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Alligator Shoes

(Les Souliers en croco)

Year: 1981
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 99 min
Director: Clay Borris
Producer: Clay Borris, John Phillips
Executive Producer: Don Haig, Barry Shapiro
Writer: Clay Borris
Cinematographer: John Phillips
Editor: Gordon McClellan
Sound: Brian Richmond
Music: Murray McLauchlan
Cast: Clay Borris, Garry Borris, Ronalda Jones, Rose Maltais-Borris, Len Perry, Simone Champagne
Production Company: 460231 Ontario Ltd.
In Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourhood, two street smart brothers, Bin (Garry Borris) and Mike (Clay Borris), live a precarious economic existence with their working-class Acadian parents. They drink, carouse and make trouble while holding close to the "down home" family values of the Maritimes. The delicate balance of their relationship is threatened when their attractive young aunt, Danielle (Ronalda Jones) – recently released from hospital following a nervous breakdown – comes to stay with them. Mike is wary of Danielle, but Bin is more understanding and tries to ease her return to the outside world by taking her to bars and social clubs. Danielle misinterprets Bin’s intentions, though, and tries to initiate a romantic affair with him. Although Bin sets her straight gently, Danielle feels rejected and, after falling into a deep depression, commits suicide on a desolate beach during a weekend in the country. This event brings out the hidden aspects of each of the brother’s characters and, though they fight over their responsibility in Danielle’s death, the crisis eventually leads them to a greater understanding of each other.

Clay Borris based this cinéma vérité-style drama on autobiographical material, as he had in the earlier Rose’s House (1977), using non-professional actors, with the exception of Ronalda Jones. Daringly innovative in form, Alligator Shoes combines comedy, high drama, mise-en-scPne and social commentary in a unique style.

An anomaly during the height of the tax shelter era, Alligator Shoes was produced on a low budget (without the assistance of the Canadian Film Development Corporation, which rejected the film), drew enthusiastic reviews at the Festival de Cannes and again on its commercial release, but received only minimal theatrical distribution. Nominated for four Genie Awards, it was unquestionably the most intensely personal, most exciting Canadian feature of its time, but most Canadians who have seen it did so on CBC television.

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