Chagall

En fin de semaine j’ai finalement réussi à visiter l’exposition Chagall au Musée des Beaux-Arts avant qu’elle ne se termine. D’habitude je ne suis pas trop fervent d’art moderne mais je dois avoué avoir été surpris par celle-ci. Marc Chagall est juste assez figuratif pour que je l’apprécie. Il a une palette de couleurs attrayante et ses sujets sont très révélateurs de la culture qui l’a nourrie (il était juif hassidique russe). Étrangement, les thématiques récurrentes dans son oeuvre semblent correspondre aux instruments à cordes (violons, mandolines), au coq et au cirque! C’est un artiste très polyvalent qui a touché à pratiquement tout les media, de la peinture à la sculpture, aux fresques et aux vitraux, de même qu’à la céramique ainsi qu’aux décors et costumes de scènes…

Une très belle exposition qui m’a beaucoup apprise. Un gros merci au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal pour nous abreuver, année après année, de tant de culture!

Voici un bref aperçu de l’exposition :

Et voici quelques unes de mes oeuvres favorites de Chagall :

Vous pouvez voir une sélection plus complète des oeuvres qui m’ont le plus touché sur l’album Flickr que j’ai créé à cet effet.

Et si vous désirez en connaître plus sur ce grand artiste du vingtième siècle vous trouverez en bibliothèque probablement tout ce qu’il vous faut pour satisfaire votre curiosité.

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Capsule reviews

The Giver

In a post-cataclysmic world, humanity survives in a small utopian society which is peaceful and content, but colourless and deprived of emotions. With his coming of age, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is assigned a role as Receiver of Memory and instructed by the Giver (Jeff Bridges), who telepathically shares with him all the memories from the ancient time in order to give him the wisdom necessary to advise the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) in her decisions. With this knowledge comes the realization that this seemingly perfect society is in no way morally better than the previous one: citizens are drugged into conformity and when they become less useful or rebellious they are “released to the Elsewhere”, i.e. murdered by lethal injection! To justify their authoritarian ways, the Chief Elder says “When people have the freedom to chose, they chose wrong every single time” — true, but at least they have the freedom to be wrong! By reaching the distant borders of the community, the hero wants to reset the society in hope for a better future (and to save the woman he loves, Fiona (Odeya Rush)). Based on Lois Lowry‘s young adult novel, this science-fiction movie succeeds, with a relatively small budget ($25 millions), to create an entertaining and thought-provoking story, making us ponder the moral values of our society. Even if it’s a little reminscient of Logan’s Run, this is an excellent movie well worth watching.

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Victoria

This British drama TV series depicts the reign of Queen Victoria from her accession (after the death of her uncle William IV) to her mariage with Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and the birth of her first child (also named Victoria). It was produced by ITV in the UK and will premiere on PBS’s Masterpiece next week. In a way, it is very similar to the series The Crown that depicts the early reign of Queen Elisabeth II. It is quite interesting to see all the politics and trials that play out around the English monarchy at such an important time in history (the Victorian era was particularly characterized by the industrial revolution and the development of railways). It’s also funny that there is so much German blood (from the House of Hanover and the House of Saxe-Coburg) in the British monarchy, and it created quite a stir at the time. But I must admit that what first caught my attention is the fact that the title role is played by Jenna Coleman (who has also interpreted Clara Oswald, one of the best companions in the new Doctor Who TV series, but also acted in Julian FellowesTitanic and in Dancing on the Edge). Also starring is Rufus Sewell, who plays Victoria’s counsel and Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. I also liked the haunting music theme. I really cannot resist a British historical drama, even less a very good one. Don’t miss it!

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Dark Angel

This is a two-part mini-series (although it feels more like a TV movie cut in two) produced by ITV in the UK and starring Joanne Froggatt (Anna in Downton Abbey). It will be shown on PBS’s Masterpiece later this year. Inspired by David Wilson’s book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer, it tells the sordid story of Mary Ann Cotton, a black widow who poisoned three of her four husbands as well as eleven of her thirteen children in order to collect insurance money and survive the harsh conditions women had to endure in nineteenth century England. You can’t help but feel some sympathy for her. A good period drama as it is often the case with Brit TV. Recommended.

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Eye in the Sky

An interesting movie showing, from the British point of view, all the procedures and decisions behind a drone strike in Somalia, as well as the moral questions it raises. If you could eliminate three top wanted terrorists as well as two suicide bombers preparing for an eminent attack that could kill up to eighty civilians, would you do it even if it meant probably killing one innocent girl? The collateral damage question is always a difficult choice between two evils. In a way, nothing much happens in this movie as the story is told almost in real time. Everything is in the debate, which makes it clearly a political movie. But is it an apology of war or a critic of the politicians inaptitude? Maybe both? Interesting indeed!

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A Ghost of a Chance

Emi (Eri Fukatsu) is a lawyer whose client is accused of murdering his wife. But he couldn’t have done it since the night of the murder he was pined down in his hotel room by a ghost! What sort of defence can you build when your only witness is the ghost of a samurai? You manage to make him testify, of course! A funny japanese movie just as I like them, with a great line-up of actors (Toshiyuki Nishida, Hiroshi Abe, Kiichi Nakai, Koichi Sato, Takayuki Kinoshita, Yūko Takeuchi, Tadanobu Asano, etc.)!

I stumbled on this movie while watching TV Japan — a New-York based Japanese language channel operated by NHK Cosmomedia America and broadcasting a compilation of the best programming from the top Japanese networks and studios, including news and entertainment programs such as movies, dramas, variety shows, anime, sporting events, etc. (and available in Canada thanks to Bell Fibe TV!). I am glad that they show movies subtitled in english once in while.

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Suffragette

Maud (Carey Mulligan) works in an industrial laundry house and gets involved by chance in the suffragette movement. Participating in illegal protests causes her to be outcast by her husband, which in turn drives her even further into political activism. Protests become more and more violent with property damages and bombings, hunger strikes when they were jailed, but it fails to really attract attention since the government controls the press… Until one woman, Emily Davison, is killed on a race track in front of the king. In 1928, women’s rights were finally recognized in Britain. But it took fifteen years to get there and the movie doesn’t show how Maud managed to survive during that time (if she could). Meryl Streep has a brief cameo as one of the movement’s leader, Emmeline Pankhurst. It’s unbelievable to see how bad were women’s living and working conditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For that, it’s an interesting movie but I found it was lacking passion.

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English Extensive Reading Manual

One of my Japanese friends, Kazu-chan, has just published a book!

Ten years ago, he came to Montreal through the working holiday program in order to learn English and French. He first got a job at the restaurant where my wife is working, Sakura Gardens, but he realized that a Japanese restaurant was the worse place to learn a new language, so he went to work at the Tim Horton’s on Saint-Denis street instead. After graduating from the prestigious Tokyo University, he was hired by a big venture company, but he quickly discovered that he had no taste for the abuses a junior salaryman (office worker) must endure in Japan (remember Amélie Nothomb’s novel, Fear and Trembling ?).

Choosing a more independent (but alas poorer) lifestyle, he founded with a friend (Akira Sakaizume, a senior in Buddhist literature) the language school Philosophia. While pursuing English learning methods that are more suitable for Japanese people, they are helping students not only to prepare for the college entry exam but also to develop useful English skills. For him it was a dream to help children realize their hope while broadening their mind through English education.

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Movie capsule-reviews

Pompeii

Another totally unrealistic catastrophe movie. Kiefer Sutherland with a ridiculous brit accent and “John Snow” [Kit Harington] as a slave hero pointlessly saving the damsel in distress. Entertaining but not historic.

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Big Eyes

A Tim Burton movie about the life of American painter Margaret Keane, famous for her children with big eyes art, who had to fight her husband Walter Keane up to court as he took credit for her very successful work. He was a genius of marketing but, as a frustrated wanna-be painter, couldn’t resist to flatter his ego and take credit for “their” success until she got tired of the fraud (and found religion with the Jehovah’s witnesses). Interesting subject, but a quite ordinary delivery.

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Les Visiteurs: La Révolution

En 1123, le chevalier Godefroy de Montmirail, dit « le Hardi » (et son écuyer, Jacquouille la Fripouille) voyagent dans le temps grâce à la potion d’un mage. Mais rien ne va comme prévu et, dans ce troisième opus, le duo (Jean Reno et Christian Clavier) se retrouve en 1793, soit en pleine Terreur révolutionnaire! Amusant mais la formule commence à se faire vieille.

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Race

An interesting film about the struggle of a black athlete to get into the 1936 summer Olympics and to show that black lives matter — while teaching a good lesson to Nazi Germany. More interestingly, it’s what the movie fails to show that is the most important: despite his four olympic medals, Jesse Owens will be totally ignored after his return to the U.S.A.. After all, the blacks in America were not that much better off than the jews in Germany. He died of cancer at 66 years old, poor, after holding small jobs and making a few business ventures. He was recognized only posthumously with a Congressional Gold Medal awarded by George W Bush in 1990! Not totally accurate, but a moment in history worth remembering.

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Salon du livre 2016


Mercredi, après le travail, j’ai profité de l’offre d’une entrée gratuite aux détenteurs de cartes des Bibliothèques de Montréal et de la BANQ pour faire ma visite annuelle au Salon du Livre de Montréal.

En passant chez mes amis d’Alire j’ai remarqué, entre autres, le dernier Patrick Sénécal, L’Autre reflet, l’impressionnant Détectionnaire de Norbert Spehner (qui était d’ailleurs l’un des invités d’honneur du salon), et noté la parution prochaine de L’Année de la science-fiction et du fantastique québécois 1996 (enfin)! Étrangement j’ai remarqué qu’il y avait au salon cette année beaucoup de livres de cuisine végane (un signe des temps, sans doute) et j’ai aperçu ce qui semble être la réédition (pas si récente que ça) du manga de UFO Robot Goldorak. Toutefois, je n’ai rien remarqué de frappant dans les nouveautés et je n’ai pas trouvé le manga de Marie-Antoinette que je cherchais (une nouveauté qui date quand même de septembre! — ça m’a tout de même aidé à mieux résister à la tentation d’acheter quoi que ce soit!).

Je ne comprends vraiment pas pourquoi les éditeurs et distributeurs poussent au salon seulement leur gros titres et meilleurs vendeurs alors que le salon devrait être le lieu pour faire connaître et promouvoir les nouveautés et les titres moins connus!

Autre étonnement: je constate l’absence de kiosques pour les bibliothèques de Montréal et pour la BANQ. Pourtant, par les années passées, ils avaient au moins des kiosques statiques (juste des affiches et des dépliants) ou même partageaient ensemble un kiosque (comme l’an passé). Mais, cette année, rien du tout! Pourtant si les biblios ont besoin d’une chose c’est bien de promotion. Ils pourraient faire la démontration des nouveaux postes d’auto-prêt, ou du catalogue Nelligan Découverte, parler des nouvelles biblios, de celles avec des projets de rénovations, des services en ligne, du prêt numérique, du tout nouveau service de prêt d’instruments de musique, offrir des abonnements (pour augmenter le taux d’abonnés par habitant qui est plus bas au Québec que dans le reste du pays), etc, etc.

Bien sûr, avoir un kiosque au salon et du monde sur le plancher ça coûte de l’argent et la ville (ou le gouvernement) semble penser que la culture c’est pas important. Et pourquoi investir et promouvoir si au bout du compte ça rapporte rien? Les bénéfices rapportés par les bibliothèques, c’est bien connu, ça ne se voit pas alors ça ne compte pas vraiment. C’est tellement Trump! On est vraiment entré dans une nouvelle ère. Argh! Quelle horreur… Saint-Lovecraft venez à notre secours!

Donc, cette année, un salon plutôt décevant. Heureusement que je ne manque pas de livres à lire!

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Vegan Fest


Last week my wife dragged me to a vegan festival. I went only because I was curious to see what vegans looked like…

I mean, I’m all for eating healthy and I want to encourage local production so I was appalled that people would want to eat food from a distant solar system. And I had never seen little green people up-close…

Oh… You mean Vegan are not actually people from Alpha Lyrae, a.k.a. Vega? So why are they also called the green people? Umm. I was wondering why someone would bother to import food from a place 25 light-years away. Now it makes sense. My mistake.

So I stand corrected: Vegans are practitioners of veganism and therefore abstains from consuming any animal products like meat (including fish and seafood), eggs, dairy and all their derivatives (might even includes honey!). It also sometimes goes as far as opposing the use of any animal products (like leather) and advocating for animal wellfare. They must not be confused with vegetarians, who abstain only from consuming meat, but can sometimes be called vegetalians (because they consume only food from the vegetal order: seeds, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, etc.). For some it’s not only a diet, but a philosophy, a religion even.

I am a very tolerant person and believe that people can do whatever they want as long as they don’t bother me with it. Lives and let live. I think that we should consume locally-produced food as much as possible and that we should be very careful with what we eat: avoid eating too much red meat for example and avoid processed food. However, I really don’t understand those vegans.

More on this after the jump >>

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A Tale of Samurai Cooking

“Haru has an excellent sense of taste and unsurpassed skill in the kitchen, but her impetuous character leads to her husband asking for a divorce after only a year of marriage. One day, she is approached by Dennai Funaki, a samurai chef from Kaga, to marry his son and heir, Yasunobu.”

“Serving the Lord of Kaga not with the sword, but with the kitchen knife, the Funaki family has been known as “Kitchen Samurai” for generations. However, Yasunobu’s lack of culinary skills has placed the Funaki name in peril. To save her new family and its status as “Kitchen Samurai”, Haru decides to teach her new husband the refined art of Kaga cuisine from her point of view. Inspired by a true story.”

(Text from the Cinémathèque website)

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