Skip to main content

First February Post: Two Arts Docs and a Doc Fest Preview


First February Post on Two Arts Docs and a Doc Fest Preview
3 February 2020

Chaakapesh (Canada 2019 trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcvE_16Of10)
Directors Roger Frappier and Justin Kingsley record the remarkable collaboration that took place during 2018 between the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Indigenous artists resulting in a new work that traveled to Indigenous communities across Quebec’s northern “Nunavik” region.  The title comes from the original composition, an opera “Chaakapesh: The Trickster’s Quest”, with a libretto by Cree playwright Tomson Highway and music by Matthew Ricketts.  An underlying theme is that of mutual cultural encounters and musical expression as a means towards reconciliation.  Symphony conductor Kent Nagano stresses this point.  Of Japanese-American ancestry, he could pass for an Inuit elder.  Highway refers to the role of laughter in the Cree mythology of the divine, absent from the gendered Christian concepts with which he was raised.  One performer Florent Vollant speaks about overcoming his experience of residential schools.  In bringing together different artistic traditions the orchestra’s tour across Nunavik becomes a spirited learning experience for everyone—with a program that ranges from the opera and Inuit throat signing to pieces from the classical repertoire.  We see the benefits of this in the rapt attention of the Indigenous audiences, in the delight on the faces of children exposed to the orchestra’s instruments for the first time, in the testimonies of performers discovering novel modes of expression.  It makes for a viewing experience as enlightening as entertaining, and which one hopes will inspire more.  A
Cunningham  (Germany/France/U.S. 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4t_l5mu9lE)
Writer-director Alla Koygan’s homage to the celebrated New York choreographer and teacher Merce Cunningham will be of particular interest to aficianados of modern dance of which he was a controversial innovator pushing the boundaries of the form in which the human body is the prime instrument for artistic expression requiring a disciplined combination of athleticism and grace, movement and control.  Koygan’s profile intersperses mostly black-and-white archival footage from the career of Cunningham and his company (the master died in 2009 at age 90) with fresh performances of major works, in chronological order, that he created over the period 1942-1972.  Much of the musical accompaniment was composed by John Cage (also Cunningham’s life partner). Although Cunningham resisted any label such as ‘avant-garde’, his collaborations famously included with pop artists Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.  More than a conventional biopic, the contemporary performances in varied settings summon an aesthetic effect showing why Cunningham is regarded as a major figure in the development of American dance. (The Toronto film festival version was in 3D while the Ottawa screening I saw was 2D.  But unlike Wim Wenders acclaimed 2011 documentary Pina, a tribute to the late German choreographer Pina Bausch, I’m not sure that 3D technology would add much to the viewing experience.)  B+    



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK LAUNCH!

BOOK LAUNCH! 


April 24, 2019 was the official launch of The Best of Screenings and Meanings: A Journey Through Film at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon, SK

The Irishman and Marriage Story

Mid-November brings a brief theatrical release for two of the year’s most anticipated movies, both Netflix productions.The Irishman begins streaming on November 27 and Marriage Story on December 6. The Irishman (US 2019) America’s greatest film critic Roger Ebert celebrated Martin Scorsese as America’s greatest living director, and before seeing this on the big screen in advance of its theatrical release I reread his reviews and reflections on Scorsese’s classic gangster films in the 2008 book Scorsese by Ebert—from Mean Streets (1973), GoodFellas (1990), Casino (1995), to The Departed (2006), for which he won an overdue best director Oscar.No one handles such material better than Scorsese who grew up in New York’s “Little Italy” where the intersection of mob subculture and Catholic ritual was part of daily life.This expansive elegiac latest work should earn more Oscar nominations. The real-life central character of the title is Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who graduated from mafia hit…

Penguins, Fireflies, Sunset, and Burning

Thank you Air Canada!Two recent Ottawa-Calgary and return flights allowed me to watch several highly anticipated movies yet to screen in Ottawa—from South Korea Burning, and from Quebec The Fireflies are Gone.A small seatback screen to be sure, but welcome given the months of waiting since I missed both at last September’s Toronto film festival. First, however, a look at the latest nature story from Disneynature that I took my brother Roger to see a week ago Earth Day while in Saskatoon for a successful April 24 launch of my film book at the McNally Robinson store. Penguins(https://nature.disney.com/penguins) For over a decade Disney Nature has been releasing animal stories around Earth Day. This one, helmed by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, is the 13th and focuses on the adventures of a pint-sized Adélie penguin it names “Steve”.We can be amused by the typical two-footed penguin waddle on land and ice compared to their speedy ocean diving and porpoising across the waves. Steve fi…