Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Floating Post Office on Lake Winnipesaukee




     Mail delivery by boat, and you’re welcome to come along for the ride! 


Lake Winnipesaukee's vast 72 square miles (44,000 acres with a depth of 4000 feet) is one of the New Hampshire’s most famous loon-laden lakes. Not surprisingly, it becomes a playground during the summer.  But camps, cottages and the few permanent residents need to get their mail. Most of these folks are staying on one of the lake's 240 habitable islands. In total, there are 365 islands of which 274 are navigable. The depth of this wondrous lake is 4000 feet.
                           
                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                               
 




One frequent visitor, carrying a special load, floats into view every day from June 15th until September 2nd. It’s the M/V Sophie C. It stops at two YMCA Camps, another smaller camp, several island associations, and all kinds of stops – dropping off packages and letters, along with lots of ice cream for the many residents.

This unique pontoon with its lower and outside deck of seats for tourists has been doing this for decades. It’s the only one of its kind in the USA; and although I am no mailman, it’s one ride I didn’t want to miss. So I boarded the boat and sat next to three huge bags stuffed with letters.

What a great way to enjoy the lake while getting lots of information from Captain Paul Smith who’s been doing this for 31 years. His trusty assistant Betty was there to do the book keeping.

 

 We passed several islands: Rattlesnake Island, Bear Island, Long Island, even an 1860’s former grist mill that stands like a pointed steeple on one island. You can see it from the boat. At each wharf, we were always greeted by happy campers.



The itinerary was mapped carefully. Here’s what I enjoyed: Captain Smith would dock the mail boat, and residents standing on the dock seemed to put on a show – jumping off tall steeple poles  they had climbed at the wharf – counting 1,2,3; or simply waving to us all as we arrived and as we left. 




The entire two-hour trip was so much fun – thanks to Captain Smith's joking and eagerness for us to come up and talk to him and Betty. “We don’t just deliver the mail, we deliver a party," he said.

I learned a lot about Lake Winnipesaukee, but most of all I had a darn good time out on this beautiful lake with all the folks on board.  We left from Weirs Beach at 2 pm. But there’s also a morning departure at 11 am.




You can buy your ticket before departure at the booth, or order it on line at: www.cruiseNH.com

photos taken by Terry Rotoring (except first one of boat)


Saturday, July 30, 2016

BORDER BULLYING



I was at the Darby line Quebec/Vermont border on my way to New Hampshire border. Feeling keen to get to Sutton House B& B in Harbor City, and excited  about meeting finally meeting the folks at the Loon Preservation Committee that booked me on a loon cruise on Squam Lake. My enthusiasm was about to be squashed.
I was in the slowest moving line, and when I got to the agent, it cam eto a long halt.
Leaning out his window, the young twenty-something customs agent took my passport, and looked at me askance.
He began to bombard me with a load of questions about the fact that I was traveling alone – a woman driving far and alone. I could hear the wheels (or should I say rocks in his head) turning. He paused, and I said I often drive alone. "Do you know the Gatineau region?” N was his answer. Well I spent my summers there with a pump, an outhouse and fishing with my dad. I have that in my blood. Being alone is in my way. He seemed perplexed, even fascinated.
He changed the subject:  he asked me where I was headed and I told him a loon cruise in the lake region. He paused, and then asked if I knew anyone in New Hampshire or had documents to prove where I was going. I hadn’t taken the email bookings showing the friendly banter between the people I was to meet up with, but I replied that I hoped to meet my B &B host and the cruise biologist, and that perhaps a friendship might form.
 He then asked me a series of quiz type questions: “When was the last time you were in the States?” I asked if he meant stopping through an airport of visiting a city? I thought I was in a quiz show, and he said, like a quiz host, “the airport”. I said, "I think it was Orlando or Miami coming back from Mexico". I got the date right, but the year wrong. Oops! He looked like a teacher scolding a student when he held up my passport pointing to March of this year. How could I have forgotten? I was in San Miguel launching me new novel. I apologized.
Then he asked me what I did for a living. I referred to my retirement as a teacher. I did not mention my writing career. That would have surely put me in jail.
“Put your car in park and pop the trunk,” he demanded, and then the weirdest thing happened. My lovely car refused to move into ‘park’. The stick shift was locked; it was on Drive and my foot was on the break. He began giving me a driving lesson - telling me to keep my foot on the break (which it already was on obviously). I panicked telling him I could not move the shift. Instantly I saw my cruise plans going up in smoke. Was my car on the blitz? He came out and looked in the trunk. There was nothing there of course. Still persistent, he asked if I had alcohol or food on me - a question he was supposed to ask me in the first place, I thought.
Another long pause, and then the man showed his complete ignorance. He really wanted the answer to the question he was about to ask. Like a wide –eyed child, out came his question – nothing to do with customs: “What’s a loon?” I then proceeded to imitate the “whah whah” sound of the beloved bird. He looked puzzled. I then told him about the Canadian loony – the one-dollar coin with a loon on one side.  I was the teacher. Then with a big smile he said “Have a nice trip, Nancy.”
 It took me a good half hour to recover form his interrogation, and I had spent a half hour with him – already having to wait one hour to reach his window.
 Coming back into Quebec, I had not one ounce of trouble. A simple where are you from and what was the purpose of your trip. A smile came on his face, and said – off you go!”

Friday, July 29, 2016

Walter’s Basin in Holderness, New Hampshire

                                                                                   
                                                                                                                            
                                 Feasting lakeside after a lovely loon cruise
What a fabulous menu of American cuisine – the best of it. Gary Chaffee, the chef is simply cooking up quality ribs, pasta, seafood and several of your chicken favourites using an unparallel palette-pleasing assortment of flavours. I was delighted to see that gluten-free dishes were on this menu in both the main dishes and appetizers. That’s rare, and it shows that the concept behind the creation of the dishes is sophisticated and mindful of health. Sitting at the lakeside restaurant of Squam Lakes was relaxing and wholly fitting to the royal food I chose to have. I ordered the Ahi-tuna starter on a crispy won-ton adorned with tiny strips of seaweed topped with a crescent of avocado. Deliciously addictive!
 Then came my clam chowder soup that was thick and oh so satisfying; it is freshly made. A thick hunk of brisket arrived as another appetizer on a sweetish bun. Tender and subtly flavoured, this filling creation was original. Diving into a key lime pie perfectly suited my dessert yen. It was so irresistible, I wanted the recipe. I then and sinfully admit I wanted to taste their dessert specialty – though the menu offered an embarrassment of royal choices. This was a bumble berry pie with whipped cream and ice cream on the plate. The sweet raspberries, rhubarb, apples and blueberries filled me until I waddled out like the docks swimming on the lake. 
 
By the way, their exotic coffees with alcohol are the best I have ever tasted in my travels. The Mad River beans (the name of the coffee) are ground freshly in nearby Campton – a coffee coup for New Hampshire’s lake region. The wine list is just right, and their drinks have names that sport humour and originality to reflect their concoctions; some are named after islands in Lake Winnipesaukee. I hear the Rattlesnake is to die for (no pun intended) Come by boat or on land; or even if you have to swim to get there, Walter’s Basin offers bounteous feasting.
www.waltersbasin.com

Feast on Fabulous Fish at the Bay Restaurant


Big on Fish, Big on Taste  
 In Centre Harbor, New Hampshire – a popular but casual resort spot in New Hampshire’s lake region, the Bay Restaurant is the one to put on your place-to-eat-list. Here, the world becomes your oyster, for aside from the exciting choices of unique gourmet burgers, delightful appetizers and savoury salads, including the Bay’s notable noodle one with an awesome oriental mix; a healthy fruit and nut number creation, and other wonderful healthy selections – it is clear that at the Bay, fish rules! It’s featured in three of the four major categories on the menu. In the main meal section, seven of the eight offerings dazzle in title alone: fisherman’s platter. Gluten free Maryland crab cakes, maple glazed tips and shrimp sautee. The dazzling BBQ by the Bay whose ribs come with Jack Daniels BBQ wings, fried shrimp and cole slaw is a bounteous indulgence. And the list goes on. 

My dining companion, Thais St Clair, owner of Sutton House B & B knows about quality cooking. She selected the grilled salmon salad from the Greens category. Flavoured with a sassy fruit salsa. The salmon was tender, and she highlighted her enjoyment of the champagne vinaigrette.


 
I ordered the evening’s specialty: halibut Oscar with fresh lump crab, meat and asparagus topped with Hollandaise. Zucchini, dainty string beans, carrots and flavoured with herbs created a superb dish. The presentation was gorgeous; the green olive oil speckled with red paprika added beauty. The portion was huge, and the satisfaction  level too.


My waitress, Hannah, recommended the Chateau St Michelle – a chardonnay. It was a fine match. For dessert, I went to sin city with a dark chocolate with white chocolate imbedded in it, whipped cream and salted caramel truffle gelato. Thais chose the white chocolate chip raisin bread pudding. I snuck a taste. Wow!
The Bay restaurant is open for its gourmet breakfasts and lunches. It also delivers, but you’ll just have to travel to Centre Harbor in New Hampshire to get the goods. I’m not surprised that Amy Elfline’s penchant for quality and taste is reflected in the restaurant she owns with her husband, Paul. (She’s also a real estate agent for Lamprey in Centre Harbor, and I’ve seen her houses renovations).

The website is: www.themugrestaurant.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Café Society (Directed by Woody Allen)


 
Glamorous, glib and regrettably forgettable


Allen has traveled back in time to the 1930’s whose famous actors (iconic movie names are dropped in this film – though we never meet them) are steered by the producer Phil Dorfman (smartly played by Steve Carrell). He’s a real big shot who takes under his wing his nephew Bobby (played  y Jesse Eisenberg) with appropriate angst that obviously is referencing Allen himself).  Naïve, romantic Bobby has left New York and his humble family to hit the Hollywood Hills in the hope of making something of his life. Here he falls in love with Phil’s secretary, Vonnie (played with lackluster enthusiasm by Kristen Stewart).



 Sadly, unbeknownst to Bobby, shy and modest Vonnie has a huge secret hidden up her sleeve – that in the end takes over the film; the remainder of the plot is largely built on a love gone amiss story. Irony and coincidence totally turn romance on its toes; Bobby gets the shock of his life, but he moves on to become a big time partner with his gangster uncle Ben who has opened up a  posh nightclub in New York.



The great parts in this film are stolen in the side story of Bobby’s gangster brother Billy, along with Bobby’s two parents who get out the laugh lines in the script. Jewish humour accounts for the greatest laugh lines in the film 
One can only surmise that the reason for this film may be that Allen has been hit with an enormous hunk of nostalgia of an era long gone that he once experienced. Bobby portrays Allen without a doubt, but the film lacks punch and purpose. The ending scene offers a corny close-up on the two once-lovers (now living in different cities) looking dreamy-eyed as they think about one another (New Year’s Eve has just rung its bell). Both are at parties, lost in their own thoughts about the romance they once shared together. The fade-away is even cornier. Clearly, Allen’s sentimentality is allowed at his age (80) – as he too thinks back about his own youth now lost to those days. Thus far, the film has grossed seven million dollars – not exactly a box-office runaway.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Throne is Korean Film Royalty (Directed by Lee Joon-ik)







This moving cinematic masterpiece is a dramatically daunting story of father/son acrimony that pits King Yeonjo against his second son, Prince Sado. Set in the 18th-century during the Joseon era, this historical work reflects a  true shameful event in Korean history that lasted for some 35 years. King Yeonjo finds his artistic son a sorry disappointment. He is not interested in rules and decorum and dress etiquette, and so this rule-ridden royal leader deprives him of any kind of love, and ends up putting him in a box to starve. He dies on the eight day. The king ensures Sado goes down in history as no traitor – though he did consider taking his father’s life – but as a lunatic. This protects the continuation of the throne in the family and its integrity. This is a family fraught with power-hungry obsessions, mental illness and cruel actions of retribution that even those trying to save the prince endured makes this epic period piece a lingering Korean classic whose themes resonate far beyond Korea. The Throne garnered multiple awards in 2105, including best actresses, music, lighting – you name it – this film nabbed the honours. It was screened at New York’s Asian Film Festival and at Montreal’s Fantasia Festival in 2016.



58 Palette-Pleasing Food Trucks all over Quebec!



        PEDRO food app right on your cell for round-the-city feasting
July 19th

Food fans are going to fall for Pedro (no he’s not a Latin lover), just a pretty app for your cell phone that points the way to a great food truck serving up grand specialties in your Montreal area.  What a great idea! Brain child of Gaëlle Cerf and Guy-Vincent Melo – co-founders of  ARRQ, the Association des restaurateurs de rue de Québec (Quebec Food Truck Association) are providing 58 member trucks for residents of and visitors to Quebec cities; many are parked in Montréal  high volume neighborhoods.




Press on the Pedro app to locate your favourite one parked right in your area. Don’t be tricked into thinking, it’s a truck stop for fast food. Not at all! Premier quality food whose recipes as remarkable as your grandma’s are at your fingertips now with Pedro, and many of these trucks reflect some of the gourmet food served in their respective restaurants.
But not all trucks offer their own restaurant, so this is a great way to banish your famished side right on the street. Pedro not only locates restaurants for you, but lets you view the menu real fast and easily. “It’s a personal food-shopping assistant that knows you tastes, alerts you when one of your favourite food trucks is nearby, and even has a look-ahead feature to let you know which trucks are scheduled to be near your workplace,” said Gaëlle Cerf.

So here’s my look at three of the trucks that came for the PEDRO launch. First off, the food is crazy good and super healthy. I tasted delicious Mexican offerings from Mi Corazon’s tempting truck menu. Each sampling was tasty true to Mexican menu flavours. Using spices from Mexico, I sampled spicy Mexican sausages, dishes flowing with fabulous frijoles and cheese, corn dogs and Chipotte with fries and mayo. The names of the dishes are a hoot, such as Poutine “Dirty Martinez” and “Taco Donald Trump” 
As Rafael describes says, the latter:  “It’s mainly tongue and a little bit of brain” This dish is so original: pickled onion, beef tongue, tartar sauce, boiled egg, guacamole and capers. It’s probably the only place where Trump could win popularity! Lemon and strawberry and hibiscus drink was delicious. Eight exceptional dishes were served from Mi Corazon. Head chef, Rafael Martinez, whose parentage is both Mexican and French Canadian, is a “ multiple taco beau creator” –  four different ones offered the day of the launch from the Mi Carazon truck.
Then I moved over for more freshness and savoury tastings at the Landry et Filles truck. I was handed the beautiful buckwheat crepe I sampled. The buckwheat is grown in New Brunswick. My demure crepe was cooked on one side, making it single-sided crusty and on the other uncooked side – it was tender and soft. Fennel and lovely herbs topped salmon. Capers, salad, cream cheese and caviar accented the entire creation, and it was outstanding –  and all this from a truck. I also was served this stunning lemon cookie square covered in a sweet lemony hard coating. It was a royal winner.
 Finally, Super truck offers an assortment of great of…..Well, I’ll let that be your taste bud, served from-the truck surprise!
Pedro is “geolocatable” street food. It is available from the Apple Store and Google Play. Go get it, and enjoy your favourite food from a fun truck.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Reunion with Rufus and Martha Wainwright


Neither fame nor fortune can change those born with goodness in their hearts and  a soul full of family love.
There are some things that happen to you that only the goddess of surprise can arrange. N.S.

 Such is the stuff that fills this anecdote. About 29 years ago, shortly after I moved to Montreal from England, I gave a one-hour/one-time piano lesson at a private school across the street in Westmount. I recall 10 hands of kids were at the keyboard playing at the same time; it was a group lesson. I never did ask the names of the kids. I teach privately, so this lesson resembled a Barnaby Circus act.

That evening, I received a call from a woman named Kate McGarrigle. I had no idea who she was, but was taken aback when she revealed that her son, Rufus knew my first name and kept talking about me. I was waiting for a litany of complaints to spew out of her; as mentioned – that piano lesson was anything but impressive. Kate McGarrigle asked me to come and live in her home while she went on tour with her sisters. Kate told me she was a singer and often performed in Canada with her sister Anna. They were and still are a family of artistic genius that unites.

 Of course, I apologized for never having heard of her, and offered some lame excuse that I was a nerdy newcomer to Montreal – a piano teacher who was out of touch with the Montreal folk scene. I love children, and she seemed to be serious about this, so I consented. I felt honoured by her trust in me.

 So, I ended up living in her home and doing all the things she instructed me to do, including giving Rufus some piano lessons on their grand piano, and ensuring both children were fed, and got off to school ok. I enjoyed my time with these adorable children. I recall that the tour seemed longer than two weeks; it was in the early 80s. It was so long ago.

There was one gaff though that sticks out in my memory.
One day, a man came to the door wanting to be let in. But Kate was adamant that I let no one in other than her sisters.
Through the door, I told the man in a loud voice that I was not given permission to allow him entry or anyone else.

When he yelled, it’s their father, Loudon Wainright, and Rufus immediately assured me it was ok, I did. I suspect no one ever treated Mr. Wainwright in such a brusque manner. But I was just doing my “job.” Still, I felt rather ashamed.


What a joy it was for me to see Rufus and Martha again,  over three decades later – both  enjoying their stunning careers – both astoundingly original artists, and both still bonded  as sister and brother. (This was evident at the festival press conference). I had the great pleasure to hear them perform in their own concerts at this time.
Their stage presence, unique voices and compositions (Rufus presented segments of his beautiful opera, Prima Donna and sang as well – his piano playing is wizardly wonderful); Martha astounded me with the various tonal textures in her voice, her confidence and passion. I recall she was a shy little girl. Her half-sister Lucy also sang with her. So beautiful, one realizes this is a family born into music and the legacy continues. I feel humbled by having seen a side of these artists – short as the time was - when they were children.

Neither fame nor fortune can change those born with goodness in their hearts and a soul full of family love.

Whether they remembered me or not (Rufus seemed to recall it, mentioned the street), I really do not know; nor do I care – to be frank. What generosity they have; they were so gracious and kind when I spoke to them after their interview. Fame had not changed them.




Some reading this may accuse me of name dropping, trying to pluff up my own writing career even my sporadic singing performances.  Not so! We often forget that artists are human beings who are not averse to speaking to those of us who plod along, living normal humdrum lives, seeing again people you haven’t seen in ages brings a distinctly unique feeling of both joy and nostalgia. I felt humbled and happy to see how successful they had become without losing their home-spun gentleness and generosity – surely inherited from their late mother who had shown me her gentle trusting way those many, many years ago in more ways than one: upon returning from the tour, she insisted on giving me front row tickets to their concert, and she invited me to one of their rehearsals at another home. I felt so awkward and shy.

And to think that this all came about because of a single piano lesson with five kids playing at the same time!



AZOGIRES: Crete’s answer to the X-files


Azogires: one more bizarre name, one more tiny little village lost somewhere in the Cretan mountains in Southwest Crete high above Paleochora – a beautiful seaside town in Chania Prefecture.

 




Azogires is a village that will not attract your attention when looking at the map, but if you go, avoid doing so at night when there’s a full moon: fairies anticipate the coming of visitors; they will enchant you but also steal your their voice.



Azogires is an eerie village. Locals can’t  tell you for sure how many people really live in Azogires. The population census ranges between 40 and 400, depending on if you include the doves that carry the souls of the 99 Holy Fathers that lived here some centuries ago, or the flying cows that carry out their flights in the sky every night at 9.p.m.


It isn’t surprising that Azogires is known for its supernatural occurrences. After all, this is where St. John the Hermit lived. You can visit the cave he occupied for most of his life.

St. John wasn’t completely alone in his wide-mouthed hermit cave. Azogires was also blessed with the saint’s followers: 98 Holy Fathers came here to follow the teachings of their saintly hermit leader. One suspects that each of these fathers possessed powers beyond the ability of most ordinary folk. Ponder this: how many people are capable of living in a cave for more than a night?

The bones of the 99 Holy Fathers are kept in this box and they are supposed to have healing powers. These Holy Fathers spent their lives in a cave when not performing religious deeds on lower ground at Azogires. Those wishing to feel their presence can visit their cavernous domain.
As you behold the entrance to the dwelling where these great spiritual men once lived some 700 years ago, you must know this story: though the corporal beings of these 98 Fathers have vanished, their souls haven’t.
Azogires inhabitants attest to their spiritual presence in the afterlife in the form of 98 doves. These feathered friends appeared right after the death of the Fathers and continue to inhabit the cave. With your imagination in high gear, and your feet high above the village, it is not difficult to believe all the bizarre stories that float around Azogires.

Haunted Houses and Flying Cows

 

Are there 40 or 400 inhabitants of Azogires? The number seems to change depending on whom you ask. Evidently, Azogires residents are as elusive as the ghosts that circulate within in village areas.
There is no such thing as an ordinary stream, an ordinary valley or an ordinary house.
One house in particular has a ghost that prevents all women from bearing children, and if a family moves in their kids die. Azogires folk say this really happened.
Others claim to see in the forest near the monastery flying creatures that resemble cows. They supposedly appear every night at 9:00.

The Naiades’ Pool in Azogires. Can you see any?

About five minutes on foot past Azogire’s Alfa Kafenion, you’ll see on the left side of the road a path leading to Anidri village, and alongside this path, you’ll hear rushing water.


Descend to the watery spring that tumbles over rocks and creates successive pools for dipping into. You may feel you are quite alone, but if you go there at midnight, other eyes may be watching you.
They are not those of other bathers, for you are alone – or so you think. In fact, the bewitching midnight hour in Azogires brings Naiades to this little river in which you are bathing. You must not look for them or at them. Nor should you speak to one, for they will steal your voice. (Perhaps that is why the Holy Fathers used to gather here to pray before night descended).



These river nymphs adore freshwater and though they were chosen by the goddess Artemis – hunter and protector of nature – unlike her, they are immortal. The 20 that flit about Azogires’ little river knew grand company. They used to sit in on the Greek Gods’ discussions on Mount Olympus. So being in such illustrious company cannot be all that bad.
There is a fairy-like feel to this watery nook. I felt inconspicuous, pleasantly odd – like a little nymph myself swimming there. No one in Azogires will admit to having seen one of these five different types of Naiades, but isn’t it strange that some people in Azogires never speak. They nod, smile, frown and offer food without a word. Could it be the Naiades, not the cat got their tongue?! But can you see a fairy?



To Believe or Not to Believe

I was a non-believer for the first few days in Azogires. But something so uncanny, truly bizarre occurred, that from that moment on, I began to rethink all the haunts I had visited in the past few days.
Were those dragon flies by the nymph stream really turquoise and emerald green or was it my sun glasses? Were the bees really that big and why are they brown? Why did that brown animal that was half goat and deer suddenly appear at my side when I got lost on a mountain path? What about that really weird yellow bulbous flower that looked like an inanimate alien?

No need for Raki wine to get high in Azogires

I thought I was imagining things – maybe I had too much raki, too much sun, too many stories. Then the strangest event happened in a heartbeat. After making the dangerous ascent with a friend up to the Holy Fathers Cave, we both took reprieve, standing on a safe flat area to enjoy the panoramic view of Azogires’s awesome nature – most notably the dramatic promontories pounded with boulders in the form of humongous human faces! 

 

I felt elated. We were finally above it all. We felt powerful yet inspired. My companion took my hand, and I dared to let a strange idea enter my head. “What a lovely place to get married. It would be nice to bring a priest up here if ever the time comes,” I thought to myself.
Just then, in an instant, both us collapsed to the ground, falling exactly at the same time both on our rear ends in the exact same position, feet aligned with one another. We could have been a single entity. It was as if one of the Holy Fathers had pushed us full force from behind. We fell quickly and simultaneously without any warning. There we were standing silently and comfortably on the safest part one moment – then pulled down the next moment – dashed to the ground. We were humbled and spooked.
No doubt, you too will have your own story to tell after you visit Azogires. Take your pick: how about haunted houses, flying cows and Holy men long gone, but still remaining!



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Our Little Sister *** (directed by Hirokazu Koreeda)


                                                               
Although the intimacy of nature in the seaside Japanese village of Kamakura reflects the beauty of the three sisters’ bond in director's Hirokazu Koreeda’s 2015 film, it suffers from sentimentality; the story is soaked in syrupy scenes and flawed unlikely events.
Deep scars have carved some bitterness in Sachi, the oldest sister (stoically acted by Haruka Ayase) who has assumed the den mother role. The father, now passed had left his daughters for another woman, and their own mother then abandoned the children (this part of the plot is revealed in a confusing manner). The father had Suzu, another daughter who is about 14 when the film opens up. At her father’s funeral, Sachi invites her to come live with the sisters, and she does.
Sweet and idyllic, their life unfolds, and reconciliation has its final rewards when the sisters’ mother suddenly appears on the scene to attend a family friend’s funeral.

The film was based on the manga series; the story’s delivery is surely entrancing in magnificent manga animation from, but as a realistic film, it moves as slowly as the caterpillars in the plum trees by their seaside house.

Relationship films without credible and pithy drama risk the telescope effect – we stare out  at the screen, waiting for something exciting to happen. An interior-looking piece of majestic beauty with lovely music, it nevertheless lacks punch. Not a tear or chuckle was shed by the audience during its press screening in Montreal. Although I like plum wine, it spilleth over too much in this film too much was much in the ffilm. But it did receive a five-star rating when selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Lanaudière Festival gets off to a Tempestuous Start


                                                     
What a pity that the rain came down opening night of the Lanaudière Festival as it kicked off its 37th season on July 9. Perhaps, God simply wanted to get in on the “act”: the performance started with La Tempête, Fantaisie symphonique, op.18 by Tchaikovsky
 

Conducted by Gregory Vajda, the Lanaudière Festival Orchestra displayed a great sensitivity for the composition. Wondrous images of the sea and the elements above came flooding into our imagination; such was the brilliant nuances delivered by his conducting and the musicians. So many varied conditions of the sea played before us.
Mr. Alain Lefèvre then took to the ivories on the grand Yamaha piano to perform surely one of the most difficult concerts ever written: Tchaikovsky’s Concerto for piano No 1 in B Flat minor, op. 23
 














Mr. Lefèvre’s passion was expressed to its fullest; something few artists can do with this whirl-wind work. Staggering, near impossible feats of hyper-rapid ascending and descending octaves, along with the sudden quick cross-over of hands – just to mention two of the many super human demands made upon any pianist. And no matter his/her finger dexterity, few pianists are able to triumphantly master such inherent technical terror.
In fact, when the composer first presented it to the conductor, Nicolai Rubenstein on Christmas Eve, 1874, his response was: “It’s unplayable.” He also said: “worthless”. 
 

Of course, the entire world disagrees with that comment, and how lucky we all were to hear the great last night with Mr. Lefèvre giving it such extraordinary exuberance with Herculean technical prowess.
Intermission brought us the composer’s Romeo and Juliette overture-fantasy played with great feeling by the Lanaudière Festival Orchestra. 
Finally, Ottorino Respighi’s Feste Romaines offered a panoply of percussive and varied instrumental excitement as the work conjured up the clatter of public events: Circus Maximus, celebrations, the hunt during October and the cacophony and roar of the night with street life vendors and a rustic atmosphere of rudimentary goings-on. Even the barrel-organ has its “say” in this incredibly dashingly frantic piece.
After his performance, as Artistic ambassador of the festival, Mr. Lefêvre stated he was touched that we all came out in the rain to attend the opening night. I wouldn’t have missed it – rain or shine.

Crédit photos : Festival de Lanaudière©Christina Alonso