Dilettante's Diary

June 28/07

Who Do I Think I Am?
Index: Movies
Index: Writing
Index: Theatre
Index: Music
Index: Exhibitions
Artists' Blogs
Index: TV, Radio and Misc
MAY 27, 2024
Nov 3, 2023
Aug 2, 2023
July 4, 2023
Apr 21, 2023
Feb 10, 2023
Jan 24, 2023
Jan 11, 2023
Dec 2, 2022
July 26, 2022
July 4, 2022
June 2, 2022
March 25, 2022
March 11, 2022
Feb 14, 2022
Nov 19, 2021
Oct 2021
Sept 16, 2021
July 21, 2021
July 15, 2021
June 11, 2021
Apr 23, 2021
March 12, 2021
Feb 13, 2021
Jan 5, 2021
December 2020
Autumn Mysteries 2020
Aug 12/20
May 25/20
Apr 30/20
March 12/20
Dec 6/19
Jan 29/20
Nov 10/19
Oct 24/19
Sept 30/19
Aug 2/19
June 22/19
May 26/19
Apr 22/19
Feb 23/19
Jan 15/19
Dec 20/18
Dec 3/18
Oct 3/18
Sept 9/18
Aug 9/18
July 19/18
June 2/18
May 14/18
Apr 23/18
Feb 22/18
Dec 13/17
Nov 22/17
Nov 3/17
Oct 5/17
Sept 21/17
Aug 3/17
June 16/17
Mar 21/17
Feb 26/17
Feb 9/17
Jan 30/17
Dec 19/16
Dec 11/16
Nov 20/16
Sept 17/2016
Aug 21/16
July 17/16
June 29/16
June 2/16
Apr 23/16
Feb 28/16
Feb 1/16
Jan 27/16
Winter Reading 2016
Dec 15/15
Nov 19/15
Fall Reading 2015
Oct 29/15
Sept 16/15
Sept 4/15
July 29, 2015
July 1, 2015
June 7/15
Summer Reading 2015
May 19/15
Apr 30/15
Apr 19/15
Spring Reading 2015
March 23/15
March 11/15
Winter Reading 2015
Feb 20/15
Feb 8/15
Jan 29/15
Jan 20/15
Highs 'N Lows of 2014
Dec 19/14
Dec 2/14
Nov 10/14
Oct 29/14
Fall Reading 2014
Sept 17/14
Summer Reading 2014
Aug 22/14
Aug 8/14
July 11/14
June 16/14
May 28/14
Apr 30/14
Apr 16/14
Apr 2/14
March 21, 2014
March 13/14
Feb 11/14
Sept 23/13
Favourite Works: 2004-2013
Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
Sabbath's Theater by PHILIP ROTH
July 18/13
Summer Reading 2013
June 19/13
May 30/13
Spring Reading 2013
May 10/13
Apr 18/13
Mar 29/13
March 14, 2013
The Artist Project 2013
Feb 25/13
Winter Reading 2013
Feb 7/13
Jan 22/13
Jan 12/13
A Toast to 2012
Dec 19/12
Dec 16/12
Dec 4/12
Fall Reading 2012
Nov 17/12
Nov 6/12
Art Toronto 2012
Oct 23/12
Oct 4/12
Sept 28/12
Summer Reading 2012
Aug 26/12
Aug 8/12
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2012
July 14/12
June 28/12
May 27/12
May 20/12
May 4/12
La Traviata: Met's Live HD Version
Apr 21/12
Apr 6/12
Mar 22/12
Mar 9/12
The Artist Project 2012
Academy Awards Show 2012
Feb 26/12
Feb 11/12
Jan 23/12
Jan 15/12
Jan 7/12
Dec 20/11
Dec 12/11
Nov 27/11
Nov 18/11
Nov 7/11
Art Toronto 2011
Oct 22/11
Oct 17/11
Sept 30, 2011
Summer Reading 2011
Aug 11/11
July 28, 2011
July 19/11
TOAE 2011
June 25/11
June 20/11
June 2/11
May 14/11
Apr 29/11
Toronto Art Expo 2011
Apr 11/11
March 24/11
The Artist Project 2011
March 11/11
Feb 23/11
Feb 7/11
Jan 21/11
Jan 17/11
Dec 21/10
Dec 6/10
Nov 11/10
Fall Reading 2010
Oct 22/10
Summer Reading 2010
Aug 9/10
Aug 2/10
TOAE 2010
July 16/10
The Shack
June 27/10
June 3/10
May 5/10
April 17/10
Mar 28/10
Mar 17/10
The Artist Project 2010
Toronto Art Expo 2010
Feb 22/10
Feb 3/10
Notables of '09
Jan 11/10
Dec 31/09
Dec 17/09
How Fiction Works
Nov 24/09
Sex for Saints
Nov 11/09
Oct 22/09
Oct 6/09
Sept 18/09
Aug 23/09
July 31/09
July 17/09
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2009
Toronto Fringe 2009
Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate
June 28/09
June 6/09
Myriad Mysteries 2009
May 10/09
CBC Radio -- "The New Two"
April 14/09
March 24/09
Toronto Art Expo '09
March 1/09
The Jesus Sayings
Feb 8/09
Jan 26/09
Jan 10/09
Stand-outs of 2008
Dec 24/08
Dec 4/08
Nov 16/08
Oct 27/08
Oct 16/08
Sept 26/08
Sept 5/08
July 21/08
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 08
July 5/08
June 23/08
June 4/08
May 18/08
May 4/08
April 16/08
March 26/08
Head to Head
Feb 26/08
Feb 13/08
Jan 30/08
Jan 17/08
Notables of 2007
Dec 30/07
Dec 8/07
Nov 22/07
Oct 25/07
Oct 4/07
Sept 18/07
Aug 29/07
Aug 8/07
Summer Mysteries '07
July 20/07
June 28/07
June 8/07
May 21/07
May 2/07
April 14/07
March 23/07
Toronto Art Expo 2007
March 8/07
Feb 16/07
Feb 2/07
Jan 24/07
Notables of 2006
Dec 27/06
December 11/06
November 28/06
Nov 8/06
October 14/06
Sept 22/06
Ring Psycho (Wagner on CBC Radio)
Sept 6/06
August 12/06
July 18/06
June 27/06
June 9/06
May 23/06
Me In Manhattan
May 2/06
April 12/06
March 17/06
March 9/06
Feb 16/06
Feb 1/06
Jan 11/06
Dec 31/05
Dec 12/05
Nov 25/05
Nov 4/05
Oct 24/05
Sept 7/05
Sept 16/05
Sept 1/05
Aug 10/05
July 21/05
Me and the Jays
July 10/05
June 15/05
May 18/05
April 27/05
April 18/05
April 8/05
March 21/05
Feb 28/05
Feb 21/05
Feb 4/05
Jan 28/05
Jan 19/05
Jan 5/05
About Me
Dec 20/04
Dec 5/04
OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.

The date at the top of each page  is the day on which the page was started. The more recent reviews are towards the top of the page.

Reviewed here: La Vie En Rose (Movie); A Mighty Heart (Movie); Zoli (Novel)

La Vie En Rose (Movie) written by Oliver Dahan and Isabelle Sobelman; directed by Oliver Dahan; starring Marion Cotillard, with Grard Depardieu, Jean-Pierre Martins, Emmanuelle Seigner

If you’re a fan of showbiz bios, this life of Edith Piaff may disconcert you a bit. With its jumping back and forth in time and its many motifs jumbled together, you don’t get a very clear trajectory of the life. Early on, it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going on with Edith and her parents and grandmothers. Later, faces pop up from the past and you’re not sure who they are. A husband appears briefly and you have no idea where he comes from in. Toss in a murder, various boyfriends and undifferentiated hangers-on, mix it all together with some arty effects and flashy editing – you get more an impression of a life than a straight-forward biography.

Probably the way that this bio differs from most of the "star is born" genre is that there isn’t much stardom – not much fun, not much glory. It’s a pretty tough slog, for the most part. Hence the irony in the title "La Vie En Rose". Piaf’s vie was anything but. One of the purposes of the movie seems to be to show that, if the star tended to be a coarse bitch at times (the word "guttersnipe" might have been used by elderly relatives of mine), there was plenty of reason to excuse her on the grounds of her wretched upbringing and her many tragedies. In fact, one of the greatest of her sorrows is kept secret until nearly the end of the movie. If, like me, you have but a skimpy knowledge of Edith Piaf’s repretoire, you’re going to keep wondering when That Song is coming. At the very end, as it turns out. You might almost say the whole movie is a build-up to that climax. And it’s worth the wait.

You end up with a portrait of a plucky, courageous human being who, in spite of it all, clung to her sentimental belief in love. Marion Cotillard is prettier than Piaff but she brings to life a vivid and unforgettable character who, for all I know, may be just like the real thing. Among various tidbits of character, we find that Piaff was nuts about knitting. (cf Joan Sutherland and her needlepoint?) It was even more intriguing to find out that Edith was a life-long devotee of my old friend St. Thrse of Lisieux. But I’d have to say that poor Edith’s life stands as a lousy advertisement for St. Thrse’s intercessory powers.

Rating: C+ (Where C = "Certainly worth seeing")


A Mighty Heart (Movie) written by John Orloff, based on the book by Mariane Pearl; directed by Michael Winterbottom; starring Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Panjabi, Irfan Khan; with Jillian Armenante, Will Patton

Let’s say you want to make a movie about the 2002 kidnapping of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist, in Pakistan. Rather than invent a lot of stuff about his side of the ordeal, which nobody knows, you decide to tell the story from his wife's point of view, as recounted in her book. Your problem is, for the first several days of the incident, nobody had much idea what was happening. Various officials congregated in the Pearls’ house in Karachi and tried to make sense of it all. Mostly their efforts involved tracking emails and cell phone calls. That doesn’t make for very gripping drama. So your style of film-making becomes the drama: hand-held camera, very brief clips, constant coming and going, new people being introduced all the time, past mixed with the present, teeming streets in disparate locations – to the point that viewers get thoroughly confused. With all the wild rumours and disinformation coming down, it almost verges on  parody. Given the difficulty of deciphering the actors’ accents and trying to master their tricky (to Western ears) names, it can make for very hectic watching.

But is it worth it?

In the end, yes. When the cops start rounding up suspects, you settle into somewhat more coherent story-telling. And, although there isn’t the development of relationships that you get in a conventional movie, you do eventually get to know some of the officials involved. The head of the Pakistan police (Irfan Khan) stands out as a decent, if harried, individual. The representative of the American consulate (Will Patton) also has a distinctive presence. I particularly liked Jillian Armenante in the small role of an FBI type. Her blunt, forth-right manner made a fresh impression.

All the commotion at the beginning of the movie means that the longer, quieter scenes, when they come, stand out all the more.That’s particularly true of the dreaded climax. Here, the sketchy, documentary style pays off. (I was reminded of the chilling realism of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant.) People stand around not knowing what to say or do. Nothing feels scripted. It’s all very awkward. The various people gathered around Mariane Pearl (Angelina Jolie) look like fish out of water, which is the way people often behave in tragic situations. Meanwhile, the woman who has been the still centre of the movie and who has kept supernatural control of herself (mostly) rises to superb heights of courage.

I owe Angelina Jolie an apology. I enjoyed her in Mr. And Mrs. Smith but can’t recall seeing her in anything else. Let’s say she seemed the type of actress who wasn’t likely to appear in my kind of movie. My impression was that what she brought to the screen was something other than a subtle, intelligent acting ability. In this movie, however, she so convincingly conveys the essence of an extraordinary woman that, come the ending, I wanted to kiss her hand in homage. And I couldn’t say whether it was Mariane Pearl or the actress I was worshipping. It didn’t seem to matter; they were one and the same.

Rating: B (i.e. "Better than most")


Zoli (Novel) by Colum McCann, 2006

You’ve got to give Colum McCann credit for not sticking to the tried-and-true autobiographical material in his novels. In Dancer (see "Books" page, towards the bottom of the navigation bar), he gave us the life of Rudolf Nureyev, as told from the points of view of various people. Zoli recounts the odyssey of a gypsy who became something of a celebrity poet and singer in her native Czechoslovakia. There are various points of view, although not as diverse as in Dancer. Some sections are in Zoli’s voice, others describe her adventures in the third person, and one section purports to be the witness of an English scholar who wanted to be her lover.

Mr. McCann’s research must have been very extensive. You find out a lot about the lives of the Romani people particularly as inter-woven with the twentieth-century history of Czechoslovakia – all of it completely new to me. Learning about the inhumane treatment of the Romani by the establishment gave my social conscience a good jolt.

But I didn’t enjoy the book. There is something plodding and earnest about it. I even extended the library loan to take a longer look at the book and try to figure out why it didn’t work for me. The only way I can sum it up is that the writer never seemed to find a tone of voice that pulled me in. I checked the back cover to see if Zoli was a historical person, as if that would mean we should know something about her; presumably, then, some sense of duty would carry my reading forward. But no, Zoli is a fictional creation, although her character is partly based, as Mr. McCann says in his notes, on a woman whose life was somewhat similar.

The section by the would-be lover was particularly hard going. One thing that may work against it is that the narrative isn’t very focused. Zoli pops up from time to time, then disappears. So it’s hard to make an emotional connection with her. She comes off like one of those wildly dramatic, elusive characters whom we should find mesmerizing but who are actually pretty annoying. By the end of the book, her interesting experiences as an old lady made me wish that I cared more about her than I did.

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com