Half a blood-stained diary. A mysterious telephone call reporting a death. A down-on-his-luck journalist eager for the story that will save his career. It's an intriguing start for Impolite, but the direction that the story takes ends up being anything but thrilling.
Oddly enough, the closest comparison that I can make to Impolite is to a mediocre computer adventure game. As a protagonist we have Jack Yeats (Robert Wisden) a sort of everyman with a backstory (he's an alcoholic journalist whose career has sunk to the lows of writing obituaries), who gets the aforementioned telephone call and diary. Premise: if he collects all the clues and puts them together, he will have a story. So, what happens from there? Yeats goes from one location to another carrying the diary, asking questions of the people he meets in the hopes of finding more information. As in a computer game, there's no particular sense of sequence in the narrative; it doesn't seem matter which location he visits or who he talks to first. I could almost see the choices come up on the screen: "To your left is a ferry across the river. Do you board the ferry? Y/N". Meetings with secondary characters seem either arbitrary or highly scripted; in either case, there's no sense that these figures have any existence apart from their interaction with Yeats. They're waiting in the wings for Yeats to arrive and ask the right questions. "You see a woman sitting by herself at the bar. Do you order a drink / ask her about Paris O'Rourke / give her your business card?" And so on, as we follow Yeats on his clue-hunting around the city.
It doesn't help Impolite's cause that the script is decidedly awkward, with dialogue neither natural nor creatively unrealistic. Apart from their dubious handling in the course of the narrative, even the staging of scenes is rather forced, with characters entering and exiting the main area of action and spouting their lines as if following cues from the director rather than as if they were real people.
The general story concept is sound: if there is a mystery at hand, it should be interesting to discover clues to it bit by bit. As it plays out, though, Impolite feels as though the story is following a series of random choices through the branches of a decision tree rather than an artistically designed narrative. The background given for the "mystery" is so sketchy that there's nothing mysterious about it at first, so the first part of the story plays as if the actors themselves weren't sure what the story was about, and were making it up as they go along. Eventually, some faint hint of mysterious-goings on is revealed, and the film does provide a resolution, but it doesn't ever seem to have a point.
Impolite is one of Vanguard's better efforts in the video department, with a very attractive transfer. The widescreen 1.85:1 image is unfortunately not anamorphically enhanced, but apart from that, this 1992 film looks very good indeed, having benefited from a digital remastering for the 2002 DVD transfer. The print is clean, with a happy absence of flaws, noise, or edge enhancement. The picture overall is pleasing to the eye, with warm, natural-looking colors, nice clarity, and good contrast.
The audio portion of the Impolite DVD is satisfactory, with the Dolby 2.0 sound providing a generally clean and clear listening experience. The track doesn't get much of a workout, but what's there sounds fine.
In the DVD edition of Impolite, we get a fairly solid selection of bonus content. The main piece is an audio commentary track for the film. Apart from that, we get a slew of minor pieces, the most interesting of which are brief (five-minute) interviews with director of photography Robert McLachlan and producer Raymond Massey, and a three-minute segment on the digital remastering of the film. Also of interest is a section of two "deleted scenes" reconstructed from still photographs at the set, with introduction and commentary from director David Hauka. To finish up, there's a trailer, a six-minute "mockumentary" on Hauka, and a photo gallery.
Impolite does run viewers through some characteristic Vanguard menu madness. If you hit "skip" to bypass the FBI warning (and who doesn't at least try that?) you are taken to the special features menu. From there, there's absolutely no way to get to the main menu or play the film. After spending a while in special features limbo, I eventually stopped and re-started the DVD and waited out the FBI warning, thus arriving at last to the main menu, from which I could choose to play the film. At that point, I courageously selected the special features section again and discovered that while I still couldn't go back directly to the main menu, hitting "menu" took me to the film itself, and hitting "menu" again there took me back to the main menu. Did I mention that the menus are a bit odd?
For me, the diffuse narrative and clunky acting of Impolite failed to hold my attention, but fans of Canadian cinema, or of the specific actors in the film, may feel differently. The DVD presentation is nicely done and should be pleasing to anyone who has enjoyed the film and is looking to add it to their collection.