FILM REVIEWS: West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson and The Woman in Black

Portrait of a Canadian painter in West Wind and Radcliffe moved beyond the Potter days in The Woman in Black

Spring Ice by Tom Thomson

 

Portrait Of A Great Canadian Painter

With even his small landscape studies selling for up to a million dollars each, it’s obvious that iconic Canadian painter Tom Thomson is at a rarefied level indeed. A leading light of what became the Group of Seven after his untimely – and still mysterious – death in 1917, Thomson, his legacy, and the sometimes-austere northern landscapes that inspired him are insightfully explored in <I>West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson<P>. This award-winning documentary uses a mixture of historic footage, recreated scenes, the voices of actors Gordon Pinsent and Eric Peterson reading from the letters of Thomson and fellow painter A.Y. Jackson, and interviews with many contemporary curators and collectors. The result is a detailed and often fascinating portrait of one of our most beloved artists, one whose Post-Impressionist depictions of the wilderness around Ontario’s Algonquin Park helped Canadians cultivate a deep pride in our young country.

Most of the films on Thomson have tended to focus on his strange death (drowning or murder?) as well as the morbid question of whether his bones are buried at the family plot at Leith, Ontario or in the small graveyard at Canoe Lake where he died. <I>West Wind<P> is much more interested in Thomson the painter, and how a talented commercial illustrator followed his muse out into the wilds of Ontario and, in just a few years, morphed into a visionary painter whose vibrant and gloriously stylized canvases had a liveliness and colour to rival those of Van Gogh. Revelling in both the canvases themselves and the natural beauty that inspired them, <I>West Wind<P> is a must-see for fans of art and fans of Canada.

Rating: ***1/2

 

 

 

‘Harry Potter’ Goes For The Ghostly

Is there life after <I>Harry Potter<P>? For Daniel Radcliffe, the answer seems to be an equivocal yes. The actor who for so long played the boy wizard with a lightning-bolt scar on his cheek is now in his mid-20s. His current project is the gothic and ghostly <I>The Woman in Black<P>, a deliberately old-fashioned spookfest that takes place in an English village about 100 years ago. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a widower and London lawyer who has been sent to the boondocks to settle the affairs of the deceased owner of what is reputed to be a haunted house. When he gets there, it is clear that the locals want to see the back of him. And it’s equally clear that something is terribly wrong, particularly concerning the high mortality rate of children in the village. And then there is the eponymous black-clad lady, a spectral figure who seems to be a herald of death.

Whether it’s the eerie Victorian mansion full of wind-up toys that mysteriously come to life, or the grudging and suspicious locals, <I>Black<P> is an able pastiche of ghost movies from decades past. Relying on atmosphere instead of gore, the movie is almost genteel as it sets its traps for the audience, slowly getting a grip around those popcorn-passing throats with a tale of cruelty, madness, and revenge from beyond the grave. Anchored with a decent if rather glumly one-note performance from Radcliffe and a more complexly doleful one from Ciaran Hinds, this is lots of creepy fun.

Rating: ***

(West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson plays Sun.-Thurs., Feb. 12-16, at UVic’s Cinecenta; The Lady In Black continues at the Capitol, SilverCity & Westshore)

 

 

 

PERFECTLY POTABLE:

Is there any beverage more quintessentially Canadian than rye whisky? The high-end Crown Royal bottlings selling for over $100 are elegant sipping whiskies indeed. But those heeding the debt-avoiding words of Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney should look to Alberta Premium, which is a great bargain at $24. Highly praised by whisky guru Jim Murray, this spirit is 100% rye and made the old-fashioned way; it has a fruity, slightly sweet character and goes down smoothly indeed.

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