Saturday, December 5, 2015

Podcast: Interview with Paul Auster (1989)

From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts, at CJRT-FM (today Jazz 91.1) in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields.

One of those interviews was with author Paul Auster. Over the course of his prolific career, Auster has written novels (The New York Trilogy, 1985-86), screenplays (The Music of Chance, 1993, Smoke, 1995), poetry, and memoirs (most recently, 2013's Report from the Interior). When I sat down with Auster in 1989, his novel Moon Palace had just been published.

– Kevin Courrier.

Here is the full interview with Paul Auster as it aired on CJRT-FM in 1989.

Tom Fulton was the host and producer of On the Arts for CJRT-FM in Toronto for 23 years, beginning in 1975.
Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of ZappaRandy Newman's American Dreams33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask ReplicaArtificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

When Being Petty Makes You Big: Ross Petty's Final Boo

Ross Petty as Captain Hook in Peter Pan in Wonderland, Toronto's Elgin Theatre. (Photo: Racheal McCaig Photography)

Ross Petty, the Canadian actor who has helped make sick mean something awesome, takes his final bow as the creator of a Canadianized version of the traditional English Christmas pantomime he has produced for 20 years. This season's "fractured family musical" is Peter Pan in Wonderland and it's at Toronto's Elgin Theatre until Jan. 3. Tracey Flye directs Canadian playwright Chris Earle's pop culture-inspired script with a cast that includes panto stalwarts Dan Chameroy and Eddie Glen along with Jessica Holmes and Anthony MacPherson in the lead role. Petty plays the villain, as he does every year. Captain Hook will be his final stage role, he announced earlier in the summer, adding that he will continue to produce. Petty is nearing his 70th birthday and keeping up with the high-kicking dancers and fellow high-vamping actors is proving to be too much. I for one will miss him.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Watching Couples Watch Couples: Angelina Jolie Pitt’s By the Sea

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt in By the Sea.

When I initially saw the trailer for By the Sea, Angelina Jolie’s latest foray into directing, I admit to being intrigued. I had questions: What was happening in this pretty but rather vague series of images? Why don’t they speak? Is that glamorous Angelina lying murdered on a luxurious carpet?! At the behest of logic and reason, I shelved these thoughts for a while until the synopsis caught me by surprise while I was browsing the local movie listings. It was something murky about “an American couple in the 1970s” retreating to a quiet seaside town to focus on their troubled marriage. It was maybe a line or two, and it told me nothing. Immediately, I fell for it. I was confident that I’d be sitting down to some weird, hushed noir film, a tale of love gone wrong culminating in a crime of passion. Readers, I was wrong.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fast Forward: Joe Jackson, Then and Now

Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff.

Joe Jackson wears his heart on his sleeve. The Brit-Pop artist, who first came into public eye on the music scene in 1978, caught the attention of the world for his razor sharp wit and his no-nonsense rock music. He was on the wave, or I should say New Wave of British pop, which included Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Ian Dury. Jackson’s articulate music stood out among the crowd of angry young men with attitude because his songs were much more sophisticated than the three-chord rock Costello et al brought to radio at the time.

Born in 1954, Jackson a piano player and alto sax player was influenced by Big Band jazz and classical repertoire while growing up. Jackson’s enriched and learned background in music had a lot of appeal considering the success of his debut album Look Sharp! (A&M) in 1979. He got regular airplay, toured the world and had a major label backing his every step. Clearly somebody at A&M believed Jackson made great music and they were right. He released eleven albums for the label until 1989, including two soundtracks Mike’s Murder and Tucker which showcased his talent as a composer. He fared quite well compared to Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe but Jackson wasn’t often mentioned in the same breath by fans or critics, perhaps because his punk attitude at the beginning of his career merely opened a door to higher achievement.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Creed: Going the Distance

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Creed.

Creed is a film about legacy: the legacy of legendary fighter Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), whose shadow perpetually looms over the life of his son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), and in a more meta sense, the legacy of the Rocky series, which has endured (despite several pitfalls) as one of cinema’s best and most inspiring character stories. Adonis – or Donnie, as he prefers to be called – must forge his own legacy, by both accepting his connection to his famous father and by earning his own place in the ring. So must director Ryan Coogler, in finding a way for his spinoff film to honour its pedigree while still standing tall on its own merit.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Literary Theatre: A Confederacy of Dunces and Thérèse Raquin

Nick Offerman, Talene Monahon, and Anita Gillette in A Confederacy of Dunces. (Photo: T. Charles Erickson)

John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces, published in 1980, more than a decade after Toole’s suicide, and awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, has a reputation as one of the great Southern novels (its setting is New Orleans in the early 1960s). But I confess to being a non-believer; for me, a little of Toole’s self-conscious wit and literary braggadocio goes a long way. I might find it less of a slog with a different protagonist, but Ignatius J. Reilly, the overfed misanthrope who lives off his indulgent mama until he’s thirty and then, landing a position at a pants company that he turns, through a combination of deviousness and perverseness and the stupidity of his supervisor, Mr. Gonzalez, into little more than a sinecure and an excuse for undermining his employer, doesn’t strike me as either especially clever or even slightly sympathetic. The book’s point of view seems to be that the world around Reilly is so infested with dunces that it deserves what it gets; the title is from Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him,” and Toole may also intend some link to Pope’s literary-satirical Dunciad. The novel has a happy ending because, try as he may, Reilly can’t do any real damage in a community of idiots. For this sort of idea, I much prefer Kaufman and Hart’s great 1930 hard-boiled comedy Once in a Lifetime, where the target is Hollywood at the dawn of sound and the hero who keeps landing on his feet, George, is a blissful dope himself. Reilly’s high-flown pronouncements about the decline of the western world (some of them delivered as he sits through the fare at his local movie house) didn’t make me laugh; they put me in a sour mood.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Life in the Shadows Never Ends: Simon Mawer's Marian Sutro Novels

Author Simon Mawer. (Photo: David Levenson)

Simon Mawer’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Little, Brown 2012) – the American edition is Trapeze (Other Press, 2012) – and its sequel Tightrope (Little, Brown, 2015) is like reading two parts of the same novel. The more ambitious Tightrope can be read independently, but I think readers can derive more pleasure if they begins with the first. Reminiscent of Sebastian Faulkes’ Charlotte Gray, The Girl chronicles the war efforts of a young English woman with a Catholic francophone childhood who is recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the spy network, to become a secret agent. In the Scottish Highlands, Marian Sutro attends a school for spies where she undergoes commando training and learns among other skills how to survive interrogation. She is ultimately parachuted from an RAF bomber into the South-West of France to join the Resistance, along with a young irreverent Frenchman, Benoit. Although the work she knows will be dangerous and fraught with risk, Marian “felt only a great rush of excitement.” Throughout, she displays her bravery and when the occasion calls for it, she becomes a ruthless killer.