Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life imitates art?

Sometimes life is so bizarre that you really have to ask yourself who's writing this shit?

Yesterday I was at the Cinémathèque with my advanced queer cinema class watching André Brassard's "Il était une fois dans l'est" (1974). Based on a screenplay by Michel Tremblay that melds the plot of about a dozen of his other novels and plays, this film is unbelievably fascinating and insanely well acted. Set in and around 'the Main', it criss-crosses between the lives of three waitresses and a number of drag queens. A lot of the action takes place in a drag club that stands in for Café Cléopatre, and the next-to-last scene is crammed with actual performers of the day.

As a Michel Tremblay fan, it's not terribly surprising that I would dig the writing, which is indeed excellent. But combined with the mind-blowing acting-- fuck! Not to get sucked into nostalgia for a time when I wasn't alive, but films just don't convey pathos the way they did in the 70s. I'm thinking of Cassavetes, who covers a lot of the same ground as "Il était...": working class daily life, spurned women on the verge of nervous breakdowns, monologues by drunk women railing against the miseries of the world, sexual glamor and marginality...

So to make a long story short (too late!), it was a very intense watch. Then I walked out of the theatre and ran into a sweet young woman (a stranger) who was incredibly drunk and looking for a pay phone. I asked her if she was okay, and she said she'd just had a nervous breakdown at her job. We sat down and talked for about a half hour, and she told me about her life, which trauma-for-trauma matched about two thirds of the scenes from the movie. When her boyfriend arrived, I left her with some phone numbers and a hug (which really didn't seem like enough), and biked home feeling very manhandled by the Fates. I hope she's feeling better today.

Images of people from http://www.collectionscanada.ca/writers/027005-4310-e.html
and of Cafe Cléeopatre from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevin4/406513498/

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