Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Cracked Mirrors, Part Two: The Minstrel’s Dilemma

Don van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. (Photo: Andy Freeberg)

Part One of Cracked Mirrors was published on this site on October 27, 2021.

There should be a kind of periodic table for singer-songwriters, the way there is one for the elements and their interactive relationships. Maybe there is one, and we just haven’t noticed what it looks like. Does the table of their relative values and sonic weights as elements resemble the Grammy Awards? No, it couldn’t be, otherwise Don van Vliet would have won a Grammy years ago for his wonderful portrayal of Captain Beefheart before retiring to return to his first love of painting. If so, he would be Helium.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Raising the Curtain: The National Ballet of Canada Returns from Lockdown

Artists of the Ballet in Angels ’ Atlas. (Photo: Johan Persson, Courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada)

Excitement surrounding the return of the National Ballet of Canada to the Toronto stage, following 18 months of pandemic-imposed lockdowns, swelled as soon as the doors reopened at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on Thursday night. “Welcome Back,” words writ large on the stage curtain, greeted the fully masked members of the audience as soon as they stepped into the theatre. The mood became immediately celebratory, jubilant, even festive, as if at any moment confetti would fall from the ceiling along with balloons.

Monday, November 15, 2021

No Time to Die: Bonding

Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux in No Time to Die.

The James Bond pictures that Daniel Craig has starred in over the past decade and a half – Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre and the new No Time to Die – are not equally good, but they’re unified by a sense of melancholy and an elegiac quality. The painful past gets revisited; characters we care about die – significantly, of course, M, played by Judi Dench, in Skyfall, the high point of the nearly sixty-year-old series. In that sublime film, Bond returns to his childhood home on the Scottish coast to battle a villain who was once a double agent himself, using his mastery of old-school warrior skills to hobble a computer wizard representing a merciless contemporary world. No Time to Die resurrects the past in its opening section. It begins with a flashback: a child whose father is an assassin watches as the only survivor of a family he wiped out shoots her mother, and then, mysteriously, saves her (as we later learn) when, running away from him, she falls through the ice. After the credits (and a standout theme song, written by Billie Eilish and Finneas and performed by Eilish), that child grows up to become the therapist Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), who appeared in Spectre. In the present she’s happily married to a retired Bond, who assures her as they drive through the Italian countryside, “We have all the time in the world.” Bond aficionados will recognize the ominous allusion. At the end of the 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond (played in that film by George Lazenby) utters the same promise to his bride (Diana Rigg) as they begin their honeymoon, but the movie ends moments later with her murder – the first downbeat finale of any Bond picture, and the most affecting scene in the series until M’s demise in Skyfall. The echo in No Time to Die is a reminder, of course, that no one has all the time in the world, and that the clock is ticking.