FIFA

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: 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.

FIFA 2015 Review: The Man Who Saved the Louvre

This entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris was named after Jacques Jaujard, the man who saved the museum's art from destruction during World War II.

This entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris was named after Jacques Jaujard, the man who saved the museum’s art from destruction during World War II.

The Man Who Saved the Louvre is the intriguing story of Jacques Jaujard. In the late 1930s, with war in Europe looking more and more likely, Jaujard, director of the French National Museums, drew up an elaborate evacuation plan, to keep the country’s cultural heritage safe from bombs and Nazi art collectors, from Hitler on down. This was his own idea, no one asked him to do it.

Near the end of August 1939, 4,000 works of art were packed into crates, ready to be sent to châteaux in the countryside. Art from the Louvre included the Mona Lisa and the sculptures the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo.

During World War II the art treasures of the Louvre were dispersed to a number of chateaux for safekeeping.

During World War II the art treasures of the Louvre were dispersed to a number of chateaux for safekeeping.

While many paintings were removed from their frames and rolled up, others were too delicate for that treatment. Géricault’s huge Raft of the Medusa was loaded onto an open truck, protected only by a tarpaulin. The painting was so large (five metres high, seven metres wide) that it knocked down power lines.

Museum staff members looked after the art works in their temporary homes throughout the war. They protected them from heat, cold and humidity, practiced fire drills every day, and wrote LOUVRE in big letters on the lawns of the châteaux to alert any Allied bombers to the treasures. Some items were moved as many as five times before the war was over.

Louvre warning

Warnings were placed on the ground to alert Allied bombers to the presence of art treasures.

 

Intrigue and a love interest is provided by one of Jaujard’s contacts in the French Resistance. The agent with the codename “Mozart,” turns out to be a glamourous former actress.

The film uses photos, archival footage, Jaujard’s notebooks and testimony from witnesses to tell the story. An animated version of Jaujard makes the occasional appearance as well.

The Man Who Saved the Louvre is presented in a more engaging way than another FIFA selection about art during World War II, the Austrian film Hitler’s Mountain Of Stolen Art. That film, which will also be shown on Wednesday, March 25 (at 6:30 p.m.) looks at a treasure trove of stolen art that was stashed in a salt mine in Altaussee, Austria.

Once he realized that he was losing the war, Hitler gave orders to blow up the mine and the art with it. His order was not carried out, and the filmmakers look at a number of candidates in an effort to figure out try to find out who saved the art. The film just seems to go around in circles and has far too many interviews where the translation is spoken and not given via subtitles.

The Man Who Saved the Louvre

France / 2014 / Color, B & W / 60 min / English with French subtitles, part of a double bill with:

Grandeur des petits musées
France / 2014 / Color / 47 min, / in French

Wednesday, March 25, 2015, at 4 p.m., at the Maxwell Cummings Auditorium, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1379 Sherbrooke St. W.

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.