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Actor-Director Saul Rubinek


As an actor, Saul Rubinek has appeared in almost every kind of genre and production, and it’s not uncommon to find his performance and characterization is far more interesting than some of the actors with which he’s sharing a scene. Certainly well known in his native Canada, Rubinek has regularly appeared in major films, including Wall Street (1987), True Romance (1993), Nixon (1995), The Family Man (2000), and had recurring roles on the TV series Frasier (2000) and Blind Justice (2005). His latest work, Warehouse 13, is filming in Toronto for the Sci-Fi Channel.

In 1998 Rubinek stepped behind the camera and directed Jerry and Tom. His other films as director include the TV movies Club Land (2001) and Bleacher Bums (2002), and the indie film Cruel but Necessary (2007), which made its debut on DVD earlier this year via Critical Mass and Anchor Bay/Starz.

A film about obsessions, betrayal, and ultimately healing, Cruel but Necessary is a very clever film shot on digital video from the perspective of its holder, Betty Munson. Whenever she turns on the camera, that’s what we see, and little by little we’re privy to the end of her marriage to a two-timing husband, her emotional breakdowns, as well as her passionate efforts to raise her son Luke.

Produced by Elinor Reid (Rubinek’s wife) and written by star Wendel Meldrum, Cruel but Necessary also feels like an improvised film with naturally neurotic characters and dysfunctional family members, but as you’ll learn from our Q&A, Rubinek’s film is a meticulously rendered work.




Cruel but Necessary poster




Mark R. Hasan: I was pleasantly surprised that Cruel but Necessary is a story that uses video technology not to create horror, nor as some kind of narcissistic film about a serial killer, but as an integral part of a social drama, and I wonder if that was one of the aspects of the script that really appealed to you?


Saul Rubinek: Wendel Meldrum is a Canadian actress I’ve know for thirty years who came to my wife [producer Elinor Reid] and I with these series of monologues [that] weren’t defined. They’re spoken by a rather kooky, odd, sometimes intelligent, sometimes bafflingly ignorant woman, and Wendell said ‘Look, I’ve created this character. What do I do with this?’ Is it a stage play? Is it a performance piece? What is it?’

Over about almost a year and a half, we developed a script, so it was appealing from a character’s point of view, but also interesting when we asked, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if, while she was filming herself and her philosophy, her life kind of contradicted what she was saying?’

That was the premise that we started with - a kind of dramatic-comic premise - and it grew from there… It was very appealing to use that technique… We could have made a film, I suppose, where sometimes it was that camera, and sometimes we could go wherever we wanted when it wasn’t her camera, but we really decided to stay true to it until obviously the last scene in the movie, when she isn’t filming herself.


MRH: The shift actually works very well, because when you finally go to the last scene where everybody watches Betty’s video with nervous anticipation, it’s clear that we’re now watching a formal movie, because you’re showing more traditional angles; it’s still very subtle because you’ve got very slow pull-ins and pull-outs which aren’t very elaborate and maintain the visuals of the video camera footage.

SR: I’ve watched the film with festivals audiences a lot, so I’ve seen it with I guess about six or seven thousand people. Everybody is so well versed in the syntax of film and the language of coverage that you didn’t have to say a thing; what’s kind of interesting is that it didn’t really dawn on people like a big balloon; it just kind of made sense that she wasn’t shooting that stuff because of the angles.

What was probably most fascinating was that if we’d had the money that we originally wanted, we never could have made a movie of this quality. The fact that we had no money allowed us to shoot for 7 months, a couple of days a week, maybe a scene per day, over 55 days of shooting, and if we’d had the money that we originally went out for, which was a half a million dollars for 18 days of shooting, I never, never could’ve done it this way; it wouldn’t look like that.

Club Land (2001) VHS art

Bleacher Bums (2002) DVD cover





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