MOVING PICTURES FESTIVAL OF DANCE ON FILM AND VIDEO opens Wednesday (October 22) and runs to October 26, various times and locations. Free-$40. 416-961-5424. www.movingpicturesfestival.com Rating: NNNNN
THE FIREBIRD directed by Barbara Willis Sweetie, at Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles West), Wednesday (October 22), 7:30 pm. Rating: NNN . Screening with A PAIRING OF SWANS directed by Veronica Tennant. Rating: NN
In the confident hands of director Barbara Willis Sweetie , The Firebird , inspired by the Russian folk tale about love and a mysterious fiery bird, proves more enchanting than it did when the National Ballet of Canada premiered James Kudelka' s original choreography a few years ago. It helps that producers Rhombus Media have coughed up money for some cool special effects that show us the red-gowned bird (a luminous Greta Hodgkinson ) flying through the air with flames around her nether regions.
The production is more stripped- down than the ostentatious stage version, allowing us to appreciate Kudelka's choreography more fully from various angles - from above and through ghostly skeletal trees. At its best the movement swells to Stravinsky's sensuous score and the film nicely captures both the noble and primitive sides of the composer's personality.
There are some unclear storytelling moments, and Rex Harrington as the baddie could teach the rest of the cast something about acting on camera.
But this is a classy and elegant ballet film that's here for the ages.
Unfortunately it's paired with Veronica Tennant 's A Pairing Of Swans , a CBC-bound piece of fluff with a Walk of Fame starry cast ( Evelyn Hart , Harrington, Brent Carver , Shauna Rolston ) and no originality.
True, the dance sequences are OK - Hart quivers effectively as the dying swan, Harrington slinks through Matjash Mrozewski 's fascinating The Swan Sees His Reflection. But Tennant doesn't have much of an eye - or ear. She has poor Carver reminiscing in a dressing room about Anna Pavlova and walking through the Elgin lobby reciting poems by Paul Valéry.
bravo to bravo!fact. the annual showcase of original Canadian shorts contains some of the best gems at the fest. Each piece (I swear you can hear Marilyn Lightstone's soothing voice in the background) clocks in at 6 minutes or less - which means the artists have to capture your interest quickly if you're surfing. One work that will have you glued to the tube is indie cinema regular Valerie Buhagiar 's Pictures From Home , a stunning look at urban alienation and death featuring two OMO Dance Company regulars: Almond Small and Chantel Meadows . Buhagiar uses sound and colour to build tension and add a sense of mystery to her unnamed characters' lives. The dance, when it comes, isn't the most extraordinary, but Buhagiar has empathy and a great visual sense that make you care anyway.
Another highlight is Nico Stagias 's China , packed with more ideas and images in its four minutes than many features. At an unnamed museum, two dancers ( Michael Sean Mayre and Alison Denham ) engage in an impassioned erotic duet upright on a bed, while an art patron watches them, an adolescent boy spies with binoculars and a museum guard monitors them through surveillance cameras. A clever and absorbing comment on the body and the perceived dangers of art.
Equally erotic is Nicole Mion and Sandi Somers 's The Riders , featuring an extended mucho-homoerotic duet between two men ( Stephen Thompson and Sean Ling ) who test wills and strength in what looks like the sun-baked American southwest desert but is probably Alberta. A Gwendolyn MacEwen poem isn't carefully integrated into the piece, but who cares when the imagery and movement are so compelling?
Christopher House makes his debut as a filmmaker with Falling Gothic Green , a playfully enigmatic film saturated with colour. House is a little too in love with some camera techniques, but it's a respectable debut, lush with green and seeming to capture some unnamed primal rituals. A good film in which to play Spot the Local Dancer, too.
If you're looking for uplifting, there's Light Years , Jenn Goodwin 's moving glimpse of 70-year-old Concordia dance teacher Elizabeth Langley as she reflects on old age, the creative process and going out with a bang, not a whimper. Decked out in black vinyl, Langley's a wildly exuberant subject. Her passion for life and dance come across vividly. CANADA DANCES at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), October 26, 9 pm. Rating: NNN this uneven program is worth checking out just for Allison Murray 's Airplane Man . Writer/performer Jonzi D. plays a displaced black man who takes us on several quick mock journeys to possible homelands - Jamaica, Africa, America - in search of his roots. D. uses movement and voice to evoke these cultures, resulting in an efficient, hilarious and profound look at identity. Montrealer Marie Chouinard 's Cantique has a primal power as it shows two heads (belonging to dancers Carol Prieur and Benoit Lachambre ) reduced to mouthing gibberish and elemental sounds of desire and lust. There's a clown-like feeling as the two snap their gums, stick out their tongues and display their facial muscles, proving that dance in its broadest sense can happen above the shoulders as well as below.
Lisa Hayes 's Mammogram boasts the ethereal Mary Margaret O'Hara as an X-ray technician while her music plucks away in the background. Thank god for that, because the rest of the film loses track as a patient (the pretty but blank Megan Dunlop ) checks in to get a mammogram and calms down by imagining the waiting room patrons as a willowy dance quartet.
Entertaining (the well-choreographed quartet includes Holly Small and Rina Singha ), but not pointed enough.
LE DEFI (THE CHALLENGE) directed by Blanca Li, at the John Spotton (150 John), October 24, 8 pm. Rating: NN
this feature by and with french/ Spanish choreographer/actor/model Blanca Li tries to be a misunderstood teen film packaged like candy-coloured early Almodóvar but ends up being silly and confusing. Li plays a boutique owner who ignores her hiphop-loving son (the sensational Benjamin Chaouat ), who's competing with his crew in some sort of dance-off.
When there's breakdancing and strutting one-upmanship onscreen, the film effectively captures a sense of urban restlessness and anger, but it's weighed down by a ridiculous story, complete with bizarre Oedipal overtones, that will have its teen target market laughing in the aisles.