Festival of Films on Art

FIFA 2016 Review: Un Homme de danse

In a scene from the film Homme de danse, Vincent Warren, right, watches as Arnab Bandyopadhyay demonstrates gestures from Indian classical dance.

In a scene from the film Homme de danse, Vincent Warren, right, watches as Arnab Bandyopadhyay demonstrates gestures from Indian classical dance.

Ballet dancer, ballet teacher, dance historian and archivist, Montrealer and Québecois by choice, Vincent Warren is, or has been, all of those things. He’s also a superb raconteur, and many of his stories are hilarious. He shares those stories in Un Homme de danse (A Man of Dance) a film directed by Marie Brodeur. Like many Montrealers, Warren speaks English and French and often switches from one to the other in mid-sentence. He wears a scarf with great panache, too!

I didn’t know his name before seeing Homme de danse, but I soon realized that I had seen Warren dance many times; he is the male dancer in Pas de deux, an award-winning film that Norman McLaren made for the National Film Board of Canada in 1968. (The ballerina is Margaret Mercier and the choreography is by Ludmilla Chiriaeff.) With its mesmerizing multiple exposures, the film was ground-breaking for its time. If I had a nickel for every time I saw it back in my school days. . .

Vincent Warren and Margaret Mercier dance in Pas de deux, a film that Norman McLaren made for the National Film Board of Canada in 1968.

Vincent Warren and Margaret Mercier dance in Pas de deux, a film that Norman McLaren made for the National Film Board of Canada in 1968.

In yet another claim to fame, Warren danced the title role in the ballet Tommy, which choreographer Fernand Nault created for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in 1970, using music from the rock opera of the same name by The Who. The work appealed to young audiences and encouraged young men to consider careers in ballet.

 

Warren was born into a large family in Jacksonville, Florida, a place where boys were expected to play football, as his own older brothers did. But Warren was entranced by dance when he saw the film The Red Shoes at age 11. (Read the Wikipedia entry for The Red Shoes here, reviews of The Red Shoes at the Internet Movie Database.) He read everything he could about ballet, and started a ballet scrapbook, which he still has to this day (take that, all you “toss-it-out” minimalists!) He paid for his first ballet lessons with money he earned as a paper boy, but he didn’t pay for long; male students were so rare, they had to be encouraged. (“Boys were always welcome.”)

A page from Vincent Warren's ballet scrapbook. He was smitten by dance after he watched the 1948 film The Red Shoes.

A page from Vincent Warren’s ballet scrapbook. He was smitten by dance after he watched the 1948 film The Red Shoes.

After finishing high school Warren headed to New York where he received scholarships to the American Ballet Theater School (Rudolf Nuryev was in his class!) and then to the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School. He was hired by the Metropolitan Opera at a time when Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi were performing there. Warren was a party animal, hanging out until the early-morning hours with the poet Frank O’Hara and his gang of abstract expressionist painters.

Warren also danced at the Sante Fe Opera Ballet, with an orchestra conducted by Igor Stravinsky. (Warren has a good Stravinsky story – but better you should hear it from him than from me.) In the summer, Warren worked in summer stock, where companies presented a new musical each week and performed as many as eight in one season.

In 1961 Warren joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, under the direction of Ludmilla Chiriaeff. He danced with the company until 1979, when he turned 40. He then taught performance and dance history until 1992 at École Supérieure de Danse du Québec, the school connected to Les Grands. The school had a tiny library with little more than 300 books. Warren donated thousands of his own books, magazines and prints to turn it into the best dance library in Canada. It’s now called Bibliothèque de la Danse Vincent-Warren, and it’s open to the public. “We want you to visit,” Warren said at the screening I attended.

Warren is not the only one who gets to tell stories – we also hear from dancers Véronique Landory, Annette av Paul, Anik Bissonnette, choreographers Brian Macdonald, Jeanne Renaud, Paul-André Fortier, Aileen Passloff, and journalist Linde Howe-Beck. Warren’s longtime friend, Peter Boneham, another American dancer and choreographer who made a home in Canada, is a real hoot. The two could probably form a comedy act if they wanted to.

Homme de danse might be a history lesson or a nostalgia fest, depending on the age and interests of the viewer. There’s footage of Place des Arts, so new that it’s still surrounded by rubble, a glimpse of former Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau, colourful scenes at the World’s Fair, Expo 67, and excerpts from many ballets, too. I was surprised to learn that Radio-Canada used to present live ballet performances two to four times per week.

After living in a second-floor apartment in Mile End for 47 years, “like an old bear in his cave,” Warren decided to move to a ground-floor place. Director Brodeur filmed him as he packed up his possessions; it was a great idea, since so many of those objects sparked memories and stories.

Un Homme de danse (Man of Dance) directed by Marie Brodeur, will be shown as part of FIFA, Festival International du Film sur l’Art, on Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 5 p.m. in the Maxwell Cummings Auditorium of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1379 Sherbrooke St. W. Vincent Warren will attend the screening.

General admission tickets are $12.50; seniors (65 and older) pay $11; those 25 and younger pay $10; children 12 and younger pay $5.

For more information or to buy tickets online, visit www.artfifa.com

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FIFA 2015: See Escape From Moominvalley for beautiful paintings by Tove Jansson

A still life by Tove Jansson, from the documentary film Escape From Moominville.

A still life by Tove Jansson, from the documentary film Escape From Moominville.

No need to be a Tove Jansson fan, or to know anything about her to enjoy Escape From Moomin Valley, it’s such a visual pleasure.

Tove Jansson (1914-2001) a member of Finland’s Swedish minority, achieved fame and presumably, fortune, through Moomins, creatures of her own invention who look vaguely like upright hippos. Moomins appeared in children’s books and a long-running comic strip; they are available as figurines, plush toys and printed on assorted bags, mugs, aprons, pencil cases, notebooks, etc. (Local publisher Drawn & Quarterly printed a large volume of her work in 2006.)

Artist and author Tove Jansson as a young adult, from the documentary film Escape From Moominville.

Artist and author Tove Jansson as a young adult, from the documentary film Escape From Moominville.

Jansson wrote short stories for adults and plays, as well, but she always considered herself a painter first and foremost. That’s what she wrote on her tax return, according to Escape From Moomin Valley.

Jansson came from an arty family; her father was a sculptor, her mother a graphic artist. She was expected to be an artist and a good one, too.

The film uses lots of photos, sketches, paintings and extracts read from Jansson’s letters and diaries to fill us in on her family life (she often argued with her father) her friends, her art classes and her travels. She studied in Stockholm and Paris, and visited Dresden, Brittany and Florence. Probably many other places, too. She was a forceful character and her art is wonderful to look at. Her studio is quite impressive, too. You might be jealous!

A still life by Tove Jansson, from the documentary film Escape From Moominville.

A still life by Tove Jansson, from the documentary film Escape From Moominville.

Jansson speaks briefly in the film and there are many remarks from her brothers, niece, and childhood friends.

Escape From Moominvalley is being shown as part of a double bill with the 55-minute film J.R.R. Tolkien: des mots, des mondes. A review of that is coming up! There’s a connection, too – while I don’t remember it in Escape From Moominvalley, Jansson illustrated a Swedish edition of The Hobbit.

Sunday, March 29, 2015, 1:30 pm, J.A. de Sève Theatre, McConnell Library Building, Concordia University, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

Escape From Moominvalley
Finland, Denmark, Sweden / 2014 / Color / 58 Min / Finnish S.T. English

A still life by Tove Jansson, from the documentary film Escape From Moominville.

A still life by Tove Jansson, from the documentary film Escape From Moominville.

Escape From Moominvalley
Realisation: Charlotte Airas
Script: Charlotte Airas, Kimmo Kohtamäki
Cinematography: Timo Peltonen
Sound: Pietari Koskinen
Editing: Kimmo Kohtamäki
Music: Pessi Levanto
Narration: Ylva Ekblad
Participation(s): Sophia Jansson, Per Olof Jansson, Boel Westin, Erik Kruskopf, Boris Konickoff, Tuula Karjalainen
Producer(s): Kaarle Aho
Production: Making Movies
Distribution: Making Movies
The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site www.artfifa.com for more information

FIFA 2015 Review: Microtopia, a film about tiny homes, gets an extra Sunday screening

Ana Rewakowicz's Sleeping Bag Dress expands to become a kind of cocoon, in the documentary film Microtopia.

Ana Rewakowicz’s Sleeping Bag Dress expands to become a kind of cocoon, in the documentary film Microtopia.

Previous screenings of Microtopia at the Festival International du Film sur l’Art (FIFA) were sold out; an extra screening has been added for Sunday March 29, 2015. Another film, Strange and Familiar: Home and Architecture on Fogo Island, will be shown with it, as part of a double bill.

Microtopia is about possibilities, news ways of thinking and living. It features tiny houses, micro dwellings, and a VERY portable shelter – the Sleeping Bag Dress.

Montreal artist Ana Rewakowicz arranges her Sleeping Bag Dress, in the documentary film Microtopia. Note the Farine Five Roses sign in the background.

Montreal artist Ana Rewakowicz arranges her Sleeping Bag Dress, in the documentary film Microtopia. Note the Farine Five Roses sign in the background.

In northern California, Jay Shafer is living in his fourth tiny (and tidy) house. He built it himself. It’s made of dark wood and from the outside it looks like something a surbanite might put in the backyard as a place to store the lawnmower or where children can play house. The exposed wood on the inside gives it a warm and cosy look. Burners for cooking hang on the wall when not in use, to free up counter space.

Shafer explains that in the U.S., there are regulations that specify a minimum size for rooms in a house. He got around this restriction by putting his dwelling on wheels; strictly speaking, it is no longer a house.

Jay Shafer's tiny house in the documentary film Microtopia. It is being shown on Sunday, March 29, at FIFA, Montreal's Festival of Films on Art.

Jay Shafer’s tiny house in the documentary film Microtopia. It is being shown on Sunday, March 29, at FIFA, Montreal’s Festival of Films on Art.

Jennifer Siegel makes homes from former shipping containers, or long-haul trucks. These look relatively spacious compared to Shafer’s home.

In Mexico, Richart Sowa built his own floating island on a base of wooden pallets and reclaimed plastic bottles. (“Boats rock but island roll,” he says.) It is quite ramshackle, compared to Shafer’s construction.

 

Richart Sowa built his own island in Mexico, using wooden pallets and plastic bottles, lots of plastic bottles. Sowa is one of several participants in the documentary film Microtopia.

Richart Sowa built his own island in Mexico, using wooden pallets and plastic bottles, lots of plastic bottles. Sowa is one of several participants in the documentary film Microtopia.

Greek architect Aristide Antonas proposes making a home from old tanker trucks, though he admits living in one might feel like being in prison.

In Denmark, Ion Sorvin shows a sort of plastic igloo that one call roll along the sidewalk and then “park” on the road, between cars. He’s also made a more spacious creation – a “walking house.”

Dre Wapenaar of the Netherlands hangs pod-like tents from trees. He had designed them with the thought that eco-activists could use them while carrying out “actions” to save forests, but before he could contact any such activists, a campsite owner offered to buy them.

Dre Wapenaar of the Netherlands designed these tree tents. Rockabye baby!

Dre Wapenaar of the Netherlands designed these tree tents. Rockabye baby!

 

There’s even a Montreal segment! Artist Ana Rewakowickz, who’s originally from Poland, demonstrates the Sleeping Bag Dress within sight of the famous Five Roses Flour sign.

And that brings me to one of my quibbles about the film. During the opening credits, we see the names faces and dwellings of the participants while they say a few words. That’s the last time we see their names.

They rarely say where they are, either. Three people were obviously in the U.S., and two of them were in deserts, though it was not clear if it was the same desert, or what state they were in. I had to Google Sowa to find out where his island was. Maybe I should recognize Copenhagen when I see it, but I had to Google Sorvin, too.

The artists and architects in the film talk about reusing and recycling, shrinking their environmental footprints, and ask how much stuff and how much space do we really need, etc?

A fascinating topic, though one size would definitely not fit all. Claustrophobics need not apply! It’s interesting to note that, the occasional drawing aside, we never see more than one person at a time in these dwellings. Few of these people could tell their friends “Drop by anytime!”

I cannot agree with Jennifer Siegel’s statement that we can keep all our memories on our hard drives now, and therefore we can get by with very few physical things. Speak for yourself, lady! There must be a happy medium, no?
Microtopia
Sweden / 2013 / Color / 52 min / English

Strange and Familiar: Home and Architecture on Fogo Island
Canada⎢ Katherine Knight, Marcia Connolly⎢ 2014 ⎢ 52 min
Cinquième Salle of Place des Arts, 175 Ste. Catherine St. W.

Microtopia
Realisation: Jesper Wachtmeister
Cinematography: Kenneth Svedlund
Sound: Jesper Wachtmeister, Kenneth Svedlund
Editing: Jesper Wachtmeister, Oscar Willey
Music: Benny Nilsen
Producer(s): Jesper Wachtmeister, Jonas Kellagher
Production: Solaris Filmproduktion, Eight Millimetres AB
Distribution: Autlook Filmsales

The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site www.artfifa.com for more information.

FIFA 2015 Review: Donald Duck documentary is really two films in one

 

Image from the documentary film Donald Duck Ð Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous, which is being shown in Montreal at FIFA, the Festival International du Film sur l'Art.

Image from the documentary film Donald Duck Ð Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous, which is being shown in Montreal at FIFA, the Festival International du Film sur l’Art.

Ninety minutes devoted to Walt Disney’s film and comic book character Donald Duck? Yessireebob!

In truth, Donald Duck – Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous, is more like two films, awkwardly cobbled together. For about the first 30 minutes, it’s all about The Donald. Apparently, he is really big in Europe. Every week, to this very day, in some European countries, one person in four reads about Donald Duck. Who knew?

Asssorted people from France, Germany and Scandinavia talk about their first encounter with the cranky fowl and what he means to them.

After World War II, Donald Duck was part of an effort to de-Nazify German children. In translating the comics into German Erika Fuchs made them more literary, witty and thoughtful than the originals.

Gottfried Helnwein of Germany is one of the many artists who appears in the documentary film Donald Duck Ð Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous, which is being shown in Montreal at FIFA, the Festival International du Film sur l'Art.

Gottfried Helnwein of Germany is one of the many artists who appears in the documentary film Donald Duck Ð Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous, which is being shown in Montreal at FIFA, the Festival International du Film sur l’Art.

Donald Duck fans (Donaldistes in French, if I heard correctly) have yearly conferences where they present serious papers about him.

Among the statements made by assorted talking heads: Donald Duck is never satisfied, he always wants more. He wants fame and recognition. He is ordinary, naive, but not an idiot. We can all identify with him; he can be a clown, evil or generous. He never wins, but he never gives up. Okay then.

Then, the film turns to winners and losers and success, with segments about the Razzie Awards (it’s a rather long segment), the Funny or Die comedy-video website, life coaches, the tradition of the village idiot, and an excerpt from the German version of the TV show The Office. To be honest, this second part was not that interesting for me.

Donald Duck - always full of big dreams! Image from the documentary film Donald Duck Ð Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous, which is being shown in Montreal at FIFA, the Festival International du Film sur l'Art.

Donald Duck – always full of big dreams! Image from the documentary film Donald Duck Ð Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous, which is being shown in Montreal at FIFA, the Festival International du Film sur l’Art.

Pet peeve: This film is made for French audience. When anyone is speaking a language other than French, a translator talks on top of them. No subtitles. Two people talking at once. Annoying in the extreme. There should be a law, I say!
Donald Duck – Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous (Germany / 2014 / Color / 90 Min / French, English, German with French translation), Friday, March 27, 2015 at 6:30 pm at the Cinematheque Québecoise, 335 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E,

Donald Duck – Le Vilain Petit Canard En Nous
Realisation: Edda Baumann-Von Broen
Script: Edda Baumann-von Broen
Cinematography: Edda Baumann-von Broen
Participation(s): Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Gottfried Helnwein, Øyvind Holen
Producer(s): Hasko Baumann
Production: Avanti Media Plus
Distribution: Avanti Media Plus
The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site www.artfifa.com for more information.

FIFA 2015: Looking at Gustave Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio as a puzzle and a history lesson

Caricature of painter Gustave Courbet from the documentary film Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre

Caricature of painter Gustave Courbet from the documentary film Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre

 

French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was admired by some and mocked by others. He was self taught, which earned him the scorn of academicians. He hobnobbed with the rich and powerful though he sided with workers and disadvantaged.

The 26 minute film takes a quick look at Courbet’s life and works before turning to his large and crowded work with the long name – The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life.

The Painter's Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, by Gustave Courbet.

The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, by Gustave Courbet.

Courbet created it for a salon at the 1855 Paris World Fair (or Exposition Universelle des produits de l’Agriculture, de l’Industrie et des Beaux-Arts de Paris 1855 to give its full name). The jury refused to accept this painting, though eleven of his other works were shown. (These days, the painting hangs in the Musée d’Orsay.)

In examining the many possible reasons for this refusal, the filmmakers tell us about the many styles that appear in the painting – portraits, still life, history painting – and the people in it, who include George Sand, Charles Baudelaire, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and the Emperor Napoleon III himself. He had been elected president of France but later staged a coup d’etat and declared himself emperor. In the painting he is portrayed as a hunter wearing tall leather boots. Censorship was so strong at this time that the mere mention of “boots” could result in a prison sentence.

This film is filled with a wealth of detail and historical information.

Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre will be shown as part of a double bill with Beatus: The Spanish Apocalypse, which is 90 minutes long, on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal – Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, 1379 Sherbrooke St. W.

Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre
France / 2014 / Color / 26 Min / French
Realisation: Clément Cogitore
Script: Thomas Cheysson, Elisabeth Couturier
Editing: Erwann Chabot, Julien Ngo Trong
Music: Roque Rivas
Narration: Clémentine Célarié
Producer(s): Sophie Goupil, Daniel Khamdamov
Production: Les Poissons Volants, ARTE France, Les petits secrets des grands tableaux
Distribution: ARTE France

The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site www.artfifa.com for more information.

FIFA 2015 Review: Ian Rankin – My Edinburgh

Crime novelist Ian Rankin looks at the city of Edinburgh.

Crime novelist Ian Rankin looks at the city of Edinburgh.

Popular Scottish crime novelist Ian Rankin shares stories about his early days, (he wrote 16 books before he had a bestseller – such persistence!) talks about his creation police inspector John Rebus and takes us on a tour of “hidden Edinburgh” where there are “always new crime scenes to be discovered.” He says Edinburgh has all of the amenities of a large city while being conveniently compact. And it’s really the main character of his books, more than Rebus himself.

Tiny wooden dolls inisde tiny wooden coffins might be connected to notorious Edinburgh grave robbers and murderers Burke and Hare.

Tiny wooden dolls inisde tiny wooden coffins might be connected to notorious Edinburgh grave robbers and murderers Burke and Hare.

This tour includes a visit to an underground street, several graveyards, the Scottish Parliament, tales of cannibalism and bodysnatchers, the murderers Burke and Hare, the continuing mystery of 17 tiny coffins that date back to the 1830s, and the story of Deacon Brodie, the Edinburgh city councillor and cabinet-maker who was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (Stevenson set his story in London, though.) Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conon Doyle was from Edinburgh, too, and he also set most of his stories in London.

Rankin reveals that in the first few Rebus books he set events in unnamed, fictional streets. Later he decided he might as well use real places, so he had Rebus working in a real police station, drinking in real pubs and living in the neighbourhood Rankin had lived in while attending university.

 

"That was my bedroom window," says writer Ian Rankin, pointing at the apartment he lived in during his student days. He decided that his character, police inspector John Rebus, would live across the street.

“That was my bedroom window,” says writer Ian Rankin, pointing at the apartment he lived in during his student days. He decided that his character, police inspector John Rebus, would live across the street.

Actor and historian Colin Brown runs Rebustours.com, which gives tourists a chance to visit the places mentioned in Rankin’s books. He mugs a bit while reading passages from the books. Rankin himself tags along with Brown for a while. Did the tourists even recognize him? I wasn’t certain. But I was sold on the attractions of Ediburgh. I’d be willing to check it out!
Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 6:30 p.m., at Grande Bibliothèque de BAnQ – Auditorium, 475 de Maisonneuve Blvd E.

Ian Rankin – My Edinburgh, Austria / 2013 / Color / 44 Min / English

Realisation: Günter Schilhan
Script: Günter Schilhan
Cinematography: Erhard Seidl
Sound: Albrecht Klinger
Editing: Günter Schilhan, Raimund Sivetz
Music: Franz Sommer
Narration: August Schmölzer, Stefan Suske, Günter Schilhan
Participation(s): Ian Rankin
Producer(s): Rosemarie Prasek
Production: ORF, 3sat
Distribution: 3sat

http://www.artfifa.com/en
The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site http://www.artfifa.com for more information.