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Film Review: The Colour of Ink & The Five Devils

Arts Review2023-3-23By: Marc Glassman


The Potion is the Notion

The Colour of Ink & The Five Devils

Film reviews by Marc Glassman


The Colour of Ink

Brian D. Johnson, director & writer

Nick de Pencier, cinematographer

Featuring: Jason Logan with Margaret Atwood, Koji Kakinuma, Roxx, Heidi Gustafson, Liana Finck, Yuri Shimojo, Maria Luisa Mendoza de Cruz, Soraya Syed, Fidel Cruz Lazo


The Five Devils (Les cinq diables)

Lea Mysius, director & co-script w/Paul Guilhaume (also the cinematographer)

Starring: Adele Exarchopoulos (Joanne), Sally Dramé (Vicky), Swala Emati (Julia), Moustapha Mbengue (Jimmy), Daphne Patakia (Nadine), Patrick Bouchitey (Jean-Yvon)


It’s a strange week when what holds two films together is the notion of magical potions. But that’s the case with two quite disparate films, one a Canadian documentary and the other a fantasy thriller set in the French alps. Both The Colour of Ink and The Five Devils revolve around the amazing things people can create when mixing elements together in jars. 

Brian D. Johnson has found an extraordinary individual to base his film The Colour of Ink. Toronto artist Jason Logan is one of the finest makers of ink in the world. Logan has shifted from being a graphic designer for such publications as the New York Times and Maclean’s to producing inks out of virtually anything, from rocks to flowers to berries to rusty nails. He creates ink for artists around the world, from Brooklyn to Tokyo, and acquires his natural products from places as far ranging as Mexico and Norway. Straight forward and easy going, Logan is a classic Canadian alchemist. There’s nothing pretentious about him as he combines elements as diverse as calamine lotion, crushed flowers and even blood into bottles, which when stirred up, become gorgeously coloured inks.

Johnson introduces us to Logan’s clients and colleagues, who are as entertainingly unique as their ink maker. Liana Finck is a sardonic feminist cartoonist for The New Yorker, who uses Logan’s inks to produce some of her best work. Koji Kakinuma, an iconic Japanese calligrapher consistently works with Jason, including on a painting which employs magnetite, a mineral endemic to Bancroft, Ontario, specially gathered, crushed and prepared for a huge and compelling art work. Roxx is a brilliant California tattoo artist whose work, which is solely in black, compelled Logan to make some of his deepest darkest colours. Japanese-American artist Yuri Shimojo is inspired by Logan’s adaptation of the medicinal colour Prussian blue to create beautiful work while battling cancer. And in the kind of star turn that makes documentaries popular, Margaret Atwood accepts a present from Logan of a special red ink, which is a homage to the colour of the women’s clothing in The Handmaid’s Tale

Although The Colour of Ink rightly concentrates on the lovely work being created by Jason Logan, his personal life is also revealed. When Jason was young, an intimate documentary was made about his mother Pat, who was dying of cancer. The excerpts we see leave us a moving impression of a boy and his family having to cope with such a tragedy. As an adult, Jason is married to a highly regarded novelist and in a couple of scenes, they are shown as  being parents to a lively group of children. The film ends with them at the Lesley Spit, merrily gathering rocks and branches and insects, all grist for Jason’s ink-making mill. They’re a family of creators using our environment in the best possible way.

While The Colour of Ink shows how mixing potions can be artistic and beneficial to all concerned, the darker side of making brews is dramatized in the French feature film The Five Devils. The sorceress in this supernatural tale is ten-year old Vicky, the daughter of Jimmy, a Senegalese born firefighter and Joanne, an athletic French mother from the Alps, who is an instructor in the local swimming pool. Though on the surface things seem fine, tensions flare up when Jimmy’s sister Julia unexpectedly arrives after a decade long absence. 

Vicky takes an immediate dislike to her aunt, whom she claims to stink like peat whiskey. In a remarkable scene, Vicky shows off her ability to smell anything to her mother, who is amazed when the girl is able to sniff out her presence in the woods even when blindfolded. More astonishing is Vicky’s power as a magician. Stealing small amounts of perfume, whiskey and other personal items from Julia, Vicky mixes together a pungent brew that knocks her out after she sniffs it. When she awakens, she’s in the past, a decade earlier, when Joanne and Julia first met in high school.

At this point, The Five Devils shifts from being a family drama to a fantasy thriller, although director Lea Mysius also plays out the sexual elements that have been driving the narrative. Whenever she inhales the potion, Vicky becomes a time traveler, witnessing the unfolding love relationship between her mother and aunt as teenagers. No one sees Vicky in the past except for Julia, who is alarmed and distraught whenever she’s confronted by a vision of a little girl glaring at her. Slowly we realize that Julia was driven mad by her distorted glimpses of Vicky, who is invisible to everyone else.

The Five Devils is a serious film, which combines the supernatural with such important subjects as lesbianism and the bullying of Vicky, a mixed race child. The film is an awkward mixture of the fantastic and the all-too-real. It benefits from wonderful performances by Adele Exarchopoulos as Joanne and Sally Dramé as Vicky. Lea Mysius’ film is a heavy potion with a mixture that doesn’t completely mesmerize. But it’s a brew worth imbibing.



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