Coco Avant Chanel

I caught this biopic about famed French designer Coco Chanel (1883-1971) at a packed RPL Theatre last night. It stars French actress Audrey Tautou as Chanel, and focuses on the early part of her life. It begins, in fact, with her being dropped off with her sister at a convent at age ten. Raised from that point by nuns (whose austere black habits very definitely influenced her stripped down approach to fashion later in life), Chanel and her sister became cabaret performers after leaving the convent. Both caught the eye of French aristocrats, and lived for a time as kept women. Because of their low social standing, they were not considered to be marriage material, however, and Coco eventually spurned her lover and established herself as a much-sought-after hat and dressmaker in Paris where she began to build her fashion empire. Overall, definitely a film worth seeing, both from a fashion perspective, and for the insight it offers into the class system that existed in pre-WWI Europe. When the 2010 Academy Award nominations are announced Coco Avant Chanel should receive consideration for Best Foreign Language Film. It should also, unfortunately, be a shoo-in for a Hackademy Award (USA Today). Yeah, for that generation of women, smoking was a sign of rebellion. And Chanel was certainly a rebel. But to reinforce that I'm not sure it was necessary to show Tautou with a cigarette in practically every scene. Beauty, fashion, romance and cigarettes--overall, a pretty intoxicating mix. Anyway, here's the trailer for the film which plays tonight at the RPL at 9:15 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. (YouTube)

Saturday Anger-Making News Bummers

A couple short updates before I plunge back into the editing maelstrom.

First, yesterday the Supreme Court ruled on a Wal-Mart labour controversy. Followers of the story will recall the corporate department store chain shut down a Jonquière, Quebec store in 2005 after its employees formed a union. The employees howled union-busting but Wal-Mart said pffft, the store just wasn't profitable. The case slithered up the legal food chain to the Supreme Court--and yesterday that court ruled with Wal-Mart. So much for activist judges. (Montreal Gazette)

Second, freedom of speech fans have a new one to get worked up about. On Wednesday night a U.S. journalist was harrassed at the border by Canadian guards who, according to the reporter, obsessively demanded to know if she was going to talk about the Olympics while in Canada. Amy Goodman, the host of the U.S. radio program Democracy Now was travelling to speak at well-known radical terrorist institution the Vancover Public Library to promote her new book, Breaking The Sound Barrier. The incident stinks. It sounds like border guards were paranoid about criticism of the Olympics and wanted to stifle it. This is crap and there need to be a full investigation. Canada is not a country that should be harrassing journalists. You can read the Globe and Mail story here, and here's the blog entry on the Democracy Now website.

UPDATE: And here's a link to Rabble's comprehensive coverage, which includes audio of Goodman.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Wes Anderson's latest film is a stop motion animated version of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox - which opens in wide release this week.

Way, way back in 1930, Wladyslaw Starewicz, the grand master of animation created what was the sixth full length animated feature length film Le roman de Renard (The Tale of the Fox). It would have been the fourth, but it wasn't released until 1937 because of soundtrack problems.

The film is based on the old story about Renard the Fox. The film is beautifully animated and clearly the style influenced Anderson's latest film.

Pick of the Day: Saskatchewan Book Awards

Faces a little bit tougher competition than usual this weekend, what with the Riders playing in the Coupe Gris against the Montreal Alouettes in Calgary tomorrow, but for seventeen years now the Saskatchewan Book Awards have been a highlight of the fall arts calendar. MC'ing tonight's gala at Conexus Arts Centre will be CBC Radio's Sheila Coles. Guest-speaker is Saskatchewan-born and Alberta-based author Rudy Wiebe (pictured). Up for grabs will be fourteen awards. Many of the nominees this year are veteran members of the Sask-Lit community. Included in that number is prairie dog dining critic Dave Margoshes who is nominated for two awards (Regina Book and Poetry) for The Horse Knows the Way. Now I know what you're wondering. You've got Dave, he's a dining critic. He's writing about horses. Is there any chance -- No! None. Nada. Zilch.

Now, if we were called chien du prairie and were based out of Paris, or perhaps even Montreal, although that would probably be stretching it, the likelihood of there being a connection between Dave's book and his monthly column would be substantially greater. But we're a Regina mag. And while more exotic type meats are creeping onto the menus of Regina restaurants, horse, at least thus far, isn't one of them.

And no, I don't know what's on the menu at the pre-awards dinner tonight. Something quite tasty, I imagine. So good luck to all the nominees. It's not easy being a writer these days. If you delve into literacy stats, an astonishing 48 per cent of adult Canadians (according to one recent study), lack adequate prose and document reading skills, while almost 40 per cent of youth under 15 are similarly handicapped. Then there are people who are functionally literate, but more or less choose not to read. Still you, and us here at prairie dog, persevere.

To celebrate our obstinance, here's a the trailer for the 2000 biopic The Quills about the 18th century French writer Marquis de Sade starring Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslett. (YouTube)