Opening Notes

Tanya Davies May 24 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies May 24 1999

Opening Notes

Edited by Tanya Davies

A Canadian in Wonderland

The first time Canadian actress Molly Parker came to the Cannes film festival she created a sensation as a necrophile heroine in Kissed (1996). That was two years ago. This week, Parker is stirring audiences once again on the French Riviera, but in a much different capacity: instead of coupling with the dead, she is embracing the pain of motherhood. Parker, 26, portrays anguished mothers in two movies premièring in Cannes. In British director Michael Winterbottom’s drama Wonderland', showing in the main competition, she adopts a South London accent to portray a woman who goes into labour. And in The Five Senses, a Directors’ Fortnight entry by fellow Torontonian Jeremy Podeswa, she plays a mother whose young child suddenly goes missing.

“I can’t think of anything more nightmarish than that,” says a jet-lagged Parker, sipping a ginger ale in a hotel lobby in Cannes. But in Wonderland, when she acted out the dramatic childbirth scene, “I was actually quite terrified of it.” Winterbottom filmed her simulated labour in the middle of a hospi-

tal maternity ward. “All these women were giving birth,” recalls Parker. “I was waddling around and they thought I was there to have a baby. I got to listen to them screaming their faces offin the room next door.” Winterbottom had originally planned to intercut Parker’s scene with footage of an actual birth, so he filmed her in five different birthing positions— not knowing which would be required. In the end, no real-life footage was used. But Parker’s “labour” lasted eight hours. “It was the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done,” says the actress, who has yet to live through actual childbirth.

In Cannes, meanwhile, unreality is the order of the day. Film premières drew lavishly dressed stars and supermodels to the famous red stairs all week long. Something Parker is just getting used to. “We were doing interviews and this company showed up with two bodyguards,” she says, “and, I swear, about 40 diamond necklaces, these huge diamonds, to see if I would wear one to the première.” Parker chose the most delicate one—but she still turned heads.

Ally en français

The hip television series Ally McBeal, starring Calista Flockhart, has ruffled feathers ever since its 1997 debut. The title character, a flighty lawyer, draws flak from viewers for her micro-miniskirts and her damsel in distress schtick. Now, Ally McBeal is under fire again—this time in Quebec. Complaints have sprung up over the Québécois accent, used in the Frenchlanguage dub of the series, which first aired on the private TVA network on April 27.

Some fans gave Ally McBeal a thumbs-down and called TVA to complain. “They are less used to hearing the Québécois accent on television,” says TVA spokeswoman Louise

Marcotte, although she admits that hearing Quebecers complain about a Québécois dub “is a bit strange.”

American series shown in Quebec, such as Beverly Hills 90210 and The Young and the Restless, are dubbed in international French, and Marcotte acknowledges it would have been cheaper for the network to use an existing dub of the show from France. But the network felt a Québécois version would work better. “It’s a drama with a lot of humorous touches,” she says. And translating humour into international French, “doesn’t take here.” Seinfeld and The Cosby Show, dubbed in France, both flopped in Quebec. But with more than one million viewers in the province last week, Ally is obviously popular in any accent.

The wonk award

Book awards are no longer the rarity they once were. Still, there was never any danger that the Donner Canadian Foundation’s new $25,000 prize—for best book on Canadian public policy— would get lost in the shuffle. It’s a topic that may not attract a lot of fans, but those who do care, care deeply. A weighty

group of academics and mandarins, including Bernard and Sylvia Ostry and John Crow, attended the inaugural ceremony in Toronto last week. Thomas Courchene, the Queen’s University professor who won the prize for his book on changes in Ontario, From Heartland to North American Region State, said he welcomed the recognition for Canadian authors. Wonks, too, it seems, can elucidate typographically—er, write.

Falling for a kiss

Last week, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien joined the list of politicians whose tumbles in public have been caught on camera. Chrétien fell flat on his face while playing a game of pickup basketball with Kosovar refugees at Ontario’s CFB Borden. The 65-year-old Prime Minister, who sank two baskets before his topple, picked himself up, checked his grazed hands and continued to play. Chrétien, who blamed the mishap on his hard-soled shoes, made fun of it two days later, telling a group of teachers in Ottawa to be wary of the media: “I kissed the floor like the Pope on behalf of the Kosovars—and they said I fell.”

Opening Notes

Clash of the celluloid titans

There was never much chance that Izzy Asper, the combative chairman of Can West Global Communications Corp., would back away from a brawl. So when he was singled out for criticism last November by film and television producer Robert Lantos, in a speech smouldering with contempt for Canadas private broadcasting sector, the question was not if, but when, Asper would return fire. A May 17 speech at Toronto’s Canadian Club seemed as good a time as any. Asper told Macleans last week that he planned to pronounce widely on the future of Canadian TV, but also to comment on Lantos’s personal “false, unwarranted and very savage attack.” Lantos, speaking at Toronto’s Ryerson Polytechnic University, argued that Canada’s TV executives—Asper was the only one named—do little to foster Canadian programming, despite being sheltered from U.S. competition by Ottawa. “They preach free-market economics for others,” railed Lantos, “but they are the first to seek the shelter of government regulations.” Asper charges it is Lantos’s branch of the business, with its reliance on money from federal film and television production funds, that is sheltered. “Here is the mollycoddled and government-subsidized producer criticizing Canadian broadcasters,” he fumed. “It’s the height of hypocrisy.” This is more than a war of words: Asper is suing Lantos for $7 million for defamation over last fall’s speech.


Net to go

Once tethered to a desktop computer by a telephone line, the Internet is starting to slip the leash. And 1999 is quickly becoming the year the Net goes wireless. Tired of people talking on their cellphones in restaurants or on the bus? That’s nothing. The new generation of Web-capable phones will allow people to do their banking or answer e-mail wherever they go.

Last week, the Bank of Montreal announced the trial of a wireless financial service it calls Veev that will be available over cellphones from Bell Mobility. Veev will allow clients to do their banking and get stock market quotes wherever they are. And Bell Mobility said users of digital phones capable of handling data will be able to access the Internet with a special Web browser

designed for the small screens found on cell handsets. In the United States, US WEST announced that Web-linked cellphones from maker Alcatel will be available later this year for about $300$430. The handset will include a colour screen and a retractable keyboard.

But untethered Internet services will not be restricted to cellphones. 3Com Canada Inc., which makes the popular Palm hand-held computer, will start selling a wireless Palm VII late this year (at a price expected to be just under $1,200 for the unit, plus about $20 a month for the service) that will allow access to information on the World Wide Web. This isn’t quite Netscape on a chip. Instead, 3Com is working with content suppliers such as ABC, CNN and Dow Jones to provide textbased information such as headlines and stock quotes. Older versions of the Palm can be hooked up to a digital cellphone and then used with the Bank of Montreal’s Veev service to view charts of stock market activity.

Despite the rush, no one has yet determined if wireless Internet service will turn out to be an example of a geewhiz technology that people don’t really want. Telecommunications analyst George Karidis, associate director of the Brockville, Ont.-based consulting firm, Yankee Group in Canada, says there is no doubt that some people will find the new services attractive. “I’d like to be able to check my e-mail from my handset,” he said as he spoke by cellphone from the back of a cab.

The question, he says, is how many people might want to be so tightly connected. Still, he and other analysts expect wireless data services to explode, from about two per cent of cell-service users now to about 25 per cent in three to five years.

Warren Caragata

Time and place

Remember the old days when people wore watches merely to tell time? They still perform that function admirably, of course, but these days a watch is more than just a watch—it has become a multipurpose gadget. There are beeper watches and watches that hold addresses in their databases. And now, a watch that tells you where you are.

Available this summer: the Casio GPS wristwatch that doubles as a receiver for the Global Positioning Satellite system, which was developed by the U.S. government for navigation, surveying and mapping. The watch provides accurate latitude and longitude data and can also be used to store information on planned routes. Because the GPS satellites constantly send out time signals, this is one watch you’ll never have to set. Expect to pay in the $750 range.

Opening Notes

The hand that feeds

An edgy exploration of obsession and a satirical look at the media industry, Crossing the Distance (McClelland & Stewart) is a debut novel from someone who should know what he is talking about. Evan Solomon, co-founder of Shifi magazine and a CBC Newsworld program host, has crafted a tale of murder and media manipulation featuring a reasonable facsimile of himself.

That would be Jake Jacobson, the “handsome young host with the silver tongue.” As the novel opens, Jakes lover is shot, and he’s the prime suspect. Meanwhile, his brother Theo, a radical environmentalist, is wanted in connection with the death of a logger. Both are dodging police—and news crews—when they meet at their family’s Georgian Bay cabin and embark on a trip through their shared past.