The Human Scale
While cities were certainly built on the idea of becoming sprawling urban spaces where people could work, live, and thrive, they seem to have done the exact opposite, making residents wasteful, antisocial, and more isolated in some ways than in rural communities. Danish filmmaker Andreas Dalsgaard looks at the ways that dependence on automobiles and highways have made our world a lot smaller and a whole lot more cramped.
Following the model set forth by architect and longtime studier of urban behaviour Jan Ghel, Dalsgaard takes goes to new superpower cities in China, Melbourne, New York, Copenhagen, the rebuilding of Christchurch in the wake of a massive earthquake, and the world’s fastest growing city of Dhaka (increasing by almost 500,000 new residents a year) to look at how a new priority should be placed on people rather than on their vehicles.
It will certainly go over well in a city that has ongoing “wars” against cars, bicycles, and pedestrians, and a lot can be learned from efforts that New York and Melbourne have made to reclaim their cities for people to actually foster a sense of community, and particularly how Christchurch is engaging and tapping into the creative energy of young people (before the government finds a way to botch it all). The way that Dalsgaard shows the relationship between man, the automobile, sprawl, and the very mechanics how a city works, makes a difficult to understand notion of causality easy to understand. It’s soured somewhat by constant talk of “modernity” (a useless, vague term that signifies nothing, but it sounds really cool), and some perspective from people that aren’t urban planners, architects, or the filmmaker himself would have been nice. Overall, though, this five chapter certainly gives a lot to think about.
Now playing through Sunday, November 17th.
When Jews Were Funny
Alan Zweig (I, Curmudgeon, Vinyl) delivers his second film this year (following 15 Reasons to Live) with a personal look at his desire to reconnect with the more openly comedic aspects of his heritage and upbringing, partially for the benefit of his young daughter who he wants to have an awareness of her cultural identity.
What makes Zweig’s work here so fascinating and thoughtful – aside from the obvious personal connection – is his interactions with comics who aren’t as forthcoming and open about their connection to Judaism. Old school comics like Shelley Berman and Jack Carter seem put-off by broaching the subject. Bob “Super Dave” Einstein is passionate, but uncomfortably ornery to watch. Newer comics like Marc Maron and still working pros David Steinberg and Mark Breslin offer the best and most prescient insights by willing to get personal.
Zweig has always been open about his curmudgeonly nature, and it’s great to watch him try to cut through when his subjects are just doing their act because they think it’s funny or because it’s secretly a defence mechanism. Ultimately it makes a great point about the poignancy of life’s small moments taking on a humorous life of their own that goes beyond just the ethnic reach of the film’s title. It’s one of his best films. It’s not hard to see why it was able to pick up an award this past September after it’s TIFF debut.
Starts Friday, November 15th. Runs to Friday, November 22nd.
Alan Zweig will participate in post-screening Q&As following the 6:30pm screening on Friday, November 15th and the 6:15pm screening on Saturday, November 16th.
Also at The Bloor:
Inequality for All continues from last week through to Wednesday the 13th for select shows. Also coming to The Bloor are Watermark (Friday, November 15th, 4:00pm, Saturday, November 16th, 3:45pm, Thursday, November 21st, 4:00pn) and Muscle Shoals (Monday, November 18th, 9:15pm, Wednesday, November 20th, 8:30pm, Thursday, November 21st, 8:45pm).
But there are still plenty of special events over the next couple of weeks!
The Music on Film series continues on Monday, November 11th at 6:30pm with a screening of Pianomania, a look into pianists and their relationships with their tuners, accompanied by an appearance from pianist James Anagnoson and Royal Conservatory of Music tuner Damon Groves. Tickets are $15.
The by-donation Cinema Politica series has its latest installment on Tuesday, November 12th with a screening of the last film from master documentarian Magnus Isacsson, Ma Vie Reelle, a look at impoverished Montreal teens that Michel Gondry would definitely approve of.
The Syrian Canadian Foundation for Humanity hosts a screening of shorts titled A Crisis Through Lenses (on Thursday, November 14th at 6:30). It’s devoted to taking a look at the humanitarian disaster in Syria, in some cases through the eyes of those actually working there. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased via the series’ Eventbrite page.
There’s a special screening of Valter on Sunday, November 17th at 6:30pm. It’s a look at an initially unknown Serbian WWII hero and the legacy he left behind. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through System Entertainment.
Finally, John Kastner’s NCR: Not Criminally Responsible will come back to The Bloor after its debut on CBC for a free screening hosted by Olivia Chow with Kastner in attendance for a Q&A. The screening is on Tuesday, November 19th at 6:30pm.