________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 11 . . . . January 23, 2009

cover Paradise.

Jesse Rosensweet (Writer & Director). Steve Hoban (Producer). Mark Smith (Co-Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2007.
7 min., 49 sec., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 0107 382.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

**½ /4


"Everything is great at home ... just great."

So claims John Small, a "company man" for some large, nameless 1950's corporation. He and his wife, Jinny, live in suburbia and their life has a fixed pattern: get up in the morning, have breakfast, get in the car, go to work, drive home from work, have dinner, and then, go to sleep. Next day, it starts all over again, without variation. If it sounds as if these people are living the life of automatons, it's because the characters in Paradise are tin toys moving along in little pre-determined tracks.

     However, it seems as if Jinny wants to take a different track; neighbours are heading off on a "romantic" vacation to Hawaii, and it is obvious that she'd love just such an opportunity as well. But after hearing of the Hawaii adventure, John replies with a non sequitur which makes it clear that either he hasn't heard her, or doesn't care what she said.

     Next morning, things continue with relentless sameness. At work, Mitch, a rude and abrasive co-worker, asks John for assistance on a project because Mitch has a date and, without John's help, won't be able to get out of work on time. Without giving it a second thought, John agrees to help; after all, his boss (a classic, cigar-chomping, double-breasted suit with a perpetual scowl) claims that John is in line for a major promotion. However, the next day, after Mitch drops in to let him know that he "got lucky" with his date, John's boss informs him that Mitch's work in closing the deal of the previous day has "set a new benchmark" in performance. It looks as if Mitch will be getting the promotion, instead. Everything's clearly not great at work.

     Returning home, John finds that Jinny is gone; John may have believed that "everything at home is just great," but Jinny felt differently. Still, John arises the next morning, gets into his little tin car and heads off to work, driving straight into a wall en route. But, in short order, he's patched up at the hospital and arrives at the office, claiming, "I'm not even late."

     So, what is Paradise about? Desperate housewives and office workers? A strange sort of predestination? A satire of middle-class suburban life during the middle of the twentieth century? I think that, on several levels, it is all of these things; however, a classroom teacher would have a challenging time eliciting these possibilities from any but very intelligent classes in Grades 11 or 12. Multiple viewings are necessary to get a sense of what it is about, and fair bit of background work would be necessary by a classroom teacher in subject areas such as English or Sociology. While it is certainly an inventive and creative example of stop-motion animation, I think that its application in high school settings are limited.

Recommended with reservations.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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