A Film by Larry Weinstein and Written by Thomas Wallner

Dates and Venues Saturday, 7 October 8:45 pm Empire Granville 7 Theatre 5 and Sunday, 8 October 4:00 pm Pacific Cinematheque

This impeccably edited and stylish 55-minute film written by Thomas Wallner and directed by Toronto film-maker Larry Weinstein explores Mozart as the obsession of several individuals from different cultures: an American lesbian couple, who claim to incarnate Mozart and a soprano with whom he had an affair; an Austrian astronaut who shares Mozartballs in space; a retired Swiss school teacher who has a Mozart room, makes regular visits to Vienna, and converses with "Wolfie"; and a Californian "composer" who algorithmically composes Mozartian melodies souped up on computer technology.

This range of genial cranks is treated with astonishing neutrality as we trace bits of their inner encounter with "Wolfgang." Partly about Mozartian obsession and about the nature of obsession per se, the film leaves judgement up to the viewer. Just cooky or truly sad, all these individuals have found Mozart a wellspring of inspiration either to put together a shattered life or urge on that one step beyond the normal into something new and unexpected.

Breathlessly even-handed, the film succeeds precisely in not asking for the viewer's sympathy or in ridiculing these people who reveal themselves with charm and naivete before a camera that deftly but respectfully probes inner lives all of a certain desperation.

Both light-hearted and serious, this is a stylish and insightful glimpse into those otherwise anonymous souls treading the streets of cities and small towns: Edvard Munch set to music, with Freud conducting. Mozart will never sound the same.

© 2006 JH Stape


Dates and Venues Monday, 9 Oct 7:00 pm Vancity Theatre and Tuesday, 10 October 2:00 pm Pacific Cinematheque

A Film by Larry Weinstein

This masterful and award-winning documentary offers a sensitive tribute to Shostakovich's genius whilst exploring the Stalin personality cult and the experience of ideological control in Soviet Russia from the 1930s to Stalin's death in 1953. With vintage period footage, spliced in with interviews with the composer's friend and his daughter, and the comments of Valery Gergiev of the Kirov Symphony, this is a major documentary on the composer and his tortured existence under Stalinist tyranny.

Some of this is harrowing stuff: dead babies in the snow, corpses casually tipped into mass graves, summary executions with bullets to the head, and a city slowly starving to death under Hitler's attack, and the need to create art in the midst of turmoil and against dictatorship make for a heady mix that Larry Weinstein controls with authority and insight, blending black-and-white period footage seamlessly with the talking heads of elderly Russian musicologists and friends of the composer.

In the war of wills, art and Shostakovich triumph, Stalin now consigned to the dustbin of history -- at least in Russia, for Weinstein full knows that monsters and tyrants have yet to disappear from the face of the earth. The necessity to create despite them and against them drives this artfully made, powerful documentary about the triumph of genius.

Enriched by well-chosen extracts from Shostakovich's war symphonies, luminously directed by Gergiev, this film is devastating critique of fascism and an ode to the unbreakable creative spirit of a people and a man whose fate it was to symbolize them.

© 2006 JH Stape


Dates and Venues Tuesday, 3 October 7:00 pm Pacific Cinematheque; Thursday, 5 October 12:30 pm Empire Granville 7 Theatre 2; Sunday, October 8th 11:00 am

A Film by Aureaus Solito

The opening of this film -- an orchid amidst floating garbage to the ironic background music of a song about loving Manila -- is about as clear as this gritty look at life in the slums, physical and moral, gets. One is reminded of the great line from Stephen Crane's Maggie, Girl of the Streets: "She blossomed in a mud puddle." The orchid here is Maximo, a preternaturally pretty 12-year-old for whom the word "androgynous" was coined. Maximo falls for a hunky late 20s cop, fresh from the countryside and not very savvy about life in Manila's mean alleys.

Maximo wears his heart on his sleeve, and virgin falls in love with virgin, but this is a one-sided love affair with Maximo looking for tenderness in life's brutal, most squalid circumstances: mom's dead; dad is a petty thief; and brother is a murderer; and it's dog eat dog out there. This is "Leave it to Beaver" Filipino style.

The opening is all over the place, and though things mercifully get a lot tighter with a plot beginning to develop about twenty minutes through, there's still a lot of what the Japanese call "the floating world" here. Power is at the point of a pistol; love does not conquer all; and the extra-judicial shooting of Maximo's rat-like dad has no emotional impact -- seemingly even on the sensitive boy who is being raised for drag-queen stardom and eventual prostitution by his loving family.

In the end, but for no apparent reason, Maximo enters the mainstream, heading off to school in his school uniform and identity badge, while Perez, the hunky cop, has now gone corrupt and now on the lamb as Maximo whom he loves literally walks by him. There's a take here on the world of slum life, but the film isn't quite sure what its angle is, and is at times as gooey as sticky rice. Overall, a B- though there is some effective acting, particularly from the boy who plays Maximo.

© 2006 JH Stape