Greg Hanec’s Downtime, circa 1985
With the DVD release of Greg Hanec’s Downtime only a few weeks away, I thought it was high time I published these couple Downtime clippings that were passed on to me from the desk drawer of Cinematheque programmer Dave Barber.
The picture above is a Cinematheque advertisement created for a midnight screening of Downtime when the film was first released. It features a high-contrast version of the trademark image — from the same original image that will appear on the Downtime DVD cover, available at the DVD release on October 18th at 7PM at the Cinematheque.
Below is a review of Downtime from City Magazine’s Melissa Steele in the fall of 1985. Steele, for the most part, makes an intelligent critical assessment of Downtime, aptly boiling it down to a story about regular people that are “imprisoned by a suffocating cycle of boredom and isolation.” She continues to praise Downtime as a great achievement for first-time filmmaker Hanec, and for the all-amateur cast.
Steele claims Hanec’s Downtime to be an urban version of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1962 novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Despite the vague similarities in pacing, the characters in Downtime are far from the tyrannical hardships of a 1950s soviet labour camp. They drift through life, working at jobs that neither discomfort them or invigorate them, living lives that certainly aren’t hard, just boring. Perhaps saying that Downtime is a first world version of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich would be more apt.
Even more apt would have been drawing comparisons to Hanec’s contemporary Jim Jarmusch, specifically his early works Permanent Vacation and Stranger Than Paradise, neither of which Hanec was able to see until after Downtime’s completion in 1985.
My personal favourite part of the article comes at the end, when we see Greg’s do-or-die attitude as an artist fully illustrated. “If I can’t make it in filmmaking, I don’t think I should go make sitcoms. I’ll go and be a cook in some restaurant or something,” says Hanec.
In her review, Steele attacks the editing of Downtime, specifically the inconsistent nature of the fade outs and cuts. Although I am not sure, I would guess that these inconsistencies were more likely a constrain of the $16,000 price tag of the film than anything. The good news is, since the new DVD was restored from the original negatives, the fades and cuts had to be re-applied by yours truly. As Greg and I re-assembled the film from the HD transfer, we were forced (the transfer had no fade outs) to reassess some of the fades as well as colour correction, with the result being a more succinct, more vivid, tighter edit than ever seen before.
Greg Hanec, actress Maureen Gerbrandt and U of W Film Prof John Kozak will all be at the Cinematheque in person to launch the brand new DVD, and will be speaking after the film. Check out the Facebook event here!
And of course, stay tuned for more on Downtime, coming to Cineflyer in the weeks leading up to the release of this often overlooked masterpiece of regional cinema!