May 16–20, 2024

Larry Kent’s Vancouver Trilogy

None of us would be making films in Vancouver if Larry Kent hadn’t gotten off his arse and made the first one.”

Jack Darcus, director (Deserters)

Arriving on our shores from Johannesburg in the late 1950s, Laurence Larry” Kent enrolled as a psychology and theatre student at UBC and, undeterred by the absence of even a cottage-sized film industry here, proceeded to make Vancouver’s first entirely independent Canadian fiction feature. That watershed work, The Bitter Ash (1963), was a no-budget, nouvelle vague-imbued bolt of Beat moviemaking that instantly courted controversy for its nudity, drug use, and candid sex talk. Too risqué for commercial distribution, the film proved catnip for student bodies and played extensively across Canadian campuses, turning a tidy profit—and raising the hackles of provincial censors—along the way. It was followed closely by Sweet Substitute (1964) and When Tomorrow Dies (1965), further distinguishing the DIY director as a West Coast enfant terrible adept at portraying the social, cultural, and sexual revolutions of the 1960s from the crow’s nest of Vancouver. In 1967, Kent relocated to Montreal where he continued (and continues) to produce provocative cinema.

The bold, stylistic expressiveness and zeitgeist-harnessing vitality of Kent’s films of the 1960s mark them as key works of their era and represent a crucial step away from the documentary tradition that had dominated Canadian filmmaking. Long regarded by critics and film historians as an unsung figure in the artistic development of our national cinema, Kent has enjoyed belated recognition in recent years. In 2017, The Bitter Ash was selected as one of Canada’s 150 essential moving-image works and screened widely (including here) as part of the attending tour. At Fantasia 2023, Kent received the Canadian Trailblazer Award and a career-spanning retrospective for his role in pioneering underground cinema in Canada.

Following their world premieres in Montreal last year, The Cinematheque presents new digital restorations of Larry Kent’s three groundbreaking made-in-Vancouver movies.

Of all the filmmakers from the 1960s, Larry Kent is the most consistently and unjustly underrated.”

Take One’s Essential Guide to Canadian Cinema

One of the original English-Canadian auteurs … [An] accomplished, original, and unparalleled filmmaker.”

Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Kent remains the most overlooked figure in our cinema … His work is a significant addition to the history of film in our country.”

Piers Handling, Cinema Canada

Upcoming Screenings

  • Bitter Ash 1
  • The Bitter Ash
  • Canada1963
  • Larry Kent
  • 79 DCP
  • NR
  • The Vancouver Trilogy
  • Sweet Substitute 1
  • Sweet Substitute
  • aka Caressed
  • Canada1964
  • Larry Kent
  • 85 DCP
  • NR
  • The Vancouver Trilogy
  • When Tomorrow Dies 1
  • When Tomorrow Dies
  • Canada1965
  • Larry Kent
  • 88 DCP
  • NR
  • The Vancouver Trilogy

List of Programmed Films

Date Film Title Director(s) Year Country
2024-May The Bitter Ash Larry Kent 1963 Canada
2024-May Sweet Substitute Larry Kent 1964 Canada
2024-May When Tomorrow Dies Larry Kent 1965 Canada