817. The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation – John Canemaker


SUMMARY: Director John Canemaker presents an imagined conversation between himself and his late father.

WHY IT’S HERE: From a short synopsis, John Canemaker’s Oscar-winning ‘The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation’ sounds like sentimental awards-bait but when you actually see this half-hour conversation piece you realise that sentiment has absolutely nothing to do with it. Although it revolves around a fictional conversation between Canemaker and his late father (portrayed in voiceover by John Turturro and Eli Wallach), Canemaker’s film is angry, bitter and resolutely unsentimental. Illustrating the story of their relationship through snippets of inventive animation and real photos and newspaper articles, Canemaker reveals a monstrous figure of a father who was abusive, volatile and ultimately criminal, often in trouble with the law due to his mafia connections. In giving his father a voice in the narration, Canemaker humanises his subject for us, showing to an extent the reasons and thought-processes behind his father’s actions. But ultimately this is not a film about forgiveness or nostalgia. While he does acknowledge the few good things his father did, like helping him make his first cartoon, Canemaker ultimately ends the piece by distancing himself from his father in every way other than as a didactic memory. The closing moments, in which a lesser filmmaker would have been tempted to force an unearned posthumous reconciliation, show Canemaker at his angriest and even undermines one of the few parts of the film from earlier on that may have seemed vaguely pleasant. ‘The Moon and the Son’ is a truly raw, emotionally taxing experience but in the concise, gripping telling of its fascinating story and the attractively simple but diverse artistic style of its visual accompaniments, it’s an endlessly enjoyable and rewatchable piece as well.


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