A writer observes the making of her friend's movie: watching Moze Mossanen's Canadian dance film, Roxana, come to life.

Location: Ontario, Canada

A Canadian writer, story editor and teacher of film and theology. Looking to integrate spirituality and the arts in a celebration and love of visual and written language.

Monday, January 16, 2006

roxana party & music notes

January plods on and this strange mild winter seems determined to stay despite all odds. Walking up Parliament on Saturday to meet Moze for dinner prior to the Roxana wrap party, I marvelled at the temperature - cold, but the cold of late autumn or early Spring. The occasional Christmas light was a quick reminder of the season that has only just passed and through a window I saw a Christmas tree, still bejewelled and twinkling despite the date.

Strolling past the Winchester Hotel, I glanced up at the second floor, home of the Laurentian Room where the wrap party would occur in just a few hours. (These are all pix from the party.) Known for its art deco markings and possibly the longest bar in the city, it also features a weekend burlesque show. A bouncer was already standing outside the side door, shivering and bouncing to stay warm.

Over dinner, Moze brought me up to speed on the early post-production of Roxana. He and editor Jeff Bessner (that's him on the right in the picture above)and Roberto met with composers Alexina Louie and Alex Pauk this week to talk about what comes next.

We screened each dance sequence and discussed the important beats and choreographic flourishes that Alex and Alexina will need to keep in mind when composing the new music, including tempo, mood, colour and texture: For the Chez Paree sequence, for instance, we discussed a more Latin feel along the lines of Luis Prima who was very propular in clubs at the time; a less foreboding and more bittersweet approach to Amy’s Solo and Mattress Quintet; and a smaller orchestral sound for the first Roxana/Susan duet.

He went on to explain that both Amy’s Solo and the Mattress Quintet are being held back until they are edited as they will be radically changed when the intercutting material is woven in. For Amy’s Solo, it is her point of view of Roxana and the Landlord making love which, in fact, informs her gestures, he explained, while in the Mattress Quintet it is Amy’s point of view again as she watches and takes photographs of Roxana’s lovemaking with Eliot and a coterie of other lovers. As the editing of these sequences might radically change both the content and length of the dances, we decided that it would be best to treat them as part of the dramatic scoring which will be done when the film is locked.

Specific musical themes for characters were discussed, particularly for Roxana and Susan. In Susan’s case, we will be taking our cue from the jewellery music box from which Roxana pulls out Susan’s photo as a young girl and remembers to herself the child she had given up. This theme would also be worked into each of the scenes (dance and drama) with Roxana and Susan. In the waltz section, I suggested that the two waltz duets (the first with Ted and the second with Rex) following the big waltz in the ballroom each need to be treated with a deepening sense of anxiety, as if things were spiraling out of control. As Roxana gets a taste of the good life and sacrifices nearly everything for material possessions, I wanted the music to reflect this feeling of moral compromise.

Although this order of creative development is highly unusual in a dance film project (most of the time, the music comes first and is the inspiration for the dance), the experimentation of this process allows for some very exciting discoveries. Moze remarked on the general level of excitement and everyone's universal feeling about how strong the footage seems to be.

The lattes imbibed, the mufflers were wound round our necks again for the short walk back up to Winchester and the party. And what a party! One end of the bar had been saved for the group who quickly filled the space and disappeared into the darkness of the space only to be lit by the occasional flicker of glass catching light. At 11:00 p.m. a spotlight fixed on a hoop hung from the ceiling and a burlesque dancer climbed into, soon beginning a balletic striptease. More dancers followed: a woman lap danced a customer, a man gyrated on the floor. The act finished with a singer, singing a torchy song that ended with her dress dropping to the floor. In a strange way it was fitting - we were hurled into where the character Roxana begins her story - the Chez Paree number belonged to this very world in a different era. These folks had no idea they were surrounded by some of the best dancers and performers in the country - who all seemed quite rapt. Rapt. Wrapped. Roxana lives and moves on, reinventing and connecting all her past and future lives.


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