Culture & Conversation

Girls gone wild

The Black Roses is a girl gang. The members ply their trades – ATM scams, car theft, drug sales – on Vancouver’s gritty Downtown Eastside (with a little high-end shoplifting downtown thrown in). Mac and Mercy were working for the Vipers, but when Mercy gets beat up while hooking on the corner, they decide to go out on their own.

Hitting all the right notes

It is terrific to watch fourteen, yes count them, fourteen young actors singing their hearts out. And that’s just the cast; they share the stage with a seven piece orchestra on a minimal set at Calixa Lavallée in the middle of Parc Lafontaine. Just for historical context, it is amusing to see the play that influenced some of the most important playwrights of the twentieth century and was censored in so many countries.

Standing alone

Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is a tour de force of pyschological trauma, anxiety, and aging in this return to the dramatic for the ever prolific director of comedy. I don’t imagine that there are many people sitting on the fence about Woody Allen. He has drawn a sharp line between avid fans and dedicated detractors. For those who do not enjoy his particular cinematic style, Blue Jasmine will probably not be the film to change your opinion.

Stop and stare

Thanks to Concordia Professor and local stop motion animation expert Erik Goulet, tonight marks the beginning of the fifth edition of the Montreal Stop Motion Festival. The party gets underway with a visit from legendary director Henry Selick, who will be present for a special screening of his holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas, celebrating its twentieth anniversary this week.

Love and sex

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut follows the exploits of a ladies’ man who is secretly addicted to pornography. Don Jon is a confident, assured, and entertaining release for the actor turned director. If you have already seen the trailer then much of the film will feel like an extended version, which normally wouldn’t appeal to me. However, Don Jon magically pulls off something more, offering up a slick, humorous and entertaining flic.

Quietly quaintly curiouser

Disciples of the Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, might well cry heresy at the apparent liberties taken by Jonathan Miller in his 1966 television version of this most sacred of childhood stories. Filmed in stark black-and-white with woozy perspectives and Ravi Shankar’s sitar soundtrack jangling throughout, it sometimes seems more 1960s counter-culture than high-Victorian playfulness. And without a working knowledge of the original, you’d be hard-pressed to recognise individual characters from Carroll’s menagerie of all creatures weird and wonderful.

Looking glass

Leaving la Ville Reine behind and her partner who has moved on, 30-year-old Chloé returns to her Québécois roots, landing a job at a fashion magazine selling ad space to high-end Montreal boutiques. This is a fresh start. She finds new love and explores la métropole, a city of dizzying possibilities. But there are indeed stresses, a lot to get used to. There is temptation and plenty of heady stimuli competing for attention. The reader, too, will experience this inability to focus through Dubois’ brilliant use of adjectives, once considered a no-no in fiction writing.

Balayer les amours

The incredible singer Edith Piaf, who died 50 years ago yesterday, may have left this earthly abode behind but her essence, her aura, her songs go on in myriad covers, films and plays. The latest tribute Thursday night at the Rialto was a masterful performance by Claudette Dion (yes, the sister of Celine).

Of birds and women

Very rarely does one get entirely transported by a piece of theatre. IF We Were Birds did just that to the fortunate audience at the Centaur last night. This is terrifically difficult tale to tell; Erin Shields challenged herself to dramatize the essence of the stories of the abuse and rape of women in war time. These stories are woven around the myth of Philomela an Athenian princess who was raped by her brother in law and had her tongue cut out.

Liberation or assimilation?

When the Quebec provincial government unveiled its anti-homophobia campaign in March, it received some expected criticism. The series of ads, which run on TV and the web, features images of same-sex couples embracing, followed by questions about comfort levels. Some Quebecers wrote to the government, complaining that they didn’t want their tax dollars going to such projects. The price tag for the five-year campaign is $7.1 million.

Ain’t complainin’

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a Tony award winning show and so you pretty much know that the structure and substance will be terrific. But many people do not know the repertoire of Fats Waller and it is astonishing how many great songs he wrote. The lead song, one of my personal favourites was especially enticing when the whole company sang it as a curtain raiser, and entered from the back as the house as well as the wings, giving the public a multi phonic rendition of this great song.

Homework invasion

Starting out like yet another of those triumphant tales about a maverick teacher shepherding some troubled but gifted student towards the sunny uplands of enlightenment, Francoise Ozon’s sprightly and engaging new film, In the House, develops into something altogether more worrying.

Heavy meta

The distinction between form and content has wiggled its way into the literary discourse of almost every country. It is an interesting launching pad for ideas because it relies on a neat dichotomy. Form, as it goes, is the shape a piece of writing takes. A neat analogy would be a bottle. The bottle is the form. Whatever you pour into the bottle is content.