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The Grocer's Wife

Year: 1991
Language: English
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 100 min
Director: John Pozer
Producer: John Pozer
Executive Producer: Gregory Lavier
Writer: John Pozer
Cinematographer: Peter Wunstorf
Editor: Reginald Harkema, John Pozer
Sound: Ross Weber
Music: Mark Korven
Cast: Jay Brazeau, Simon Webb, Andrea Rankin, Susinn McFarlen, Leroy Shultz, Nicola Cavendish, Walter Mills, Alex Burden
Production Company: Medusa Film Productions Inc.

Set in the industrial hell of Trail, B.C., The Grocer’s Wife is a decidedly dark, surreal comedy about a man, his mother, his surrogate mother, and the woman who wants him desperately. Tim Midley (Simon Webb), a Canadian Everyman (his name echoes ‘timidly’), spends his days as an emissions checker at the local smelter’s giant smokestack. In the evenings, he tends to his domineering mother.

Fate intervenes when Mom falls sick from the pollution and is admitted to hospital. That same night, itinerant American stripper Anita Newlove (Susinn McFarlen) decides to escape the smoky dead-end town, but instead ends up in the Midley household, where Tim plays hesitant host to his attractive overnight guest. When Mom dies, Anita settles into her empty bed, and it looks like history is about to repeat itself. Complicating matters even further, the grocer’s wife (Nicola Cavendish) lusts after Midley, and he is surrendering more each day to her unbridled passion.

Shot in dense, menacing black and white and featuring a bizarre, epic soundtrack, John Pozer’s unsettling fairy tale, made while he was a student in the UBC film programme, is a completely original feature debut. As anti-Hollywood as a film can get, this warped and often artful treasure played at the Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival®) and was presented in the Critics’ Week program at the Festival de Cannes. The film received a rare and magnanimous honour at the Festival of Festivals: when Atom Egoyan’s The Adjuster was named the Best Canadian Feature Film, Egoyan handed the $25,000 cash prize over to Pozer in recognition of The Grocer’s Wife.

The Grocer’s Wife is notable for its role in the development of what has come to be known as the West Coast Wave. The film served as a training ground for a number of film students who would go on to establish themselves as pre-eminent, Vancouver-based filmmakers. The crew of The Grocer’s Wife included boom operator Bruce Sweeney (Live Bait, 1995; Dirty, 1998), associate producer and production designer Lynne Stopkewich (Kissed, 1996; Suspicious River, 2000), assistant director and casting director Mina Shum (Double Happiness, 1994; Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity, 2002); editor Reg Harkema (A Girl is a Girl, 1999) and cinematographer Greg Middleton (cinematographer on The Five Senses, 1999; Better Than Chocolate, 1999; Falling Angels, 2003).

The film went on to win two Genie Awards: the Claude Jutra Award for Direction of a First Feature Film and the award for Supporting Actress (Nicola Cavendish).