Now we’re getting somewhere.
With Year Of The Lion, writer-director Moze Mossanen takes a hugely successful leap from last year’s The Rings Of Saturn, his generally enjoyable but fundamentally flawed five-part dance piece. Rings was disappointing in that it never quite managed to integrate its narrative and dance elements, so that the two were always competing for dominance.
Year Of The Lion, however, is a full-on narrative feature that employs the distinct languages of dance and cinema but does not allow one to subsume the other, instead placing them in careful harmony. The hour-long film premieres on CBC at 7:45pm on Thu, Jan 23 (the second segment of a show beginning at 7pm); and then is rebroadcast in a modified format on Bravo on Sat, Jan 25 at 6pm.
A loose adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Year Of The Lion tells the tale of Vincent and Margaret, a contemporary couple whose infidelities and jealousies play merry hell with their relationships – with each other, their lovers and friends. Margaret is a woman scorned – spurned by her lover, she comes up with a nasty plot to exact revenge. Vincent, meanwhile, has the hots for Ben, another married man, and their affair threatens to destroy the latter’s marriage.
It is somewhat troubling that the sexes are treated very differently in the piece – the women (all of whom are unnamed except in the credits) coming off as either vindictive or vaguely dopey, while the men are jovial and troubled by their questionable behaviour.
That complaint aside, everything about Year Of Lion is lovely.
Shot in and around Toronto, the film takes advantage of some fabulous locations, including the terribly well-appointed Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, the Island Airport and a perennial film favourite, the TD Centre in the financial district.
Choreographer Matjash Mrozewski’s creation of expressive and affective dance for the camera’s multiple viewpoints is nothing short of brilliant (it’s not up to me, but when does Mrozewski graduate from “up-and-comer” or “rising star” to established hot choreographer?) and the piece is peppered with strong performances. As Margaret, Guylaine St-Onge is gracefully devious as she smoulders in pain, while Roberto Campanella and Ted Benfalvi as Vincent and Ben move smoothly from playfully coy to brutally harsh. Watch for an especially well mounted solo by Benfalvi as a tormented Ben.
Michael Spicer’s cinematography is wonderful as well – his sense of framing and movement well suited to the particular emotional and physical thrust of each dance. And Spicer’s work is put to good use by editor Jeff Bessner, who perhaps deserves an extra moment of applause for his acute sense of rhythm, of what to focus on, of how to shift angles in order to sustain fluidity or chop things up.
It’s hard to point precisely to what it is that Mossanen has hit upon to arrive at such success. Perhaps emptying the work of all dialogue did the trick. Certainly he has gathered together a cast and crew of enviable skill and talent. With this work, he raises the bar for what he calls cine-dance. Here’s hoping the process works again in the future.
YEAR OF THE LION.
7:45pm. Thu, Jan 23. CBC.
6pm. Sat, Jan 25. Bravo.
Now we’re getting somewhere.