This list that follows is intended to cover all feature films related to Cape Breton. I have attempted to include movies that can tell a little of the story of Cape Breton and have purposefully left out movies that just used Cape Breton as a set for some other place (Squanto, Book of Negroes).
- New Waterford Girl (Part 1) - My Bloody Valentine (Part 2) - Johnny Belinda (Part 3) - The Bay Boy (Part 4) - Marion Bridge (Part 5) - Goin’ Down the Road (Part 6)
- Candy Mountain (Part 7) - Margaret’s Museum (at the library) -Down the Road Again (at library) - Sealed Cargo (have it) -The Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger (looking for it) - Song Spinner (can’t find) - The Third Walker (looking) - Something About Love (1988) (looking) - The Widow of St. Pierre (at library)
And the movie:
Candy Mountain (1987) Directed by Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer
1987 was a great year. One of my best. My memories are filled with new wave music, air bands and Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a young sprout I dreamed of making it big as a musician, finding the perfect girl, and living life in the fast lane.
Which brings me to Candy Mountain, a movie about a sputtering musician’s pursuit of legendary guitar maker Elmore Silk as what seems to be his only hope of success.
Julius Book (Kevin O’Connor, who is known for such films at The Mummy) is a down on his luck musician that is disparate for an avenue to pursue some promise in the music industry in New York City. After fibbing about knowing legendary guitar maker Elmore Silk, he is hired to track him down, as he hasn’t been seen for several years. He is given $2,000 up front to track him down and get him to agree to a contract to provide guitars.
The journey takes Julius to upstate New York, the Cabot Trail and finally New Waterford, NS. Along the way he meets a series of whacky, sometimes over-the-top characters. For instance, Tom Waits plays a well-to-do crazy golf fanatic, losing a sliver of my respect to him, and Leon Redbone plays a self-deputized police officer that throws Julius into a makeshift jail. Elmore doesn’t want to be found, and it takes a great deal of bartering and understanding of Elmore the man to finally make it to him in the last 15 minutes of the movie. The journey is a memorable if not a bit dijointed as if a number of skits were thrown together.
Along with Waits and Redbone, there are cameo appearances from David Johansen, Joe Strummer and Rita MacNeil, as well. Well respected musicians, but poor actors. It's as though they were given all kinds of artistic license, similar to my impression of what Jim Carey or Robin Willams were given in their roles. It's as if they didn't have a plot and just hired them to be whacky.There are several larger than life characters, such as a crazy golfer, a wheelchair ridden tyrant and eccentric landlord, father-son wannabe policemen and a “deer-jacking” poacher lady.
This movie screams of being a lovechild between Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson, but the sarcasm and cleverness is watered down. To me it seemed as though these musicians were left to their own devices to develop their characters. O’Conner can barely keep the continuity of the movie together as a straight protagonist.
There are scenes of Cape Breton. Some of this appears to be shot on the Cabot Trail (ocean side somewhere) and in New Waterford. It is great that they actually filmed in Cape Breton instead of pretending like other movies have done.
What did I learn about Cape Breton from watching this: Cape Breton is full of rich characters. It seems people can take the law into their own hands as long as they build a jail in their house. Rita MacNeil was already a star in 1987. I wish I was Elmore Silk.
My recommendation: If you are into full on craziness this movie might be your thing. If found a few funny scenes in the movie that kept me watching. I really liked the end, with Elmore sticking to his values and teaching life lessons in a very disinteresting way. If you can find it, you might want to give it a try. These movies are getting harder to track down!!!
Chris Bellemore is a blogger from Ontario that moved to Cape Breton Island and is logging his experiences in this strange and wonderful place.