Life Classes - 23

Life Classes stands as the definitive ‘life-transformed-by-art’ movie, a gently satirical yet deeply moving portrait of self-discovery. “After a slow start. Life Classes erupts with an emotional strength that is nothing short of astonishing. Mary is asked by a New York conceptual artist to participate in a 80s version of a ‘happening’ — the sequence is a virtuoso display of filmmaking — and as Mary asserts her identity the film becomes a metaphor for the neccessity of foresaking the past, living in the present and looking to the future. The levels of insight Life Classes reaches are profound. This unique film asks a great deal; it delivers more than it demands” • Jay Scott, Toronto Globe and Mail

I write about Life Classes because I love it: I went so far as to include it in my list for the last Sight and Sound International Critics Poll as one of the ten best films ever made in world cinema. With Life Classes I am aware of no incongruity in giving it a place beside the works of Ozu, Renoir, Ophuls, etc.” Robin Wood, Sexual Politics and Narrative Film / Hollywood and Beyond. Colombia University Press New York, 1998

Life Classes can be viewed as belonging to what might be called a briefly flickering golden era of English Canadian independent production. It was the same decade that saw the emergence of filmmakers like Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema and Guy Maddin, and was arguably the last historical moment when it was possible to look at the Canadian cinema and see possibility on the horizon. The story of a young Cape Breton woman’s journey from shunned outsider to confidently selfdirected artist, MacGillivray’s beguiling, beautifully assured low-budget movie was also about the culturally flattening forces of monoculture: it opens on a shot of a satellite dish reflected in a stream of water, and ends with a stack of TV sets broadcasting to no one in a nearly vacant shopping mall. Ironically, if MacGillivray’s movie was the one that seemed to disappear most completely after release, it was also the English Canadian movie of the period that most thoroughly understood the forces marshaled against it. Nearly 20 years later, it remains amply evident that Life Classes was produced with great care, intelligence and confidence. The movie’s many layers of meaning are so expertly embedded into the main story, you may not even be fully aware of them on the first viewing. ….” Upon the DVD Re-release: Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star 2006

Feature Film – 117min. 1987 – Canada’s Official Entry in Competition Berlin International Film Festival 1988, Won Special Jury Prize Istanbul International Film Festival 1989, Melbourne International Film Festival, Sydney (AU) Film Festival – named a Masterwork of Canadian Cinema by Canadian Heritage and the AV Trust.