5 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016

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  • September
  • Toronto
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  • October
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Music lover's TIFF (our fifth annual guide to the Toronto International Film Festival); Aix Marks the Spot (how Brexit could impact on operatic co-production); The Unstoppable Howard Cable (an affectionate memoir of a late chapter in the life of of a great Canadian arranger; Kensington Jazz Story (the newest kid on the festival block flexes its muscles). These stories and much more as we say a lingering goodbye to summer and turn to the task, for the 22nd season, of covering the live and recorded music that make Southern Ontario tick.


Aquarius COURTESY OF TIFF 2016 PREVIEW Music Lovers’ TIFF PAUL ENNIS The WholeNote’s fifth annual guide to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), 41st edition, aims to once again alert you to films in which music plays a significant role. After pouring over the list of 296 films from 71 countries, the following 26 titles represent a loose guide for music lovers with a taste for cinema. Highlights include a handful of music docs, Damien Chazelle’s original musical La La Land, films with scores by the likes of Robi Botos, Jesse Zubot, Son Lux, Lesley Barber and Gabriel Yared, as well as movies with characters connected to music. Lutz Gregor’s intimate and moving Mali Blues looks at the plight of the Malian people - since music was banned by the jihadi takeover of the country’s north - through the eyes of four Malian musicians.With a keen cinematic eye backed up by a hypnotic guitar groove, Gregor gives us the backstories of Fatoumata Diawara, Ahmed Ag Kaedi (pictured on our cover), Bassekou Kouyaté and Master Soumy. He weaves them in and out of ordinary people in close-up and scenes that take us from Bamako to the desert, showing how integral music is to all of their lives. It’s essential viewing, especially if you missed hearing Diawara in her 2014 Koerner Hall concert (with Kouyaté on ngoni) or seeing her memorable performance in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu. For its subject matter alone, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary caught my eye. Early word has it that John Scheinfeld’s new film is the definitive portrait of one of jazz’s seminal figures. Made with the cooperation of the Coltrane family and the owners of his recordings, the doc is said to contextualize Coltrane’s life within the roiling social and cultural landscape of which he was a key component while vividly bringing his story to the screen. Iconoclastic American indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has two films in the festival. Gimme Danger, is a scrupulous two-pronged documentary look at the Iggy and the Stooges phenomenon. Iggy (aka Jim Osterberg) provides a detailed historical chronology, paying particular attention to the band’s musical origins and influences. From the 1950s TV show Lunch With Soupy Sales to the idiosyncratic American composer Harry Partch, from Iggy’s brief, meaningful relationship with Nico (on the rebound from Lou Reed) to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, James Brown and Maceo Parker, the film drops one memorable nugget after another. At his press conference in Cannes (where the film premiered) Iggy also mentioned his indebtedness to Bo Diddley, Link Ray, Frank Zappa and Karl-Heinz Stockhausen. Fascinating. Paterson, Jarmusch’s clever neo-minimalist film, chronicles seven days in the life of a Paterson, New Jersey, bus driver (named Paterson), his happy marriage and daily routine. In this city of the poet William Carlos Williams, Paterson (Adam Driver, bringing sensitivity to the role) is also a poet. So is Jarmusch in his own refreshingly natural and observant way. It’s two hours of serenity, a musique concrète of city sounds and overheard conversation, the music of daily life. The spare, ambient score is by SQURL and Drew Kunin. Part jazz history, part true-crime tale, Kasper Collin’s I Called Him Morgan uses extensive archival footage and new interviews to tell the tragic story of the talented hard bop trumpeter Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen, who murdered him in a New York bar in 1972. Possessed of enormous technique with a warm, vibrant sound reminiscent of Clifford Brown, Morgan was only 33 when he died. In his last interview (some of which will undoubtedly be in the film) he eloquently described the place of black American art in American culture. This is one doc I’m particularly looking forward to. Damien Chazelle has followed his critically acclaimed and popular success, Whiplash, with an original musical comedy, La La Land, about an ambitious jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who fall in love while pursuing their dreams of stardom, in what TIFF calls a “dazzlingly stylized homage to the classic Hollywood musical.” Justin Hurwitz composed the score, just as he’s done for each of Chazelle’s other feature films. Agnès Varda’s One Sings, The Other Doesn’t, which originally showed at TIFF in 1977, contagiously popular in its day, now newly restored, puts on a shiny face as part of the Cinematheque section of this year’s festival. A feminist musical about a pop singer dedicated to women’s liberation and her ongoing relationship with her old friend, a single mother of two who has moved to the country, it’s a tender reminder of another time. In Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, legendary Brazilian actress Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spider Woman) memorably plays a retired music critic (Clara) fighting to keep her Recife apartment building from the hands of developers in this spirited portrait of a strongwilled 65-year-old. Needless to say, music plays a major part in this sun-dappled film whose storyline cannot be divorced from its social context. From Villa-Lobos to Maria Bethânia, Jobim and Tropicalia to Recife, Minha Cidade, Aquarius will leave you in love with the best of the Brazilian soul. Here’s the director describing the importance of music in the film: “I like the fact that Clara has LPs at home—those she bought over a period of 40 years, or those sent to her while she was working as a critic. I also like the idea that, even though she has 12 | September 1, 2016 - October 7, 2016

a vinyl collection, she doesn’t refuse to listen to tracks on her phone. It was only natural, since she listens to music, for music to occupy scenes. Music also gives an indication of her tastes and moods.” Master jazz pianist Robi Botos was approached by Jean of the Joneses’ music supervisor Michael Perlmutter who put him in touch with writer/director Stella Meghie and producer Amos Adetuyi. “After a meeting with Stella we really connected,” Botos said in an email. “So she gave me the green light for the score. I just tried to give the movie the right vibe. It’s bittersweet so the music has that role too.” The film got rave reviews when it premiered at SXSW earlier this year. Sean L. Malin wrote in the Austin Chronicle that “Meghie’s feature debut suggests an exciting new voice. Highly visually controlled, snappily edited, and beautifully acted, Jean of the Joneses is a clever New York comedy about the Caribbean diaspora.” Bruce McDonald has always had a good ear for musical found objects to buttress his films which are often sparked by road trips. In Weirdos, he teams with veteran playwright and screenwriter Daniel MacIvor for this offbeat coming-of-age dramedy, about two Nova Scotian teens who hit the road in the summer of 1976 accompanied by the laconic ghost of (the still-living) Andy Warhol. The 70s’ pop soundtrack includes some real oddities (Which Way You Goin Billy, the title song from the Peter Lynch movie The Hard Part Begins) and performers of the day like The Poppy Family. Nathan Morlando, whose cinematic intelligence permeated every frame of his film debut, Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster (which won Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF 2011), had the cinematic good sense to hire Max Richter to compose the music for his debut film. When Richter was unavailable for Morlando’s follow-up, Mean Dreams, he turned to Son Lux. The enterprising composer made the soundtrack a mirror of this parable of two teenagers escaping their intolerable Northern Ontario lives. Evoking memories of Malick’s Badlands, it’s finely calibrated filmmaking that nicely integrates the landscape while the luxuriant soundtrack occasionally acts as a kind of Greek chorus. “In composing the score, I turned to acoustic sounds and colours that are beautiful on their surface, but hide a certain dystopian quality,” Son Lux said. “I chose my tools mostly from acoustic sources. With the help of a small team, I extensively recorded a variety of things, including lots of rare and one-of-a-kind instruments. One sound at a time, we created a huge, unique library of complex sound material … Through extensive editing and programming of these isolated sounds, as well as fragments of improvisation, we created playable ‘virtual instruments.’ This gave me an enormous amount of flexibility and control in order to compose the score.” Kim Nguyen’s Two Lovers and a Bear features music by Jesse Zubot (who performs it on violin, viola, synths, sub bass, drums and programming), vocals by Tanya Tagaq; also recorded samples taken from Genetic Memory and Rabbit from Animism by Tagaq and Sun Up from The Element Choir at Rosedale United. A Tribe Called Red’s Sisters, two tracks by Gil Scott-Heron and an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty ballet are among other sounds energizing this unusual Arctic romance, filmed close to the North Pole in all of its magnificent splendour. Montreal native Xavier Dolan won this year’s Grand Prix (second place) at Cannes for It’s Only The End Of The World, an emotionally riven chamber piece about a writer who returns to his family after an absence of 12 years to announce that he has a terminal illness. In a series of confrontations, tensions driven by resentment and lack of understanding are revealed. Working in France for the first time with an all-star French cast, Dolan’s camera lingers on his characters in close-up, accentuating pauses, building to the affective climax. Gabriel Yared’s warm, empathetic symphonic score and pop music outbursts like Camille’s Home Is Where It Hurts, Grimes’ Oblivion and the Moldovan pop group O-Zone’s Dragostea Din Tei are essential ingredients. With J: Beyond Flamenco, Carlos Saura has come full circle. After decades of memorable films devoted to music (Blood Wedding, A Festival of Art & Music at Ontario Place September 15 – 25 Ontario Place West Island, Toronto Tickets: Presented by Art Spin in partnership with Small World Music Connect: @infutureTO #infutureTO site-specific projects by over 60 visual artists over 40 world music artists on the small world stage presented by exodus travels on site: Art, Music, Film & Video in Cinesphere presented by Air France, Lecture Series, Food & Beverage, Kids Activities, Art Gift Shop p r e s e n t e d by g o l d pa r t n e r s i lv e r pa r t n e r s m e d i a pa r t n e r s s u p p o r t e d by September 1, 2016 - October 7, 2016 | 13

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