Monday, April 12, 2010

Dennis Hopper Remembered, Elegy for an Effigy

It is with mixed feelings I am hearing and reading accolades to the life and career of Madman Dennis Hopper with the news of his fatal cancer.

NY Times critic Manohla Dargis reflects on a 17 year old Hopper in Rebel With Out a Cause, affected by mentor, idol (my word) James Dean, whose untimely death shortly thereafter made him the Jesus Christ of bad boy actors.

She speaks of how important Easy Rider was, and refers to the “unfortunate” Last Movie, suggesting that Hopper was “Spiralling out of control. That he disappeared and re-emerged with Apocalypse Now”.

Speaking of unfortunate, and bad timing, that was the period in which I met Dennis in Hollywood and was to appear opposite him in Henry Jaglom’s second movie Tracks. I ended up mostly on the cutting room floor and probably owe some of what Henry thought was my ‘bad acting’ to Dennis mentorship:

We were living it out. I have written about the Tracks experience and my own Hollywood “foolish period” and it all comes back now. What I remember most about Dennis Hopper:.

Dennis Hopper beat me up! And I know that I was not the only woman to be the recipient of his rage and drug addled sensibility and physical violence.

Dragis refers to his friend Jack Nicholson being with him at the Hollywood Sidewalk Star ceremony. I recall then, that Jack wouldn’t come near Hopper’s New Mexico retreat, having run from there one crazed night in the past and being more than aware of Hopper’s insanely volatile irrational temper.

I was captivated by this actor who created “scenes” which is how he referred to sex and orchestrated it.

I got an interesting education from him and was certainly there of my own accord, though Henry Jaglom tried to dissuade me from joining Dennis in New Mexico after Tracks was finished shooting.

There were fabulous times. Dennis was a lot of fun a lot of the time and a very contrite lover after he threw me against a table for objecting to his “scene” with another woman when I thought he had brought me “home” – his ‘acting’ bride.

I bruised some ribs and he took me to the clinic and said he must love me because he only lashed out like that at the one he loved. Daddy took me in his arms, on his lap and was forgiven. I don’t blame Dennis for this. I came face to face with my own syndrome.

I have always said that the allure of the ‘bad boy’ is really that we get to be ‘bad girls’ and I was a hippy, a liberated woman, alternative and dedicated to the ‘life of the actor’. I had already been in Goin’ Down the Road and Cinepix’ Love In A Four letter World’ in Canada. Life with Dennis actually made more sense than my previous three struggling Hollywood years. I had arrived, I was making movies again, I was back in the saddle, living and loving and yes learning from a ‘pro’ that “making a movie is a lot like being in love”.

One friend at the time described my behaviour as being blinded by ‘the star’ and living out the American Dream, staring in a movie, albeit a Jaglom film. Really it was about how fascinating Dennis was to me, a little middle-class Jewish girl from Cape Breton, never imaging that a man would ever hit me. Here I was staying in the house of Mable Dodge and Tony Luhan in Taos, New Mexico where Mable had brought D.H. Lawrence, where the Indians chant on the radio at night, where there are Hot Springs and rumours that this is the oldest place on Earth, where pottery shards grew like weeds in the sides of sacred mountains.

It was heaven and it was Hell. Dennis made it so.

He claimed that despite his obvious abusiveness, resentment and love/hate relationship with the female sex, he helped women to find themselves. It was a puzzle for him, and who else besides a shrink you paid took that much interest in your psychology.

Admittedly, I was quite self-fascinated at the time. I was my own mirror into the World of Emotions and Reactions, of studying my own behaviour, my own unconscious to be able to serve as an actor. With Dennis, there was never a dull moment. The drama of entering New Mexico, of the Taos Artist Community that reminded me so much of the Markle/Headly/Raynor/Coughtree fabulous weekend drunks with the Boys from the Three Schools – artists and madmen, my people.

But no one had ever hit me before and the shock of that first altercation with Dennis should have been enough to send me screaming from a situation that I had no ‘smarts’ to handle.

But I loved him..honest to pete, I was crazy about him.

My ribs healed, I went back to L.A. to work on a short film and then, I went back to New Mexico! Because I guess I hadn’t learned the lesson well enough: That a man, you thought cared for you could beat you up and hurt you physically. Call it loss of innocence or a cure for naivety. When I finally ran from Dennis’ House in the middle of the night following a terrifying frightening beating from a freaked out, insane spewing lunatic, I called a cab which ended up dumping me and my trunk in the middle of the dark night Taos road. I prayed to God (fallen from my atheistic pinnacle) that whatever piece of information I was lacking, whatever I needed to learn to not be in this position, whatever I needed to have happen to rescue me, would happen and I would survive and thrive again.

And it did come to pass, I was rescued, I played out a final scene’ with Dennis, called the ambulance to pick him up from an accident of his own causing and moved on.

Dennis may have been right that the women he was involved with all learned valuable lessons in life. That they left him better than they arrived. I can’t speak for other women but I did learn a lesson for my own life that would be beneficial. Oh cruel teachers, I even appreciate your lessons because how ever we learn, we must. For me that period of my life was an opportunity if I could survive Hopper and my own ‘craziness’ – an effigy of my failed self - that little girl was who walked bravely into the lion’s den because she was too stupid to know better.

Still I feel a bit squeamish at Dargis’ revering of Dennis Hopper, that he gets to be lauded and appreciated before he dies. I don’t begrudge it exactly. He’s young to die, though he has packed some serious living into his iconic life. Because Dennis in his insanity did as Dargis said “push it to the edge, gave us “uncomfortable, … to embarrassing” work as an actor, revealing a man on “the verge of losing control”.

Brecht said: “the art of the actor is to expose life”. Dennis Hopper consciously or otherwise gave us a case study of a dangerous man – certainly for me that is what he was. The American Dream gone bad. I think he “blew it” as a human being in certain ways, I think he got away with too much, that he profited from a Hollywood and an World that gave him his success.

Someone once asked me in Dennis’ presence what the Last movie was really about. I said it was about Jesus Christ dying on the Cross. Dennis agreed. Dennis was the quintessential actor/martyr. A classic sado-masochist. We could watch his terrifying antics and laugh and be titillated because at the basis of our obsession with pornography and sexualising and using and abusing, he was Catholic enough to also beat himself up.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Reprise One in 2000, original post in Wildsound blog, Blog archives

The movies and Marlon saved my sorry little non- life as a failing high school student running downtown to spend the weekends at Bloor and Yonge (how much time in my life is going to be spent in that vicinity, on the strip from Bloor to Wellesley, I have attended acting classes, sessions, workshops etc since my 'sainted' Mother schlepped me to Marjory Purvey's Theatre of The Air - School of Radio Drama, when I was 12 and we had just moved to Toronto from Stevenville, Newfoundland, a move I thought the Family had made for my acting career..I would have preferred New York, but Bloor and Yonge became the center of my Universe.

Smash Cut To Hollywood:

Canadian actress, first day in Hollywood, lunch at the Old World Restaurant with Henry Jaglom, one of three people she knows. Ten hours later, and an incredible parade of exotic people, like Roger who couldn't eat vegetables and seemed very intelligent and Rita, the beautiful Black activist who would become a close friend and so many more, capped by the image at closing time at the Rainbow when the handsome, great actor rising movie star JACK is coming at you, with a grin, you know that grin, meant for you, yes you, he's coming to see you.

Henry had alerted Jack that there was fresh meat in town.

"He's got a notch on his cock and he thinks he's a man" - Country Joe MacDonald song.

Now apparently the Big Bad Jack-be-nimble has 2000 notches to his credit. Lota water under that bridge, which would overwhelm even the large black dildo Jack pulls out of his pants in The Departed.

I bring this up only because my first night in Holly wood to have been cast in this Henry Jaglom experimental improv was more than even I could have expected of the Hollywood experience! WOW!

And Don Johnson had one line: "Cayle, Henry had to go, his friend Jack will take you home".

No kidding, crazy girl, you are here.

Would I kiss and tell or talk out of school about something that probably I would be the only one who remembers. Why mention it? Star fucking is a long tradition, but for my part, sleeping with the famous is not what it was about - rather the romance and excitement of dreams coming true, which is more as Biff Rose used to sing: 'the dream come false' or as I later thought The American dream had become the American nightmare. see Tracks blog.

I treasure all the many experiences I have had, some are worth talking about, some become the fabric for something else, all contribute to whatever it is I have to offer at this juncture.

I am the sum total of my parts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer and Smoke Screens

I recently got my hands on the novel The Queen Bee (1949) by Edna Lee remembered darkly and vaguely from adolescence as a seminal work in the creating of my ‘romanticism’:

Re-Reading it, in my present ‘woman-as-crone arch-typical goddess’ – isn’t that who I am supposed to aspire to be as a ‘women of a certain age’ instead of just being the sadder but wiser Gal.

Originally serialized in 3 parts in Woman's Home Companion magazine, May - July 1949, THE QUEEN BEE, owned by my Mother, reflected the view of women and romance of the time that preceded my arrival on Earth and would affect me and my sexuality when I came of age at the end of the 60ies – you can call that ‘good timing..!

I caught some phases I thought were key to my sensibility

you're young enough to believe life has value…the fairy tale like all fairy tales was shattered…Beauty, it’s like worrying about a dead man…when it’s love you know it - how, i queried - there was love and there was the biological urge, how could you tell which was which? did love come first or the urge? when would I be old enough to be treated like a grown up, how did one grow up?…I did not know that before this day was done I would have started to grow up, and then, much as I might desire it, I could never be a child again….Then he stood and taking my hands pulled me up beside him..held my hands, looked into my eyes steadily..some dark force, some potency I saw in his - inner trembling crept from my knees to my thighs even to my breasts - rapt and blinded…” and most important to me: when would I be old enough to be treated like grown up, how did one grow up?

So was the heroine of The Novel as she fell hard for the Rochester-like older man, husband of her selfish ‘feminine’(as in wiles)Aunt.

That was then, and now, not since women mourned the shock and awww of the outing of Rock Hudson, our romantic fantasy via the Hollywood Dream Machine has homo-eroticism reached a peak of extravagance with The Passion of the Christ and the passion of the Paul. (Passchendaele)

I know that gentile Christian males have a Christ thing and fear death at 33, but who are they fantazicing about, after all - a renegade Jewish Rabbi of Biblical fame, who’s mythology replaced the traditions of Greece and Rome and the Jewish Creator with a man-God, the son of God.

And in the Catholic catechism, “Who am I” “I am a child of God” “Who is God”? “God is Father in heaven”, the children chant as the incense of denial burns sexual repression into tiny brains that will one day persecute Jews for killing their ‘Saviour, who died for their sins’.

Maybe it has something to do with these mama's boyz fantasizing about their Mothers in childhood and freezing them in adolescent sexuality which is about where they are at sexually. The VIRGIN Mary is apparently the most famous woman of all time.

Images of Heff and his Playmates; Jack Nicholson cavorting on a yacht surrounded by nubile young things..just not too young as to cause Polanski type souris.

Jack Nicholson reputedly bragged that he's had sex with more than 2000 women.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Link for Jim Henshaw's brilliant look at Passchendaele and the Canadian Film biz scene. I wrote a reply, don't know if I posted properly to the blog so here it is:
Jim Henshaw, you nailed it. From Calgary to Cavalry and to the crosses row on row, the P's of Passchendaele include predictable and in the final glory sequence, preposterous. Styled somewhere between old Hollywood, due South of Calgary, in Movie Land, though perhaps coming from fine intention, "P" bogged down in manipulative contrivances and way more suspension of credibility than is acceptable. We're told that the movie is a success because it brought in 4 mill. How can that be true of a 20 million-dollar movie. But it’s a movie Harper can see and so might endorse funding and various Canadians across Canada will cry and self congratulate and die rather than see Young People Fucking which is a terrific film, Yes, it may have seemed a stupid 'cutting off the nose to spite the face' but the choice of title is an unabashed slap in the face of hypocrisy - and in the end it was brave and caused an uproar and a rally to arms. Jim, you have beautifully described the mentality and the ‘religion of the sacred cow’ that controls our culture. We champion the 'chosen' and perpetuate our failure to communicate or create. We’ve seen the success of the Quebec model when it worked, the Australian film industry that funded but kept its nose out of content, and yet we pursue our copycat version of the American dream creating our very own nightmare goverment funding with private sector criteria - however, Actra's TIP and CIPIC programs, the critical success of those $100,000 films that are being made by brave and 'resourceful' film makers to use the word Rosemary Dunsmore elegantly posed in her Actra Award Acceptance speech for her role in the indie 'The Baby Formula'. Jim, your idea for funding is brilliant. It harkens back to the model that followed the success of Easy Rider when BBS gave one million to 10 film makers and got one Last Picture Show which made up for the investment. The 9 other films may not have made money but they made filmmakers who went on to do more good work. Let’s not worry about a ‘star system’ or box office as such. Let's keep our 'nut' low and encourage and champion 'good work'. Hugh Jackman to Barbra Walters: “put the show back in show business”. We can take good inspiration from the entertainment & universality of last night’s Academy Awards that in the age of Obama, were less about competition and more about the solidarity, love, honour and respect that the acting community feels for each other and for ‘the work’. Take heart, there is a new day dawning. We will make our movies like Nurse.Fighter.Boy. I refer you to wonderful work of The First Weekend Club and to Cam Haynes Film Circuit, an alternative distribution exhibition model which brings Canadian films to communities across Canada and cities throughout the world. Our Canadian movies are better than ever. Anne Tait and Barry Pearson's Iron Road could have opened TIFF not Passchendale and we would have been truly amazed at the ability of our filmmakers to make a multi-million dollar movie. Given accomplished, wise and movie-loving intellects like Dan Lyon and Paul Gratton, fabulous producing teams like Jennifer Jonas and Leonard Farlinger, Reginald Harkema of New Real Films, WE WILL OVERCOME!
Cayle Chernin

Monday, March 03, 2008


Marching on: February, Suicide Month in Toronto is happily over and we survived only to be reminded in the immortal words of Tennessee via Blanche DuBois “don't hang back with the brutes”.

The brutes have been out there in full cinematic force: Daniel Day-Lewis in Let There Be Blood, the inhabitants of No Country for Old Men, Viggo's Russian Mafioso.

Oh yes, and there will be more blood, to flow. It is ever thus, the anointment of blood, oil and water – not mixing, just coagulating to choke us in these last days of Pomp(ei)osity! What struck me about the movies was the total lack of nurture that existed in the lives of these doomed and dooming men, none of whom one would want to meet in a dark alley or even in bright sunlight for that matter. In the Coen brothers masterpiece, I wondered if Javier's downfall happened: slight spoiler alert: (accident) because he didn't do what the victim/heroine girl said he didn't have to feeling was he spared her and that signified a change in him that affected his radar – as the cowboys say: Stay Hungry.

Perhaps more upsetting is our own real life brutes: ah yes, censorship has reared its ugly head again just as our World is opening up – imagine: Hot at it in their underhanded way, Straussian neo-conservatism: (it's for our own good) want to be sure that the government doesn't fund anything offensive, and Heritage Canada will be the judge of that.

We can only guess at what is happening behind the scenes and in the small print that we are not privy to. We have seen the damage done as the Christian soldiers march onwards and backwards, while we cry: "let there be light", and we can only hope that our present bastion of free speech and fine mature work can overwhelm the childish and reprehensibly threatening grown men and women who think they have the right to decide what is offensive and what isn' offensive is that!

Just as our movie business is gaining in international presence and what we have to say in our very own idiosyncratic way is making new strides in the World, The born-again Neo-Cons come along and crush it all with the incense of denial and the smothering righteousness of dirty-minded duality.

We know that people LIE when they are indulging in the same duality that allowed the Nazis' to be good husbands and fathers or at least animal and music loving culturists while exterminating vast amounts of human kind as vermin. (And of course we realize in some milieus it is still a crime not to be tall, blond and blue eyed – this, mandated from a short dark man). Let us not linger longer with these diaTRIBES: let us be mature – we've been here long enough to know better, let poor Blanche emerge from her incarceration in the Looney bin, guilty of nothing more than heightened sensitivity and poverty and shame and guilt..let us point our finger at the real 'crazies'.

The Vikings, a bllooddy, thirsty lot were apparently the genesis of Den Land and Eng Land, born side by side, but neither must cross the line. They must stay on their side of the line. This reminds me of a story my old friend (well he was in his nineties) Marcus Adeney told me of a time when he was visiting an Aunt in England and every day would go to a place in the woods where two ant hills resided peacefully side by side. He experimented to see what would happen if he shifted one ant hill a touch closer to the other. He carefully did so over several days and when the black ants became aware of the increasing millimeters of the red ant colony, they attacked in full force and decimated the whole community. Territorial self preservation activated by seeming invasion of space. We experience it all the time, we all know the feeling when a person gets too close when they are talking to you, gets in your face, or the one who takes up too much space.

The fight for god-given land, which is the greatest marketplace of all, though the Indians said “you can't own the land” has been the property and currency of much war..the Middle East standing as a horrible reminder of escalation and agony for all the inhabitants which ever side they are on.

Bush says he is just a “simple president” as opposed to what some have termed “simple-minded”. “It's simple” he says, he's “on the defensive” - “we gotta be in the League, otherwise we're in a political fetal position”. Interesting choice of words Buddy Boy, now that you appear to be choosing your own words according to some notion that they make sense: “Our philosophy won and it's going to win again” What philosophy is that? That America right or wrong are the good guys”? “Success is paramount if democracy is to take hold” Try strangle-hold from the man who entered the presidency in a bogus election. The gist of his discourse: we changed the law, so now what we did that was illegal is legal. It's that simple, sports fans, you just have to change the law, back to the old ball game. And our Canada, led by Steven Harper, another born again aspires to be in that League of American Super heroes, and take us down that tired territorial garden path.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Emperor is naked, the Commander-in Chief 'starkers'; Liberal is not a dirty word, the conservatives are not conservative, they are reactionary, the born-agains are not Christian in the true sense of the Jewish Rabbi Christ's teachings. The Censors have the dirty minds and we are in a dangerous place in time - the brutes are gaining more and more power to crush the common peoples, corporations reign tax exempt, and greed continues to prove that the desire to receive for yourself alone is a downward spiral that gathers all up in the vortex of it's death-wake.

The cult of celebrity, the lives of the rich and famous, and the competition to join, are all a smoke screen dating back to the beginning of time when un-nurtured nature wrecked havoc. Yet, Humanity's harrowing existence continues to give us great movies and the Earth, polluted and ravaged as it is, is still generous to a fault and affords us great joy though Dr. Strangelove still rides the rails, an A bomb between his legs, now he's fueled by Viagra... the dinosaurs dance of death, for the old men who have no country is to take us out with them, to push that button, drop that bomb, go nuclear, because human kind is not always to be trusted as Diogenes knew only too well and Alan Price reiterated: "the only honest man he's seen was standing there in tears".

Yet let us take heart because Oprah is glorifying GOOD Deeds, albeit as a competition but kindness as the Talmud says, one should act with, as each person is negotiating their own journey through his veil of tears and finally in the immortal words of Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the World" I want to see the smart people smarten up, put their neurosis and fear aside and take the power. As Mr. Adeney posited: “War is an agreement”.

I saw Tracey Erin Smith's wonderful one woman show The Burning Bush, the story of a rabbinical student, rejected, who finds real spirituality doing a pole dance and who ends her show by asking the audience to join in on "I ain't going to study war no more" Hi(s)Story Channel be's time for the go round to stop and the merry to start..we still have a beautiful planet, we have enough food and comfort for all, yes brother hates brother and the holy land is holier than thou and damage is done daily fellowman and woman to fellow, but its like looking a gift horse in the face not to work with what we've got.

It all begins with a child saying the Emperor is naked, the Censor complicit and the war of the worlds an economic field day..why are the corps and the rich tax-exempt while the welfare Mothers are called onto their dirty or non existent carpets for draining the system? a mere drop in the proverbial bucket as Alec Guiness so aptly put it in Bridge on The River Quai: “those mean men” and the legacy of sex without intimacy, a form of violence.

It is not surprising that there is no sexual activity in Let there Be Blood, only the sado-masochistic relationship between Daniel Plainview's greedy capitalism and his nemesis preacher, Eli's religious fervour – as they engage in humiliating each other. Day-Lewis' only gentleness is towards the children, only where he can control. The sex supplied by Viggo's long legged battle to the death is purient naked violence. We've come a long way since Straw Dogs shocked and excited the World with the rape scene that became a sex scene. Or have we? This years movie anti-heroes are essentially sexless narcissists living on the most materialistic plain (view) of existenze! Classic cases and we still live with these archetypes. In the excellent new show at Can Stage STUFF HAPPENS, David Hare has laid out the journey America in her super powerfulness travelled from 9/11 to Iraq..led by a Commander in Chief who believes God put him in the White House because the people didn't and who has smirked his way through his reign of terror-mongering, exacerbating and escalating the lucrative business of war.

The Emperor is naked and the fashion designers are selling us a bill of goods that we pay through the teeth for as we run to stand in line for the latest ....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Up The Yangtze - new Canadian Hot Doc

Up The Yangtze, a commentary on contemporary China from Canadian Director/Creator Yung Chang is a well conceived, beautifully shot “must see” documentary, toasted at Sundance and already currying what promises to be only the beginning in a long line of honours.

Originally titled Up Your Yangtze, the film really puts a face, several faces on the emerging New China. And what faces they are..a lovely young girl, Shui Yu, raised with Mother, Father and siblings at water's edge, in a lean-to of sorts, barely at the time we meet them, with food to eat. We follow her to her first job on the cruise ship, and how the family agonizes about sending her out to work, where she becomes Cindy (Americanized to suit the Tourists) and where we meet among others, Jerry, a male Counterpart.

Only a film maker who is living his story with an open mind and heart like Yung Chang, can bond with his subjects, and have them share for us, extraordinary moments of intimacy and personal truths.

Actors are very attune to being 'private in public' as Yung must also know from the Meisner classes he took in New York at The Neighbourhood PlayHouse. It is no surprise that this talented graduate of Film Production from Montreal's Concordia University, calls his movie “the Cassavettes version of what's going on” which he wanted “to capture the raw emotions” and he sure does.

Moving, illuminating, a real window and open door into a World that most North Americans can almost not fathom and must learn about. Even Chang, who grew up in Whitby, Ontario expected the China of his Grand Father, who's moving song at the beginning of the film guides us into the Four Gorges Dam scenario of the not only shifting sands of time but the floodgates that will immerse the homes of the riverside inhabitants and cause mass migration.

One expects next a Dramatic Feature from Chang as if Up The Yangtze is not dramatic enough. Chang: “The Cruise Ship became this kind of microcosm – above decks were the Western tourists and below decks were the crew workers looking above and trying to climb that ladder to join the tourists eventually”.

We follow the upward mobility of the young Chinese kids and their sometimes hilarious teachers who clue them in on their cruising customers, along for a last ride up the Yangtze: “ Don't say Canadians and Americans are the same” which brought a great cheer from the sold-out opening night screening at the Cumberland. “Never call them fat”...”say plump”.

Cindy buys her first new clothing, puts on make up, entertains a visit from her parents.. Cindy's Father like Lear's Wise Fool tears your heart out. Her Mother, intelligent and suffering because of what she comprehends about the changes. And watching Gerry scam the tourists has me thinking of what Yung Chang's feature could be: 'Jerry and Cindy get ----'!


naiveté: Wild Mouth to The Sand Factory – More Blood on The Tracks

Monday night, February 4th at 7:30  I participated in the PRAXIS sponsored reading of a new play: THE SAND FACTORY by a talented young writer Taylor Sutherland at the Concord Cafe.
The play deals with some issues and thoughts that have been provoked lately in some of the material I've been seeing like the recent production of WILD MOUTH by Maureen Hunter..thought it was an amazing work tackling the great divide that WAR produces particularly between the sexes and particularly when we are talking about the two past World Wars. I was struck and intrigued by the exploration of Blood significance, the Christian male Christ fixation and the attraction/repulsion law of Magnetism - the eternal battle of the Sexes.

THE SECRET, that esoteric new Bible packaged like an infomercial but informative nonetheless addresses the Laws of Magnetism and you are what you think, hence drawing to you, attracting what you are being - (of course it's all true but sometimes the over-simplification is as annoying as the graphics)

In WILD MOUTH, the British teacher, who has lost a son in the ongoing War needs to find some explanation for why her Boy wrote of an experience where he laid beside a dead naked body and felt peace. She is tormented by her inability to understand what could have possibly happened to her son to have him write of something so alarmingly inexplicable, prior to his death and to try to comprehend the unique relationship those who have experienced WAR have to it.

I don't really want to critique The Tarragon's production, directed by R.H. Thompson, I am more interested in the play itself . The fact that I was introduced to the play and enjoyed some of the work is sufficient: The attraction/repulsion between the The Teacher (feminist) and the Ukrainian War Hero (brute): the grieving Mother's attempt to understand what men see in war, or what war is:
“The good and evil invented by people trapped in scenes” is a line someone says in the play and it took me to the Hollywood experience of seeing everything as a “scene”, while working on Tracks, a film that starred Dennis Hopper, I learned a great deal about people trapped in scenes, and about good and evil.

When David Fox says to the woman at the end of the play that what you want to tell the Man who attacked her sexually, and provoked her to shoot him, is that “you are grateful”, she finally understood what it meant to be 'at war' - it resonated with certain of my lessons in life administered in the school of hard knocks by less than nurturing teachers. But sometimes that's what it takes to learn something, like a particularly bad relationship I had, that actually taught me the most about myself.

I remember Dennis Hopper believed that in terrorizing certain women in his life he had given them a gift: The loss of naiveté, is different than loss of innocence. To be naive is a kind of privilege-ness – one discovers that naiveté neither protects you nor justifies ignorance. It is 'precious', in the negative sense of being oh so self conscious, protected, and though sometimes enviable, is not really valuable in the search for truth, for real living and ultimately it is unfair, the very first lesson in growing up..that life is unfair, becomes another lesson, that the real unfairness is the protected one who fails to understand the pain of reality as it impacts those who cannot escape it.
Subsequent to working on TRACKS, I wrote a teleplay for CBC Drama inspired by my experience working on the film. Like TRACKS it dealt with a soldier returning from Vietnam who ends up punching a 'round-eyed' woman,  when she tries to take his photograph and thereby capture his pain..."you want to feel my pain..try this" he says as he delivers a blow to her solar plexus.
In Wild Mouth, the woman is also a photographer,and I have been reading about Diane Arbus, the extra-ordinary photographer who revolutionized photography with her challenging stirring disturbing photos of so-called freaks and marginal types. Arbus delivered a humanity, a comprehensive penetrating and exciting new way of recorded 'seeing'. I ran out to get the movie FUR when I started reading the excellent biography by Patricia Bosworh. As for FUR, they couldn't have gotten it more wrong.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mabou Mines DollHouse

Cayle Chernin's Blog

Mabou Mines adaptation of Ibsen’s Doll House
Jan 30-Feb 4 at Harbourfront Center World Stage

From their website: :

Mabou Mines DollHouse transforms Ibsen’s bourgeois tragedy into high comedy with a deep bite. In the tradition of a series of award winning deconstructed classics directed by Lee Breuer, like Gospel at Colonus and the gender-reversed Mabou Mines Lear, DollHouse is on a political track that speaks not a word of politics.
Breuer turns Ibsen’s mythic feminist “anthem” on its head by physicalizing the equation of Power and Scale. Torvald, Rank and Krogstad, (the men), are all played by actors whose heights range from 3’4” to 4’5”. Nora and Kristine are tall and the maid is a full 6 feet. Nothing dramatizes Ibsen’s patriarchal point more clearly than the image of these little men dominating and commanding women 1 1⁄2 times their size in a “playhouse size” doll house. The collage of Edvard Grieg’s piano music assembled by Eve Beglarian accompanies each scene, silent movie-like, while Narelle Sisson′s mannerist set further skews our sense of proportion and reality.

It’s a stiff ticket unless you can get an Equity half price discount, but what a fantastic theatre experience, reminding one of what Theatre is really all about. I felt that Ibsen’s play has survived so that this production could transport us past the gender warfare and struggles for equality that has brought us into this 21st Century.

Almost indescribable is the effect of the tall women and the small men – small only in stature, as the actors rip the tiny doll house furniture to shredded wheat and gnaw away at preconceptions and even at what we think we know about the patriarchal system that has fostered the great divide that still clouds our lives and times.

To see these women fall to their knees before their tiny ‘gods’, machinate, baby talk and suffer at the iron whims of their oppressor/protectors, and finally Nora’s emancipation in a shocking operatic rendering of the last scene that is accompanied by a stripping down of the actor physically that underscores with a vengeance how we are shocked by truth and comfortable with ‘feminine’ artifice.

The production was so imaginative, the actors so committed and compelling, the lines reverberated with new illuminating nuances, that I was mesmerized and slightly removed emotionally I thought..until I realized that it was hitting me in a place of new emotional territory.. such an intellectual transcendence of proscribed thought, that even feminism cannot see beyond the patriarchal bonds of human mating that we are locked into…

At some point I felt like I was watching the oppression of Tall people by Short people and the insanity, hilarity and irony of that underscores all inequality making the worse bully an agent of our own willingness to succumb to the ‘manner born’.

How cowed we are by status quo’ted!