Saturday, May 17, 2008

Flights of Film Fancy. . .

Ah, the long weekend is here at last. I have to hit the road again next week - off to Vancouver for the Canadian Library Association Conference (if you are attending, do check out our Dewey Diva presentation on Friday - I'll be talking about upcoming summer books and providing a bit of a fall preview), and then the longest conference in my annual schedule - the Congress for the Social Sciences and Humanities - Canada's largest academic conference, also in Vancouver.

But this weekend is all about indulging in my two favourite passions - reading and movies (with a lot of laundry thrown in). I went to see a really delightful film that shouldn't be missed if it comes to a rep theatre near you. The Flight of the Red Balloon stars the ever luminous Juliette Binoche as Suzanne, a busy single mother who leaves her young son Simon in the care of a Chinese film student named Song Fang. We follow the daily lives of these three through the streets of Paris as a big, red balloon trails behind. And if you live in a small apartment with lots of books in an expensive city, you will definately appreciate the set decor. (It's another reason I love French films - there are always lots of books in them). It's a simple story about childhood and the strings that attach us to other people and it's beautifully filmed. You can read more about the film and watch the trailer here. And yes, it's a direct homage to Albert Lamorisse's 1956 film The Red Balloon which has just come out on DVD from Criterion (though try to find a copy in Toronto - completely sold out everywhere I looked!). I haven't seen this film since I was eight - how many of us saw it in school?

The Flight of the Red Balloon has a beautiful soundtrack (don't most French films?) with a lovely piece of piano music running throughout. If like me, you are a big fan of film scores, then you must get The Essential Guide to World Cinema three CD set. I've been listening to this all week as I've been reading the weekend papers or doing household chores. Each CD has a theme: "Box Office Hits" includes music from such wonderful films as Cinema Paradiso, Amelie, and Memoirs of a Geisha. "Cult Favourites" has music from a lot of films that I haven't seen, but based on the bits of score I've now heard, I really want to check out Pelle The Conqueror and Central Station. I have seen The Girl With the Pearl Earring and thought it was just an okay movie - but "Griet's Theme" is wonderful and I can listen to it over and over again. And my favourite CD in the set is "La Nostalgie" which contains music from European movies of the 1960s and 1970s. Here is Georges Delerue's music from Truffault's Jules and Jim (one of my favourite films) and a piece from Michel Legrand's score for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, sung by Tony Bennett and themes from La Dolce Vita, La Strada, and 8 1/2. Even if you haven't seen these films, you'll recognize the music - a lot of it has appeared in commercials or trailers for other films. Terrific stuff - and let's face it, wouldn't we all love a running soundtrack to our lives? I'm happy to borrow some from these movies.

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