Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/5/2010 (3673 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
One downside of getting older -- er, gaining maturity -- is that moving artistic experiences get harder to find.
Transcendent moments are fewer and farther between because not as much seems fresh to you. Been there, done that.
Also, in truth, you get stuck in your ways. You're less open. You know what you like, and that's good enough for you.
So it was quite the banner week for me when I took in not one but two things that surprised and moved me mightily.
The first fell into a rather common category: Art you appreciate because you identify with it.
Winnipegger Alix Sobler's first full-length play, Some Things You Keep, is a dramatic comedy that mines familiar themes of parental expectations and childhood independence.
Its 10-day run ends, alas, tonight at Winnipeg's Jewish Theatre. I'm the age of Sobler's obnoxious father in the play, and I can imagine saying some of the those annoying things (and in fact have said them) to my own daughter.
But it was really Sobler's idealistic character I identified with. At one point, exasperated by her dad's practical world view, she says, "We've been having this argument for 15 years!"
This broke me up. I've been having the identical argument with my mother for 40 years!
But beyond the easy identification with the play's universal themes, it was the quality of the writing, the acting and the direction that left me gasping with approval.
The hilarious sparring between Sobler and Daniel Kash reminded me, oddly enough, of Neil Simon's Odd Couple, a classic of 20th-century theatrical comedy.
I also loved Janelle Regalbuto's set, a detailed re-creation of an Osborne Village walkup. In my 20s, I lived in apartments exactly like that.
Some Things You Keep was the most memorable evening of theatre I've had in years. I was expecting nothing special, but it blew me away. If there is justice in the world, this play will be picked up across the country.
The second unforgettable work was a documentary film. It is a very modest documentary in most ways, but profoundly ambitious in another -- because it asks us to empathize with people who are often inexplicable to us.
A Hard Name, from Toronto filmmaker Alan Zweig, won the Genie Award for best Canadian documentary last year. It screened at Cinematheque in the last week of April.
I knew Zweig's name from one of his earlier docs, Vinyl, a classic about obsessive record collectors, the social misfits who have been fictionalized, and sanitized, in such mainstream movies as About a Boy and American Splendour.
My colleague Randall King's review made A Hard Name sound very interesting. And, what do you know, he still had his screening copy on DVD. But I was not prepared for the film's power when my wife and I watched it on DVD the other night.
Zweig interviews six life-long criminals -- four men and two women -- about their lives before, during and after prison.
Many of their experiences, and actions, are unthinkable to the types of educated middle-class people who attend documentaries at art houses.
But their insights into their own behaviours and motives are as insightful as any psychologist's, though they lack the verbal polish of someone who has grown up with all of life's advantages.
An important role of art is its ability to help us understand people unlike ourselves.
A Hard Name will no doubt have a long life on cable TV and video on demand. It lays out what can happen to children when their protectors turn out to be their tormentors. It helped me to a new way of understanding.
Some art you identify with. Other art forces you to identify. In any event, for me it was quite the week.
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