Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Larry Weinstein Film Retrospective: Two Days of Larry

Text and photos (c) Robert Barry Francos

Director Larry Weinstein, born in Toronto from parents who moved there from Brooklyn, NY, has made 25 films so far (his 26th in post-production), so far all but one music related. His works include, in no particular order, Mozartballs, Beethoven's Hair, Ravel's Brain, and The Music of Kurt Weill: September Songs (which he confided he agreed to do specifically so he could work with Lou Reed).

His latest project, and the only non-music one, is Inside Hana's Suitcase, a touching and gripping documentary mystery about how a suitcase lent by the Auschwitz Museum in Poland to an elementary class in Japan learning about the Holocaust, led to a search of its Czech owner, Hana Brady, eventually leading to a member of her family in Toronto. It's a fascinating mix of document, reenactment, and in the end some very touching moments mixing life and death, narrated mostly by the principals involved, and of the students. It's both a cautionary tale and one of redemption and hope.

At the Broadway Theare in Saskatoon on September 21, 2010, Larry Weinstein and Hana's brother, George Brady, talked to the audience after a showing of the film. In fact, this was the start of a three-day retrospective of Larry's films, and others that his company released, such as Blindness and The Red Violin. After the film, both Larry and George were there to answer questions from an enthusiastic audience. Unfortunately I had my smaller camera with me, so the pictures were, well, unusable.

The next day, October 22, at the University of Saskatchewan, Larry gave a Master Class titled Depicting Music on Film: One Filmmaker's Personal Obsession. It was to last for two hours, and it was Weinstein showing clips from a number of his films. George Brady was there in the audience as well.

As I got there early (being the first), I asked Larry and George for a photo together, and we found ourselves next to a sign for the university. We talked briefly about Brooklyn, his films, and life on the road, as he set up the technological aspects of the class.

When the session started, he was introduced by professor Lesley Biggs, and Larry easily kept the audience interested, even through a fair amount of technical glitches with the DVDs. There were a number of clips from of his films (except Inside Hana's Suitcase, as it was screening the next night for a second showing), each lasting about ten minutes (7 of the 10 he brought were shown). At the end was included a few scenes from his upcoming release, a comical opera about former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, tentatively titled Politics is a Cruel Opera (though it may be changed to the more direct Mulroney: The Opera). The class ended up lasting nearly three hours, and everyone there were riveted throughout.

What's clear and interesting is that even if one is either unfamiliar with the musical content or subject of the film, they are imaginative enough to keep the viewer riveted, as he explores what killed Beethoven, Ravel's inner-cranial surgery, and a woman who believes that Mozart's spirit has literally entered her body.
George Brady and Larry Weinstein before the class began.
Lesley Biggs and Larry Weinstein.
Lesley Biggs introduces Larry Weinstein.
Class is in session.
George Brady and Lesley Biggs attentive in the audience.

Special thanks to Larry Weinstein for some corrections!

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