Filmmaker Moze Mossanen has carved out a nice little niche for himself in Canadian film. His features, which include The Rings Of Saturn and Year Of The Lion, blend movement and acting, words and whirls. His latest, Roxana, adapted from Daniel Defoe's novel about an ambitious woman (National Ballet of Canada dancer Greta Hodgkinson, who coincidentally takes on Sleeping Beauty for the NBC November 9), opens the final Moving Pictures festival tonight (Thursday, November 2). See Dance Listings, this page, and reviews of several MoPix films, page 82.
What's your dance training?
Do you count lap dancing? I studied way back with Toronto Dance Theatre with Dawn Hall, and did a little ballet and jazz. There were a couple of inconsequential shows, and I think somebody once yelled, "Get off the stage!" I moved on.
Was there any prima ballerina attitude on the set?
Oh yeah, I slapped Greta every day and she slapped me back. No, she was wonderfully fearless. She let me be involved in her process, and we discussed things in detail every day, from take to take.
The look of the piece is stunning. How did you achieve it?
The look came from the sound. I love Bernard Herrmann's scores for Hitchcock films like Vertigo and Psycho and told the cinematographer, Michael Spicer, that I wanted that kind of dramatic, over-the-top theatricality. Another touchstone was the paintings of Edward Hopper, and much of the style was based on those wonderful lobby cards that film studios used to put out featuring things like women pressed up against walls and men hovering over them.
How difficult was it to get a non-dancer like Sheila McCarthy, who plays Amy, to dance?
I offered her sex to do it, and she declined. She was the first person who came to mind, and she threw herself in. What you see her do on the floor is in keeping with her acting ability.
Did you intentionally limit the lesbian theme?
In the initial draft, it was more blatant - there was major muff stuff happening. And Greta and Sheila were willing to get right into it. But once I figured out the story was being told through Amy's eyes, we ended up having her watch scenes rather than be in them. Because her love is unrequited, the sex has to be extremely muted.
How did you and choreographer Roberto Campanella know where the movement would come in?
We went through each section of the story asking how we could best express something. If it was about character, it was usually better expressed through dance than dialogue.
Are you sad this is the final MoPix?
I hope [artistic director] Kathleen [M. Smith] has a nice long sleep and somebody gets her a big martini and a kiss and sends her to the Bahamas for a week so she comes back saying, "What was I thinking?" I'm really hoping it's not a fait accompli. The stuff in the fest is amazing, and you never get to see it at other festivals, which tend to be scared of dance films as if they're a virus or something.