If you have Video-on-demand on your cable service you could do worse than watching the British film I, Daniel Blake, directed by Ken Loach who is noted for working with social themes. This film is about the travails of a 59 year old widowed Newcastle carpenter who has suffered a heart attack and gets tangled up in a Kafka-esque shuttle between the welfare office and the unemployment office—welfare saying he is fit to return to work; and unemployment saying he is ineligible for benefits because he should be getting disability benefits. So he gets neither. Without spoiling the plot further, it is a brilliant portrayal of man against the crushing bureaucracy told with wit and compassion. The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year, and a BAFTA award this year, but it will not win anything on this side of the Atlantic because it has no stars in its nonetheless brilliant cast, and the Newcastle accent is so strong that Loach found it necessary to subtitle the film, although they pronounce the “F” word understandably and with great frequency in this film. I am always amazed that the British seem to be able to make these gritty little movies on small budgets. Thanks to Netflix we are getting to see a lot more British cinema and television. Producers there seem to get more bang for their buck than in Canada where so much money gets squandered on faux American potboilers whose success is defined by getting picked up by third tier US cable channels.
The death of Lighthouse drummer and co-founder Skip Prokop gets one to thinking about the early days of what might be called the emergence Canadian rock. There’s no question that Canadian Content regulations instituted in 1971, the same year as Lighthouse’s One Fine Morning, provided exposure for Canadian artists that before was only available to a handful of performers. But that should not imply that there was anything second rate about Canadian musical talent. Lighthouse could hold their own in musicianship with bands like Blood Sweat and Tears (helmed ironically by Canadian David Clayton Thomas). The Canadian music industry rose to the opportunity and it became a golden era of some really well-executed rock music. In addition to Lighthouse, Canadians were tuning in to the Bells and Andy Kim from Montreal, Chilliwack from Vancouver, Five Man Electrical Band from Ottawa, Wednesday from Oshawa, and The Stampeders from Calgary. Also around this time Hamilton’s own Ian Thomas began his prolific career with a catalogue that is frequently heard today. By the time I got into radio in 1975 Canadian rock was firmly established, with the major US labels operating Canadian subsidiaries. I confess I never heard Lighthouse perform, but I did attend a sound check when they appeared at the old Wonderland Gardens in London and I was supplementing my day job in construction by delivering Chinese food. All I remember was that it was a huge order, and they gave me the biggest tip I had ever received. Adios Skip.