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Stories We Tell

film stories we tellIn 2006, Canadian actress Sarah Polley directed Julie Christie to an Oscar nomination and herself to a variety of writing and directing awards for her feature debut, Away From Her. Now Polley turns to the documentary format in Stories We Tell, which is essentially a glorified home movie about the filmmaker's family and a potent secret buried for years in its collective past. In circling around her quarry, a family rumor, a joke, really, that she decides to investigate, Polley attempts to give her subject universal appeal by stressing the theme of communal family storytelling, and the places where family story and true history either converge or split apart.

And the Polley family story she tells certainly has dramatic impact, once the truth is finally untangled from the myth surrounding it. Still, the viewer might agree when Joanna Polley, one of four other siblings interviewed in the film, laughs, "Who cares about our family?" Sarah Polley's claims that her film taps into something universal in the family experience, yet we wonder if this story really needed to be told outside her immediate clan. The film centers on the relationship between her father, reflective, solitary Michael Polley, and the vivacious life-force that was her mother, Diane; they met as stage actors in Toronto (although Michael claims Diane fell in love with a part he was playing). What seems to begin as a daughter's quest to get closer to the mother she barely knew becomes a portrait of love, lies, disappointment, regret, and a nugget of family intrigue with surprising repercussions. We also see how filmmaker Polley has overlaid her own layer of secrets and lies, although this is not revealed until the last 15 minutes of the film. Polley demonstrates her command of film language; these seamless additions are ingeniously done, inviting us to question the act of storytelling itself and the elusive nature of "truth." But it also feels a bit like cheating, as if Polley couldn't resist fictionalizing some portion of the material for public consumption. It also feels like her attempt to graft on a punchier thematic finale for the film, after her family revelation runs its course. Although it can be poignant and wryly humorous, the film mostly plays like an evolved episode of reality TV. (PG-13) 108 minutes. (★★1/2)

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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