Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Right Touch: Guillaume Côté’s Immersive Dance Thrills the Senses

Natasha Poon Woo and Larkin Miller in Touch. (Photo: Dahlia Katz)

Physical contact – what we all once took for granted – has become a precious commodity in the pandemic. Social distancing, lockdowns and the wearing of masks have frustrated a basic need for human contact, compelling choreographer Guillaume Côté, a long-time National Ballet of Canada principal dancer, to delve deep into what it means to form a human bond. Touch, whose world premiere took place last week (and which will run until November 7) at what is left of the Toronto Star’s former printing press at One Yonge Street, explores the powerful dynamics arising from a close encounter between two people. But it’s much more than that. Billed as an immersive dance show, Touch harnesses laser mapping, light art technology and video integration to create an all-enveloping 3D-world where the quest for forging connections is not just a theme. It’s a stunning achievement.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Great Feats of Recitation: Cosmopolis (2012)

Robert Pattinson in Cosmopolis (2012).

Fresh off filming the final Twilight film (2012), Robert Pattinson jumped straight into portraying yet another nearly affectless, pale leading man with stylish hair in Cosmopolis (2012), adapted by director David Cronenberg from the Don DeLillo novel. Rarely have I encountered a film with such single-minded focus: everything here, from production design to camera angles to score, is in service to the dialogue. As it should be.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Respect: Jennifer Hudson, in Fragments; with an Afterword about Dear Evan Hansen

Jennifer Hudson in Respect.

Jennifer Hudson is probably giving a truly great performance as Aretha Franklin in Respect, but the movie is so badly written and so wretchedly cut together that you get it only in bits and pieces. Hudson is ideally cast, and she has the character down: the alternating currents of sassiness and fierceness; the transported Baptist fervor and the clotheshorse flamboyance; the witty, plain-spoken common-sense core and the distant, untouchable edges; the ego and the warmth; the moments where her focus is almost frighteningly precise and intense, as if she were piercing down a steel door with a laser gaze. It’s all there, yet the movie almost never pauses long enough for a scene with any substance, so it’s as if were watching two and a half hours of trailers. The performance only settles in when Hudson sings – gloriously – and even then, maybe half the time, Liesl Tommy, a stage director who has done some TV but whose first feature this is, cuts away in the middle of her numbers. She has Jennifer Hudson singing Aretha Franklin’s ethereal songbook and she thinks there’s something else we’d rather watch?