Montreal has always been known as being like a small town style of city. Everything is easy to get to and if you are biking in Montreal you can fly all over the city so fast it’s great! They have introduced this new BIXI bike service which allows visitors and residents to rent a bike for a few hours or a few blocks…swipe your credit card and grab one of the bikes off a rack and you can drive all over the city!
I visited the Montreal International Film Festival in Montreal in September and it was once again one of the best times to be in Montreal. The weather has cooled down a bit so I wasn’t swamped with the humidity of the city and most of the tourists had gone home. Of course, with Montreal being a fairly small city it is always kind of tight to move around and since the weather was a lovely pre-autumn sunshine everyone was taking advantage!
The bike trails and downtown bike routes in Montreal have come a long way over the past 20 years. I remember when I was attending CEGEP Dawson back in the day and riding a bike was like wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey shirt to a game at the forum! We didn’t have no stinking bike trails back then but now the city is criss-crossed with bike trails and even De Maisonneuve street has a long two-lane bike path for us! Wow!
I spent a few good years down in Saint Henri district of Montreal near the corner of Notre Dame and Atwater. Back before the area was cleansed with money dripping yuppies buying up condos on the Lachine Canal we used to walk quickly in the area that had a Little Burgundy reputation of being a dangerous spot. We survived and now that our lovely St. Henri has been developed and tidied up the only danger is getting hit by a Mercedes or BWM zipping into the Atwater Market to buy some potted flowers!
During the film festival I decided to avoid the Montreal Metro system and park my car and just ride my bike from my rented apartment in St. Henri where I was staying with up and coming Montreal Artist and Musician Marc Lacharité. I had known Marc Lacharité back in the day during my stay in Yellowknife North-West Territories where we had actually been on stage together in a crazy rock band called Small Town Rhino. Both Marc and DAMI have come a long way since then and it was fun to reminisce about the good times on tour and to see his new paintings and hear his new music!
One thing about Montreal is that it is a thriving metropolis of artists, poets and creativity types…There is so much more than the Plateau Posers have you believe is the center of Montreal…beyond The Main and the standard coolness that such pop-culture consumerist neighborhoods would like the world to believe is the definition of Montreal.
But I was here for the festival and not for the crazy bar scene, not for the late night summer circus that is Montreal…full of the hot and heady sexiness that the city is grinding through your lungs!
The International Film Festival has moved down to the Quartier Latin cinemas down on St. Denis street…back in Old School days we had to run all over the city trying to catch our films but this year I was happy to be able to just park my bike down on Saint Denis street and buy my tickets and see all films in the same building…sure they were the small cineplex type of box-o-rama but still it was great to be able to see a movie and then come out to grab a Thai dinner on Saint Dennis street before hopping back into the theater for the next presentation.
Man…I remember when I was seeing 3 films per day during the Vancouver Film Festival and then would go to MTL for the Fest! This year I took in only three films and stayed within Quebec…I guess it was my initiation to being absent for so many years…I think I have the fever again…standing in line with my festival program and getting up to the ticket booth with my choices and seeing the sold-out board with my picks and then having to make a quick second choice while people pushed behind me waiting with their Premier Festival Passes dangling around their necks…CRAZY!!! I love the film festival…none of that pretentious Toronto TIFF high-brow stuff! Or so I thought!!!
Look at the snobby patrons of the film festival! We used to wear ball caps with beer holders on each side but these film buffs fresh out of Concordia Film School and the New York School of Fine Arts are wearing hair-friendly wine helmets equipped with silicone straws that won’t smudge their lipsticks!!
I can’t believe the attitude of these film festival people walking around with hats carrying crystal wine glasses filled with expensive champagne!!
Anyway…I was there for the films and tried not to be bothered by the guests who made it a point to wear their VIP Festival passes wherever they walked!
The first film I saw was Wingless (Ocas Je Terky) from director Ivo Trajov from the Czech Republic. This was the story of a man who had been born with a premonition on his soul that he would die by the age of 39. On his 39th year his life started to fall apart and it looked like he wouldn’t make it through the year to live to see 40! His wife and child had left him and he set out on the road after losing his job looking for a future…streaked paintings and rough bullies played into his madness…much the same as the paintings of Marc Lacharité! Ha Ha! I was sitting beside a woman from the Czech Republic who said after the screening that it was “painful” to watch… OK so maybe Ivo turned the tale into a bore fest but I don’t think I felt any pain lady!!
The film was opened with Never Drive A Car When You’re Dead which was a great animated psychotic episode played out in black and white with splashes of red about a suicidal loser who cant finish his life…or maybe his dream is not enough…it was super freak fantastic and directed beautifully by Gregor Dashuber of Germany.
After the film I went for some hot and spicy General Tao Chicken at a restaurant on St. Denis street. It wasn’t the best general Tao I had tasted and probably not as good as that little Thai restaurant at the Faubourg Sainte-Catherine that the Montreal Mirror readers have rated so high up the culinary charts…that wasn’t too bad either but still DD makes the best Thai type of delicious noodle and shrimp bowls available this side of the Saint Lawrence River!
The sun was raging like a 800 Watt Projector Spotlight and the festival goers were hanging outside the theater looking so suave and stern with their passes dangling around their necks…I was a commando film festival goer and just strode through the line of NFB wannabes! Outta my way…sure you know the DOP in the last production of the ONF production of the violin chronicles but have you ever wondered why Corner Gas was not produced by CBC?? I do…which is why I sit outside the festival doors with my Starbucks Cup in the heat of the Montreal Summer…
The Eternal (Abohomaan) was an incredible film from Indian director Rituparno Ghosh and was my after supper surprise film…a surprise because I was sure I had bought a ticket for an Italian Film about a film director who was competing against his father to win the accolades of prominent women…but when I sat down and started to hear the Tamil back-beat sounds of an Indian spectacle I realized I had either made a nig mistake or else I was in for a wonderful surprise!
The Eternal was great…a bit hard to understand in the start but the acting was fantastic and in the end I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat and a better appreciation of the latitude of film and the creative process!
That was the end of the night and I was back on the city bike path. Stopped off at BattleNet.24 Cyber Cafe on Maisonneuve to say hi to DD…I much prefer this one to the BattleNet.24 Cyber Cafe on Fort where I had gone before where there were these junkies smacking up in the can and then harassing the hotel tourists across the street…the guy looked like some soccer hooligan…staring down the drivers…the drivers looking like they were extras from the Ghosh Film!!
Strayed (Zhabludivshiisya) was presented at the Imperial Theater also known as the Pavilion Sandra & Leo Kolber, salle Lucie & Andre Chagnon, and was part of the official film festival competition. It was directed by Akhan Satayev from Kazakhstan and he was in the theater with his producer to introduce the film…
What a crazy film this Strayed! A family driving across the deserts of Kazakhstan becomes lost but then things get weird! Is it the devil? Is it a dream? Is it a crazy combination of bad food and good drugs? The movie goes from desperate to pathetic to violent to stupid and back to potentially redemption…but did I like it? Not really…of course after the weekend I spent in the city it had a message of going astray and for everyone who has ever taken the wrong way in life due to sex drugs or rock and roll it can have a message! I likes the scenery and the characters…the acting was not too shabby either!
After the movie got out I rode back across the city, downtown through the streets on the bike paths that are new and safe…feeling good…riding back down to my apartment in Saint Henri for a nice sleep with the visions of the film festival in my head….you know…when you see two movies in a row you start to have a separation from reality and association…it’s nice!!
As I drove on Notre Dame I saw brightly lit window on the corner where an antique store used to be, where once a local coffeehouse had been…now it was a gym and as I rode by the women were training for their kick-boxing…with the drug dealers across the street and the poor people straggling on the sidewalk it was so contrasting to see this group punching and sweating against the darkness of the night!
Sleep took me again…was this all a dream?
I think I’ll start coming back to the film festival and the visual overload that used to bring my so far away from my daily drabness…Thank you Montreal!