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A Winter Tan

A Winter Tan

Year: 1987
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 91 min
Director: Louise Clark, Aerlyn Weissman, Jackie Burroughs, John Frizzell, John Walker
Producer: Louise Clark
Writer: Jackie Burroughs
Cinematographer: John Walker
Editor: Alan Lee
Sound: Aerlyn Weissman
Music: Ahmed Hassan, John Lang
Cast: Diane D'Aquila, Anita Olanick, Javier Torres, Ernando Gonzalez, Jackie Burroughs
Production Company: John B. Frizzell Inc.

A Winter Tan became one of the most controversial Canadian releases of the last century. Based on the letters of Maryse Holder, posthumously published by Grove Press as Give Sorrow Words, this articulate and passionate film is a first-person account of Holder’s real-life sexual adventures.

Holder (Burroughs), an American intellectual and feminist travelled to Mexico on a “sexual pilgrimage” in the 1970s. As she accumulates an astonishing list of conquests, she chronicles each experience and emotion in a series of explicit letters to her best friend Edith. In one letter, Holder refers to her extended sojourn as “a vacation from feminism,” but her writings and the film’s authentic account reveal that she was equally as dedicated to the study of the politics of sexual power as the pursuit of pleasure and romance. Holder’s emotions run deeper when she meets Miguel (Gonzales), but disturbed by the relationship, she withdraws from his affections. The film is painfully authentic, re-creating the — ultimately self-destructive — path Holder follows, until her adventure ends when she is murdered in 1978.

When Jackie Burroughs read Holder’s letters, she was determined to make the writings into a film and play the challenging role of Maryse Holder herself. Engaging in a creative process rarely practiced in feature filmmaking, Burroughs and four others collaborated on A Winter Tan, all of them equally responsible for and committed to the production. The result is not only a cinematic work unlike any made in English Canada before but a startling, funny, frank, terrifying and exhilarating film.

At the centre of the film is Jackie Burrough’s eerie immersion into the mind and body of Maryse Holder; Burroughs is on camera for almost the entire film reciting Holder’s letters directly to the audience. It is a disconcerting, demanding approach for most viewers, but Burrough’s performance is the compelling force behind this bold, unsettling film.

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