voice is too flat and weak for the character, not that he has anything interesting to say. There’s minimal dialogue here, and most of it centers on the murder of a big-shot podiatrist and whether this has any connection to some earlier mayhem.

In any case, there’s little mystery to ponder, except the one about why pic was made in the first place. Helmer is drawing heavily on style of early David Lynch, but this sludge is so murky it makes “Eraserhead” look like “Eraser.”

Airport in

(Canadian - 16mm)

Production: A Left Intentionally Blank Prods. (Vancouver) production, in association with British Columbia Film. Produced by David Bouck, Melanie McCaig. Directed by Erik Whittaker. Screenplay, Whittaker, Scott Tate, Jonathan Williams.

Crew: Camera (B&W, 16mm), Ron Precious; editor, Brad Rines, Ron Yoshida; music, Nark Douglas, Anton Creer; production design, Bill Evans, Marlice McKee; sound, Dennis Burke; associate producer, Dave Peltier; assistant director, Chris Charlton. Reviewed on videocassette, Vancouver, Oct. 14, 1996. (In Vancouver Film Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.

With: With: Scott Tate, George Majoros, Geoffrey Naylor, Bill Evans, Cam Massey, Cathy Purvis, Lorne Scott, Vincent Walker, Yvon Chartrand, Fred Pleasure.

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