Impolite Chronicles A Death Foretold

Published: Feb 09 2013, 08:15:am

Tuesday, June 22, 1993.
IMPOLITE. Written by Michael McKinley. Music by Brian Faron and Robert Smart. Directed by David Hauka. Running time: 87 minutes. Classifier's warning: occasional suggestive language. Rated Mature.

ATTITUDE? The Vancouver Gazette serves it up daily.
    "Police Protection Racquet (sic) Cracked in Chinatown," read the Page One banner line the morning that reporter Jack Yeats (Robert Wisden) exposed a dirty cop. The charge, unfortunately, came unstrung in court when Yeats's sources refused to testify.
    The episode ends with the cop, a blue meanie named Prentice (Timothy Webber), busted to constable on traffic duty in the West End. Yeats is retired to dayside and obituary writing. Vocationally speaking, Prentice and Yeats are men whose futures are behind them.
    Not so director David Hauka and screenwriter Michael McKinley, the creative sparkplugs behind the locally-made feature Impolite. Together, they've produced a clever, post-graduate mystery-comedy. Their picture cracks wise with oblique references to Joyce, Irish Catholicism, Quebecois film, Canadian business practices and other arcane common-room conversation topics.
    An Irish intoxication with words and ideas is at the heart of Oxford-educated UBC graduate McKinley‘s humour. It's displayed to advantage in the story of disgraced journalist Yeats, the obit writer who is tipped to the as-yet-unreported death of one John "Paris" O'Rourke, a Canadian tycoon of considerable importance.
    As proof, the mysterious caller ships Yeats half of O'Rourke's personal diary. Suddenly, the hope of professional redemption comes to life in our hero.
    As directed by SFU graduate Hauka, Impolite is an Altmanesgue cross between Citizen Kane and The National Lampoon's Vancouver Vacation. Suspecting foul play, Yeats tracks down the various women in O'Rourke's life.
    He begins with corporate executrix Ed Summers (Katherine Banwelli), a boardroom beauty who informs him that O'Rourke's high-powered holding company is "about to seal a merger that will give us control of your newspaper."
    The trail leads to O‘Rourke‘s ex-wife, hedonistic academic Dr. Gloria Sardone (Susan Hogan). She directs him to the man‘s supposed mistress, ascetic saloonkeeper Catherine Sienna (Suzy Joachim).
    "Custodian" of The Rapture, a barroom decorated with ikons and religious statuary, Ms Sienna is a saintly seductress who insists on "the spiritual before the spirits." It all leads to a walk in the wildwood with O'Rourke's twin brother, Monsignor Augustine "Naples" O'Rourke (Christopher Plummer).
    With each interview, Yeats's story becomes less a thriller than a rolling seminar in art, literature and the meaning of life. An intellectual action film, it's a lot like having a congenial drink with bright and witty companions.
    Good thing, too, because actor Wisden is too boyishly good looking to be convincing as a worn-down, whiskey-sodden cynic. He operates out of a newsroom that looks more like an insurance office than the nerve centre of a major metropolitan daily.
    On the plus side, there is Robert McLachlan's knock-your-eyes-out cinematography, making everything look great. A display of raw, even arrogant intelligence, Impolite suggests that its perpetrators are in the right racket.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1993. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

AFTERWORD: I suspect that first-time director David Hauka's familiarity with the newspaper milieu came from the fact that his brother Don was a veteran Vancouver Province reporter. No surprise, then, that he was able to shoot his Vancouver Gazette scenes after hours in the actual Province newsroom. What did surprise me, when his feature was screened for the press, was seeing actor Robert Wisden, as obit writer Jack Yeats, working at the desk of the Province film critic — me! It was a cheeky in-joke, and one that I delight in to this day.