Amanita Pestilens is an unusually compelling film about one man’s obsession with creating ‘the perfect lawn.’
Jacques Labrecque stars as champion lawn-grower Henri Martin, a man who struggles to balance the needs of his family with his own ambitions for horticultural achievement as he wages war against the insurgent mushrooms that threaten his immaculately manicured domain. The film manages the unusual feat of being both funny and suspenseful at the same time; it’s as though Spanish surrealist master Luis Buñuel had wandered into the Montreal of the early 1960s and managed to tap into the cultural zeitgeist of discontent and change bubbling just under the surface of polite society.
Shot on location in Montreal and close to Ottawa at Harrington Lake in 1962 by director René Bonnière, it was the first fictional feature film produced by legendary Ottawa filmmaker F.R. ‘Budge’ Crawley. It was also the first Canadian feature film produced in colour, and stands as the cinematic debut of Canadian acting queen Geneviève Bujold.
The production has the added bonus of having captured images of La Belle Province at a time of great physical and social transformation. It contains numerous visual delights, including early 1960s fashion, wonderful old Montreal streetscapes, and the sight of shockingly new-looking highway interchanges.
Special mention should go to Ottawa-based composer Larry Crossley for writing an excellent score, incorporating jazz, folk, and orchestral music, helping the film take on the scope of a much larger production.
Unfortunately Amanita Pestilens never received a wide release. Festival screenings and the occasional TV appearance served to spread the legend, but the film has essentially been vault-bound for 50 years (this 35mm print, which may have some colour fading, is on loan for this show only). We are proud to bring it back to the big screen, before it returns to dormancy like a mushroom spore waiting to re-emerge – hopefully sooner than the year 2062!
– Lost Dominion Screening Collection
50th Anniversary Screening! Part of the Canadian Cult Revue film series at the ByTowne, presented by the Lost Dominion Screening Collective.