The British have quite the talent for making plucky little films, like 1997 s The Full Monty, about working-class lads who cut loose at the risk of looking daft. Next in line is Billy Elliot. It’s drama, not comedy, but it too is about showbiz casting its redemptive spotlight into the industrial gloom—the story of a miner’s son who wants to be a ballet dancer.
Preteen Billy (Jamie Bell) stumbles
across a ballet class during a boxing lesson, and before long he has swapped his gloves for white slippers. He tries to hide his passion from his widowed father (Gary Lewis) and his older brother (Jamie Draven), both coal miners. But as Billy’s dance teacher (Julie Walters) grooms him for the Royal Ballet School, they have to confront their prejudices.
The story is formulaic, but in his feature debut, stage director Stephen Daldry brings it to life. As the neophyte Nureyev, Bell has grit and charm, and as his pushy, chain-smoking tutor, Walters is a treat. Besides, any movie that combines Swan Lake with riots to the sound of the Clash deserves to be a hit.
Movers and Shakers
“Tango is a passion, a feeling, a way of life,” says a dancer in the new NFB documentary Tango in a Cold City. And so dance is for many of the enthusiasts featured in the Moving Pictures Festival of Dance on Film and Video, running in Toronto from Oct. 17 to 22, and then stepping out to cities across the country. With Tango, director Alastair
Brown deftly tells the story of how the fiery dance from Argentina won a following in Toronto. No less devoted to their way of dancing are the ravers and DJs in another documentary, Better Living Through Circuitry, by American Jon Reiss. One of more than 40 films in the festival, it’s a charged examination of electronic dance culture—yet another community that strives for transcendence through movement.
A feast of Matisse
In January, 1906, a time when few saw value in art that broke with 19th-century realism, a 35year-old textile heiress from Baltimore met avantgarde French artist Henri Matisse and bought two of his drawings. Over the next three decades,
Etta Cone, along with her sister Claribel, acquired more than 500 Matisse works—a collecLarge Reclining Nude: 75 works tion considered the most important in the world.
Now, 75 works from the Cone Collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art are on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, until Jan. 14. Highlights include Large Reclining Nude (1935) and The Yellow Dress (1929), both sumptuous paintings that help explain the Cones’—and the world’s—fascination with their creator.
T. rex tower
It’s not exaedy the CN Tower, but the Dino 2000 in Drumheller, Alta., is already a historic landmark of sorts. The recently unveiled 86ft., 145,000-lb. replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex will be listed in The Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe Lt or Notlas the world’s largest dinosaur monument. Visitors may climb a stairway in the interior to reach an observation deck built into the gaping jaws. Costing almost $1 million, part of which was provided by the federal governments Millennium Partnership Program, the T rex—constructed of steel, foam and fibreglass—was a year in the making. A sneak preview last week drew more than 1,100 people over four hours, which suggests that this dino will be a towering success.
Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis, undoubtedly the most famous Greeks of the 20th century, have been the subjects of more than a dozen books, most focusing on their operatic romance. With Greek Fire (Knopf), Nicholas Gage, a Greek-born American investigative reporter, has added yet another one. But this time,
Gage insists, he’s got the story right, especially of the famous 1959 cruise of the Mediterranean during which Callas’ and Onassis’ marriages—to other people—fell apart before the eyes of such distinguished fellow passengers as Sir Winston Churchill and his wife, Lady Clementine. And Gage, who had unparalleled access to family and friends of the couple, does unearth new facts, including the sad story of their premature baby boy, who died the day he was born.
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