Category Archives: film

Sunny Sunday

We’re battening down the hatches here in Vancouver, expecting some cold weather and snow this week, so we decided to take advantage of the sunnier-than-average day and head out on the town.

Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Catholic liturgical year, and so we walked over to Holy Rosary Cathedral for the 9:30 mass. It’s a lovely neo-gothic church, small for a cathedral (in my limited experience). The women’s choir sang with the Assistant Organist Catherine Walsh and they were joined by a violist whose name wasn’t printed in the bulletin. (At 11:00, trumpeter Katherine Evans was to be present with a number of Telemann pieces on the program.)

After mass, we wandered over to the Vancouver Centre Skytrain station and purchased a Compass card, the transit payment system here in Vancouver that recently launched, and then rode south to the King Edward station. We grabbed a coffee at Starbucks until Pronto opened at 11:30, where we had lunch.

pronto lunch

It’s across the street from the Park Theatre (our ultimate destination) and had good recs on Yelp. Zouheir had an excellent sandwich and so-so soup. My pasta special was dry. Seemed like leftovers, put in a bowl, topped with cheese, broiled, then some tomato sauce spooned on top. But my glass of wine was just fine.

But then we saw Brooklyn at the theatre, and all was forgotten. Based on a novel by Colm Toíbin and with screenplay by Nick Hornby, it was a lovely film, beautifully shot, great cast, and a heartbreaking story. While I had read the novel some time ago, the film particularly resonated with my husband, an immigrant multiple times and familiar with the pull of the old (and the new.)


I missed my book club meeting in Toronto today. I had suggested that we read an aboriginal author this month, and chose Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. This was before I knew that I would be in Vancouver, so I sent in my comments by email last night. I started:

This book is as close to a “10” as I can imagine. From a structure, story, and writing perspective, I find it pretty much perfect. I read Indian Horse, his previous novel and rated it 4/5 on Goodreads. I recall that it sat inside me for days after I finished reading it and I suspect this one will too….

Wagamese has received multiple honours for this novel, and they are well-deserved. Highly recommended.

Finally, a petition has been initiated to ban battery cages (used in raising chickens) in Canada. Please visit this link to find out more and sign the petition.

Reading as imaginative co-creation

As the lights darkened in the TIFF cinema Monday night, I leaned over to my friend and said “We’re so lucky to live in this city.”

We were there for the season opener of the Books in Film series. Eleanor Wachtel had just introduced Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and special guest flown in from Lahore for the screening of Mira Nair’s film based on the novel. From his brief comments before the film, it was clear this was going to be a highlight of the series.

No spoilers here. This Man Booker nominated novel is a must-read. But it was an interesting exercise in teasing out the differences between the experience of reading and that of watching a film. The novel has two basic acts: Changez (the protagonist, pronounced Chong’-iz) at Princeton and working as a financial analyst in New York City; and Changez after he returns to Lahore. The novel is written in the second person: Changez is telling his story to an American while sitting in a cafe in Lahore. We don’t know much about the American and the ending is not tidy.

In the film, there is a third act that ties the story together. There are other significant changes, and much more of a back story. Hamid stated that movie-goers don’t want to leave the cinema not knowing what “the ending” meant. But more than that, he had interesting things to say about the experience of reading versus watching a film.

In his view, a book leaves greater space for “imaginative co-creation” on the part of the reader. And particularly so in this novel where one half of the conversation is missing. Readers are required to imagine a lot, to create their own reality, to “engage in make-believe, or imaginative play for adults.”  He said that film is more “pre-chewed”, with less space for the viewer to enter into their own minds. Hamid stated that “books and film are completely different art forms.”

There was more. A discussion of the meaning of a beard. Nair’s changes to the screenplay to highlight powerful women. The importance (or not) of 9/11 in the novel. How one’s identification as part of a group can be (always is?) uncomfortable.

This was an evening to remember, and one of the reasons that I love my adopted city, and TIFF in particular. If you’re a reader and love film (and live in Toronto), single tickets are now available for this terrific series.

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TIFF – Opening Day

logo_tiff_top_largestTIFF opens today, and for the first time I’m entering the Festival with 8 vouchers out of the 30 tickets I purchased, which means I’ll be adding some films as I go out of those that are still on sale.

Today I’m picking up my tickets and hoping to make use of a few of the vouchers over the next few days.

I’m scheduled to see Blue is the Warmest Colour tonight, winner of the Palme D’Or at Cannes and panned by a number of columnists in the paper today. It’s a long one, coming in at just under 3 hours. Tomorrow evening, I looking forward to seeing the Jason Reitman live read of Boogie NIghts.

Films I’m hoping to pick up:

Friday: either Southcliffe, a four part series made for television in the UK, or Tim’s Veneer, a Penn & Teller doc looking into the methods of Vermeer.

Saturday: either Therese, an adaptation of the novel by Zola, or Ilo Ilo, the story of a Singaporean family during the Asian financial crisis.

On Sunday morning,  I’m seeing a members-only screening of Philomena, courtesty of TIFF. It stars Judi Dench as an Irish-Catholic woman who is looking for the child she was forced to give up. Later in the day I’m seeing September and Le Week-End.

I’m going stag for most of the Festival, so if you’ll be at a screening I’m at, let me know and we can meet up!

Finally, a special shout-out to Mike Rudolph, TIFF customer service, who assisted me when there were difficulties with the online ticket fulfillment process. He’s the son of a friend, and saw my pleas for assistance on the TIFF twitter feed. He gave me a call and did my ticketing over the phone.

“Love, Marilyn”: Coming to HBO this summer.

I saw this film last fall at TIFF and absolutely loved it. Directed by Liz Garbus, it’s a documentary based on Marilyn Monroe’s own writings, read by actors.  It will be screening on HBO Canada this month and next (dates) and HBO (US). Set your DVR to catch this one.

Here’s Liz Smith’s take on the doc.

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Duddy’s back in town.

Last night was a CanCon lover’s dream. The screening of the newly-remastered digital print of “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz“, based on the novel by Mordecai Richler, was the TIFF Books on Film event, and as we walked in to the screening room, we immediately noticed the 30 or so seats that had been reserved for special guests. Margaret Atwood’s name was the first to catch my eye. Richler’s widow Florence and children Noah and Jacob were also in attendance.

Jesse Wente, Head of Programming at TIFF, opened the evening and introduced the CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, Helga Stephenson. Her announcement that a copy of the beautiful digital print had been donated to TIFF so that it could be shown whenever possible was met with great applause. Last week, the film finally had its Cannes debut in the Cannes Classics program, and director Ted Kotcheff and Richard Dreyfuss were on the red carpet.

Svetlana and Richard Dreyfuss, Helga Stephenson, Ted Kotcheff and Laifun Kotcheff
Svetlana and Richard Dreyfuss, Helga Stephenson, Ted Kotcheff and Laifun Kotcheff

Eleanor Wachtel, our host for the Books on Film series, followed with a welcome and gave a bio of Kotcheff, our guest for the post-screening interview. (The ACCT bio is here.) Kotcheff then spoke of his 44-year friendship with Richler that started in the South of France. He wanted to make a film of Duddy for years, and finally got funding in the early days of the Canadian Film Development Corporation (now Telefilm Canada) when they covered half of the $750,000 budget for the film, with Gerald Schniederman covering the other half. Mr Schneiderman’s widow Roberta was at the screening last night and Kotcheff called her out to applause.

As Stephenson said in her remarks, the newly remastered print makes the film look like it was shot yesterday. I’ve seen the original at least twice, and Dreyfuss’ performance is amazing. Kotcheff described the casting of Duddy as a bit of a nightmare. He didn’t want to make the film until he found the perfect lead. As they got very close to the shoot date,  Kotcheff put in a call to NY casting director Lynn Stalmaster who, after reading the script, called him down to see a young guy who had a four minute scene in a previous film in which the kid had overacted. The moment he began to read for the part, Kotcheff knew he had “his Duddy”, the only issue being that Dreyfuss, a German Jew, had blue eyes.

In Cannes, Dreyfuss commented that Duddy was his best role, and that he didn’t realise this until many years later. And in my mind, when I read the novel, it is Dreyfuss who forms my mental image for Duddy.

Enjoy this little clip of the gambling scene:

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"Is that Benedict Cumberbatch?"

Sitting in a screening of Atonement last night, Dorothy leans over to me and whispers those words. It had been a while since I’d seen the film and, sure enough, there he is in the role of soon-to-be-known as bad-boy  Peter Marshall, chocolate tycoon. I’m terrible at recognizing faces and, with the little reddish moustache, it probably would have taken me a while to figure out why he looked familiar.

But the entire screening was like seeing the film for the first time. We were at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the Books on Film series and I had dutifully read Ian McEwen’s novel in the days before the screening. I guess that’s the point of the series: to understand how books are made into films.

To assist the audience, the screenwriter for the film Christopher Hampton had been invited to join interviewer Eleanor Wachtel on stage after the screening. As you may be aware, it is not obvious who the narrator is until the end of the novel, where there is a surprise regarding the veracity of certain scenes near the end. Hampton’s first draft of the screenplay began with this end. When the director was switched out and Joe Wright took over, he asked Hampton why he had chosen to do this, and on subsequent rewrites, the screenplay switched back to follow the narrative line of the novel more closely.

One other large change between the novel and the film was that final scene. Originally set in the the Tallis home, which has been turned into a hotel, the narrator returns there for a birthday party and upon retiring for the evening, she writes the final section of the book and the truth is revealed. It’s a very interior scene and likely would have been difficult to film without the use of voice-over, which Hampton was dead set against. Instead, the scene is shot with the narrator being interviewed on a television talk show, permitting the final revelation to happen more naturally.

I am trying not to give away too much about the novel which, if you haven’t read it, would make an excellent summer read. The first half is set in an English country home in a hot, sultry season. Kiera Knightly should get an award for best scene in a bathing cap.

The final novels in this series are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitzby Moredecai Richler, with guest director Ted Kotcheff (June 3. I’m hoping it will present a print of the restored master) and Midnight’s Childrenby Salman Rushdie, with guest director Deepa Mehta (June 24).

Sunday choral report

Circumstances only permitted a half hour rehearsal this morning, but our music went reasonably well.

During the Offertory we sang Josquin’s Ave Maria, presented below by the Tallis Scholars. (My email subscribers may not be getting the embedded video. If you’d like to see it, go to the link to my blog at the end of the email.)

During Communion, we presented Jesu Dulcis Memoria, sung here by the Cambridge Singers.

We were rather short of male singers this morning, with only one bass and two tenors, one of them a substitute for our cantor, but I think we managed to pull it off with our organist singing whichever male part needed him.

I spent a lazy afternoon, finishing up another read-through of Atonementby Ian McEwan in preparation for the screening tomorrow at TIFF, part of the Books on Film series. Playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton will be there for an interview with Eleanor Wachtel after the screening. The novel is so layered with emotion (or lack thereof) that it was perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon on the porch.

It will be a busy week. Besides the screening, we are seeing two operas at the COC (Tuesday and Wednesday evenings) and then Michael’s final music concert of high school on Thursday,where he will be featured playing a tuba concerto composed by another student at the school.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1.  Michael and I attended Bésame Ópera last evening, presented by Opera 5, a small group of young singers. Presented at Gallery 345, they staged two Spanish operas, El Retablo de Maese Pedro by Manuel de Fallo and Goyescas by Enrique Granados.  Opera 5 wants to bring opera back to the masses:
  2. When opera was developed it was meant to combine all art forms and we intend to push that to the limit by combining opera with any and every distinct art form such as dance, photography, visual art, performance art, creative writing, and even culinary arts by showcasing new talent in each medium. (About Opera 5 

    Last night’s production included shadow puppets in the first half, sangria and tuna ceviche at the break, and some beautiful visual effects involving wardrobe in the second half. The cast was superb, with the only difficulties being the sightlines in the small-ish space. I will definitely be back for next season.  

  3. I have failed miserably at getting to anything at HotDocs this week. I went down to try to get a same day ticket for Rent a Family Inc on Tuesday but they only had rush tickets and I was there two hours in advance. I decided not to wait around and risk not getting in. Yesterdays pick was bumping up against the opera. So I need to get better organized next year.
  4. I wandered into Belle de Provence yesterday when I was on my dress-hunting expedition. They sell scented soaps, candles, tableware, and other French loveliness. I adore liquid soap from France, even the inexpensive stuff. The scents are very natural, unlike North American products that all seem to have a chemical/not-made-in-nature smell. My in-laws bring Le Petit Marseillais brand soap in these funky earth-friendly tubes when they visit, and when I run out, I get a supply of a similar product in large bottles at Winners (1L of liquid soap for 9.99), which is WAY less expensive than what I saw in the shop. I suspect that the packaging changed, or something. If you see a gal in the bath products section at Winners sniffing all the bottles, it’s probably me.
  5. We’re off to an engagement party this evening, but if we weren’t, I’d be joining Michael at Baroque Idol with the Aradia Chamber Ensemble at the Music Gallery. Young composers have been invited to submit works for the baroque ensemble and then the audience gets to vote. The winning composer gets a commission.
  6. My new to-list app for iphone is kicking my butt. It’s the gamification of personal productivity. Check it out.
  7. It was HOT outside today.
  8. We’re seeing two operas next week at the COC. Because of Z’s travel schedule, we had to switch around some dates, which left us with Strauss’ Salome (directed by Atom Egoyan) on Tuesday and Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc) on Wednesday. 
Thanks for dropping by! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Gatsby Mania

Who’s not excited about the upcoming Baz Luhrmann extravaganza that will be The Great Gatsby, brought once again to film?

I wandered up to a local mall to find a dress for an event tomorrow night (last minute, I know!) and caught sight of some of the marketing spin happening around the premiere.

Chapters had a display that included two different editions of the book plus some others set in the same period or with the same theme  (Rules of Civilityby Amor Towles, Bright Lights, Big Cityby Jay McInerney, The Emperor’s Childrenby Claire Messud, Call Me Zeldaby Erika Robuck.)

Over at Brooks Brothers, two of their windows had been thus styled:

I’ve read the novel a few times and understood more with each reading. I’m very much looking forward to the film, and won’t be at all disappointed if it doesn’t replicate the book (as no film really can). I enjoy Luhrmann’s visual excess so it cannot really disappoint.

Toronto International Film Festival starts this week….

…and I’m getting ready.

After a bit of a bumpy ticket-purchasing ride, with a lot of my top picks off-sale due to my cheapness is buying a discounted Daytime Pack, I still have a pretty awesome schedule over the 10-day Festival. Zouheir is taking a few days off so that he can get to more of the screenings this year.

This Thursday, I’m seeing a live reading of American Beauty, to be directed by Jason Reitman. Actors are being announced by Reitman on Twitter and so far, we have  (as reported by Toronto Life):  

  • Adam Driver (Lena Dunham’s creepy boyfriend from Girls) as the neighbour’s son Ricky Fitts (played by Wes Bentley in the film)
  • Toronto’s Sarah Gadon as Angela, the teenage object of Lester Burnham’s (Kevin Spacey) lust (played by Mena Suvari in the film)
  • Nick Kroll as Buddy (played by Peter Gallagher in the film)

Gadon is probably best known in her role of Emma Jung in A Dangerous Method.

On Friday we’ll see a couple of documentaries:

In an unprecedented and candid series of interviews, six former heads of the Shin Bet — Israel’s intelligence and security agency — speak about their role in Israel’s decades-long counterterrorism campaign, discussing their controversial methods and whether the ends ultimately justify the means.

Apparently, there will be two (former?) generals in attendance.

On Saturday, we’re looking forward to screenings of Hotel Transylvania, Inch’Allah, and The Attack. The first is an animated feature with a star-studded cast. The second two examine the Palestinian question in the West Bank. There are quite a few films set in the Middle East at this years festival and we’re hoping to see most of them.

More to come.