2 min

Light in the loafers

A rare TV tribute

Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

In a rare tribute, Bravo presents four films from Moze Mossanen. It’s a unique opportunity to observe the progression of the Toronto-based director’s work, from 1998’s dreadful feature My Gentleman Friends to his trio of increasingly powerful dance films, The Rings Of Saturn from 2002, The Year Of The Lion from 2003 and the premiere of From Time To Time.

My Gentleman Friends is a fake documentary about a trio of dance pioneers, all older gay men (played by David Gardner, Francois Klanfer and Aron Tager). Even though the film opens with fun mock archival footage of their dance sequences, the documentary follows an exchange among the trio and the filmmaker over the course of an evening as they try to reconstruct what the dance routines looked like (guess they “found” that footage later). The occasional flash of real emotion and drama can’t rescue the forced dialogue that’s too often mired in leaden delivery.

Compounding problems are the wrap-around stories, a “making of” drama, that sees the young filmmaker trying to protect her project from the machinations of a closeted network exec and his yes-man bum boy, all the while dealing with her unsupportive husband, questions about her own sexuality and a lesbian editor on the make. Some of these sequences are unwatchable. I realize that self-loathing still exists in these anodyne days of Queer Eye and same-sex marriage, but the film’s attempts to draw parallels across generations are plainly ham-fisted.

My Gentleman Friends would have been better served if Mossanen focussed on the three gay men and found ways to leaven the dialogue and open the film up to the dramas hinted at in the “documentary.”

Over the next three films, Mossanen moves away from spoken dialogue (and his own script, in particular), letting the language of the choreographers and composers take over.

The new film From Time To Time is an ambitious telling of one woman’s life – from her teenage days of wide-eyed first crushes to the disillusionment of a suburban housewife – through the music of Joni Mitchell and the choreography of Ginette Laurin (of Montreal’s O Vertigo Danse).

Laurin’s evocative choreography keeps pulling you in. Especially effective are the opening high school dance, its nerdy chic reminiscent of The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, and the frenzied wedding limo sequence.

There are missteps. The use of news sound bites to signal the shifting eras as the action seamlessly moves from the 1960s to the 1990s feels heavy-handed at times, but reinforces the notion that happiness is a fragile bubble, where coupledom seems motivated by fear as much as by desire or longing. And the closing sequence, where redemption is equated with child rearing, seems pat.

As she proved with the release of the lushly orchestrated Both Sides Now, Mitchell’s music can handle repeated revisiting and reworking; with Time To Time, the power and insight of her music seems fresh yet again.

The 45-minute piece premieres on the CBC at 7pm on Thu, Feb 26 and is rebroadcast on Bravo at 7:30pm on Wed, Mar 3; the other Mossanen films start at 7:30pm on Mon, Mar 1.