A still from Leonard Yakir's "Main Street Soldier" (Leonard Yakir)
His face, bruised and creased by decades of tough living, is unforgettable.
—Alison Gillmor, reviewer
When Main Street Soldier first showed back in 1972, this indelible character study by Winnipeg-born filmmaker Leonard Yakir got slammed.
Following World War II vet Ray LeClair as he wanders through an alcoholic haze, the documentary must have seemed like a shockingly frank and foulmouthed record of mean streets and hard times.
Today, it feels like an extraordinary evocation of a period and a place, as Yakir shoots the North End of the early 1970s with stark poetry. The daytime shots are mostly bleak industrial landscapes--rail yards and decaying factories--while the night shots are neon-lit sidewalks lined with cut-price store windows and rundown hotels.
Main Street Soldier is also an absolutely haunting portrait of addiction. LeClair was just a guy Yakir had met in a Main Street bar, but he's a magnetic screen presence, whether he's waking up with the shakes in his rooming-house bed or roaming the neighbourhood looking for a few fleeting moments of companionship. His face, bruised and creased by decades of tough living, is unforgettable.
At a compact 35 minutes, the film is shot and cut with a cinéma vérité casualness that parallels LeClair's drunken aimlessness. But there's also a stageyness to it, a reflection of LeClair's outsized personality.