Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case
A fleet and funny look at a man under house arrest who has been deemed the most influential artist in the world, Andreas Johnsen’s look at the post-arrest and home imprisonment life of Chinese firebrand Ai Weiwei serves as a near perfect follow up to Alison Klayman’s 2012 Hot Docs opening night film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.
Picking up almost as soon as Weiwei has been released on $1.5 million bail after being arrested for “tax evasion” (actually for “subversion of state power”), Johnsen closely follows the artist mostly without interjection as he attempts to put his life back together under constant surveillance and unable to openly speak his mind or write on his blog or Twitter.
It’s sad to see one of the world’s greatest (and sometimes most egotistical) minds cooped up simply for speaking out about the direction his country is headed in, but it’s fun to watch how daring he gets. Watching Weiwei finding ways to circumvent his gag order, paying his bail in cash, and reconstructing the cell he spent 81 days of solitary confinement in are great asides that underline his meaning to the art community and as a great political dissident. It also wisely doesn’t rehash the history set out in Klayman’s film already, letting the man speak for himself and getting closer to Weiwei’s inner circle and family. It’s not a sequel in a strict sense, but it certainly feels like you could go straight from one film into the next.
Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case can be seen as a double bill with Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry on Monday, May 19th.
The Pleasures of Being Out of Step
Despite constantly lapsing into structural repetition (which actually might be part of the point given them music being examined at a glance here), filmmaker David L. Lewis’ look into the life and art of jazz critic and libertarian pundit Nat Hentoff manages to balance art appreciation with a profoundly candid look at a passionate and knowledgeable writer.
Raised in a less than accommodating Boston neighbourhood where it could be dangerous to be a Jew, Hentoff found solace and inspiration in jazz. He would parlay his passions into becoming the foremost jazz critic in New York, working for the Village Voice for over 50 years despite not being a musician himself. Beloved by artists not as a critic, but as a friend of the music, Hentoff would also use his byline to write sometimes deeply controversial op-ed pieces on the defending of the First Amendment of the US Constitution and on the retaining of civil liberties.
Lewis’ structure is somewhat pedestrian, bouncing predictably between talking about the music (with some great anecdotes and narrated readings of Hentoff’s work, courtesy of actor Andre Braugher, that really underscore how criticism can be a beautiful thing) and the often uneasy politics of his subject. But at least Lewis has Hentoff – who speaks very openly, succinctly, and specifically about his life with a grace that shows he has nothing to hide – and a wonderful blend of interview subjects who all bring something great to the discussion. It does right by Hentoff’s work and everything he stands for without ever openly criticizing his thoughts on music or world affairs. Lewis wisely leaves that to his other subjects who have plenty to say on those issues to give the film a balanced and comprehensive feel.
Director David L. Lewis will conduct a Skype Q&A following the 8:45pm performance on Friday, May 16th.
Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure: Otway the Movie
UK pop star John Otway is as famous as he is infamous. He owes his entire career in large part to one of the world’s most unfortunately timed shots to the nuts: a mishap with an amplifier on a musical showcase viewed by almost half a million people in the late 1970s. From that moment on, the early protopunk sensation had a hit single and a killer record deal (making as much for his label, Polydor, that The Jam was making). But a shitty, out of character follow-up and some poor financial planning (like buying a Bentley when he didn’t even know how to drive) ensured that any follow-up or crossover success became impossible.
Then, the internet happened and everything changed, which is where Steve Barker’s lovingly low-fi documentary comes in. Thanks to legions of fans who made him a bit of a viral sensation and some well timed and played bits and self-promoting stunts, Otway was able to score a second hit out of nowhere well after his prime.
A wonderful ode to never giving up within a cutthroat and bizarre industry, Otway the Movie is clearly on the side of its subject, but at least the subject has lived, learned, and can now look back on his career with a level head. He now teaches a class at his old secondary school on how to survive in the music business, and the film shows quite nicely why he’s the perfect guy for the job.
John Otway will be in attendance and performing acoustic sets following both screenings of the film on Thursday, May 22nd and Sunday, May 25th, both at 6:30pm. Patrons can also get a ticket/large popcorn/tallboy of Steamwhistle combo for $17 ($14 for members of the cinema).
Also at The Bloor This Week:
All right, all right, all right. It’s time to break out the bellbottoms, hazing paddles, brews, and Matthew McConaughey impersonations, because this Sunday marks The Bloor’s May 2-4 bash with a special “kegger” and screening of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused at 9:30pm. Doors, booze, and a DJ playing classic 70s rock will be kicking off at 8pm.
Buuuuuuuut, if you’re more cultured and shit, you can always catch the always packed and appreciative crowds that will be attending this month’s Opera on Screen showing of The Royal Opera House’s production of Verdi’s Les Vêpres Siciliennes on Saturday at 1:00pm. I really hope The Bloor is able to recover from all the repairs that the wild opera crowd will inflict on the building before the kegger happens. (Actually, jokes aside, The Bloor is a pretty great place to watch a project opera. I just want more McConaughey impressions this weekend.)
Oh, and you still have two more chances to see a holdover from last week’s schedule, as The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life will screen again on Monday at 1:30pm and Tuesday at 4:30pm.