Last Exit on St. Laurent Street: The Wonderfully Fucked Up World of Ryan Larkin
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Larkin's girlfriend at the time convinced him that he should work in the private industy on feature projects. (Odd advice given Larkin's experience with Running Time.) Nevertheless, Larkin headed to Toronto where he worked for a short time as a storyboard artist at Nelvana. Larkin worked for two months storyboarding the final sequence for the feature film, Rock and Rule. Unfortunately, Larkin wasn't around to see if his work made the credits (it didn't). One night Larkin was working late, probably snorting some lines and sippin' on some beers, when something fell on his head and knocked him out. He ended up in the hospital for stitches. The next day, Nelvana quietly and quickly put Larkin on a train bound for Montreal.

It's not really clear what happened, but Larkin admits that his girlfriend would come around at night, he was still doing coke, and he was rarely without a drink in his hand. Turns out, in addition to coke, Larkin was also an alcoholic. Unlike coke, Larkin accepts his drinking condition with the greatest of ease, in fact he claims it makes him healthier. "I've been doing it ever since I was a child. When I was ten the doctor told my mother that I should drink 1-2 beers a day to put on weight." Larkin continues this ritual to this day and rightly claims, "I'm an alcoholic, not a drunkard."

Well anyway, after a brief period working on a variety of odd jobs including Heavy Metal, Larkin realized that his finances were out of whack. The gal he was shaggin' with was controlling his money and apparently ripping him off. "In the early '80s, I was getting angry with her, accusing her of stealing from me. I realized she was a thief. I tried to get rid of her, which resulted in some kitchen violence. Being a woman with a child by another man, she was able to get the upper hand with the authorities and the police. I was thrown out for being a violent man, but I wasn't."

At the same time, Larkin, admittedly without many options, gave up on the film industry: "I realized that even though I had made some good films, I was not a good filmmaker. I couldn't meet deadlines. Other people were pouring out bullshit. I was becoming disheartened with the whole process of films, I was getting paid a salary for junk films." So Larkin returned to his first love, being an artist.

Ryan Larkin with some of his works behind him. Photo courtesy of and © National Film Board of Canada. All rights reserved.

For a short time, things were okay. Larkin fell in love with a man who put him up in a studio. "I did a lot of good paintings in the '80s. I moved all of my work down to this beautiful home. This lasted for about 8 years, but he finally wanted to get rid of me. I'm very attractive, but evidently, I'm undesirable after awhile." The 1990s found Larkin, now coke free, starting over again on his own. His generosity with people resulted in a variety of folks taking advantage of his home. Paintings, drawings and sculptures were stolen by friends in need of a fix. Eventually penniless and alone, Larkin was tossed out of his home. He lived on the streets of Montreal briefly before moving into the Old Brewery Mission where he currently resides. Virtually all of his art is gone now, pawned for dope, tricks or whatever help the strangers needed to survive. He now carries only what he can: a few clothes, some books, and his little pop bottle for his daily beers. Many people have tried to help him over the years, but Larkin is either unwilling or unable to accept.

Has Ryan Larkin's life taken a downward spiral? It's really hard to say. When you watch his films, especially Walking and Street Musique, they seem to foreshadow his flaneur existence. The lack of structure, the random, carefree nature of his films seems to mirror his own refusal of order in life. Today he seems to have found some sense of freedom. He controls his time and actions. His days now consist of a regular shift outside a Montreal restaurant where he performs mime, dances and draws for change. He continues to play in rock bands as a drummer. Would life for Ryan Larkin be any better if he had remained a court artist at the NFB working away for a nice salary on crappy projects? Our conventional, constructed beliefs would be that his life has hit rock bottom, but I don't buy it. Everyday we see miserable souls drifting sleeplessly through life from meaningless job to lonely home. Unhappy travellers caught in a web of material constructions. Larkin may not have a home, he may not have a job, but he remains an artist. This is not to say that Larkin is content with his life. He isn't and still suffers from bouts of depression. Whatever may happen down the road (currently the Ottawa International Animation Festival and Quickdraw Animation Society are working toward getting Larkin back on the filmmaking track), Larkin has left the world with a quartet of passionate, delicate visual poems. Beyond that, he makes life better, if only for a second, for those walking, weary souls on St. Laurent Street. What more is there?

Chris Robinson is executive director of the Ottawa International Festival and the founder and director of SAFO, the Ottawa International Student Animation Festival. He is also a board member of ASIFA International. Robinson has curated film programs (Los Angeles, Norway, Korea, Holland, Estonia, Singapore, Vietnam and several other places), served on juries (AnimExpo, World Animation Celebration), and written articles on animation for Animation World, FPS, Plateau, Animation Journal and Take One. He prefers writing over cartoons. He also irks a lot of people with his often-inflammatory opinions about many things.


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