Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trigger: the song has ended, but the memory lingers on

Trigger opens with a series of brief clips from a rock and roll show: two women on stage, chugging through tunes, the guitar player all shaggy hair and finger-fumbling grace, the singer preening. They exchange licks, both figuratively and literally. These excerpts unfold in a staccato rhythm that suggests something of the visceral, choppy energy of the music we imagine they’re playing, though we can’t hear it. The images are bathed in a soft string-laden drone peppered with stray notes from a piano; they’re over-exposed, the women’s skin bleached out, masking age, bringing things closer to a feeling of timelessness.

The dissonance between the sound and images evokes the distance between an event and its oft-replayed memory. This wordless montage is one of the strongest sequences in the film, cutting to the heart of this story that’s rather less about the music life than it is about friendship, recovery and time. Trigger is a love story of sorts, between two old collaborator-antagonists who reunite uneasily in middle-age, years after they called it quits. It’s now available on DVD from Entertainment One.

Trigger is also the last screen performance from Tracy Wright, who died shortly after the production wrapped from pancreatic cancer. Her ghost looms heavily over the film, not only because she was such a wonderful, sadly under-used talent, but because she really is the heart and soul of this project. Molly Parker as Kat, the aforementioned preener, gives a performance that’s typically precise and even heartfelt, but Wright’s Vic is the more convincing as a veteran rock and roller struggling to stay clean. She comes across as someone who’s burned out more than once, or, as she puts it, someone who’s had mornings where she’s woken up disappointed to still be alive.

Director Bruce McDonald seems to be in his element here, a maker of feature films (among them Highway 61 and the mighty Hard Core Logo) who sometimes seems to long for movies that can skip that story stuff and just cut to the rock show parts (i.e.: This Movie is Broken). But Trigger has its awkward moments (the evil twin bits, the longer monologues), partly because the script from the great playwright, filmmaker and actor Daniel MacIvor is at times too eloquent, too theatrical-sounding, in the words it gives its actors to speak. It’s a cliché to think of rock and roll as inarticulate and crude, but I still think Trigger could have used a few rougher edges--though let it be said that I’ll take flowery MacIvor over the prose of most screenwriters any day.

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