Across from the Hotel Intercontinental an abstract metal sculpture is suspended in a rectangular pond almost a block long. It’s twilight and the fading sunset hits sparks off the metal and we stop to watch. Suddenly there’s a wosh and mist seeps from nowhere, billowing up until the art disappears. Five, ten minutes more and then the mist itself is gone, melted like whipped cream. In its place, tongues of flame lick a ring around the statue in the pond, then all the water is burning and it’s crazy beautiful and you feel like cheering.Earth, wind, and fire – a fitting sound and light welcome to Montreal where public art is deemed so essential to the city’s vibrancy that one percent of the budget for all new construction must be earmarked for its creation.Strolling up the Rue St. Catherine to the Parisian, a gem of a cinema just restored to its Art Deco chic, our 9to5 passes to the Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF) around our neck flutter in the breeze like tickertape. It’s a balmy evening at the end of summer and there is something so young and exuberant about gliding from art house to art house that we are convinced there is no place better in the world to be than the 30th MWFF.
Begun in 1977, its organizing principal was both to showcase cinema by important directors like Paul Cox of Australia, Theo Angelopoulos of Greece, and Ingmar Bergman of Sweden, while also introducing audiences to films from Asia, Africa and Latin America not ordinarily screened in the US. The festival was first to include a Chinese film in its World Competition, along with an entire Latin America section with entries from Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. At the 2006 festival, it unspooled over 215 features and 194 short and medium-length films from 76 different countries. One hundred and six features got their world or international premieres at the festival; 58 had their North American premieres, and 34 their premieres in Canada. A plethora of student films are also entered into competition, and classic films are shown free outdoors. All were on view in several cinemas within easy walking distance of each other, and shown in their original languages, as well as subtitled in English and French.
The MWFF is your chance to preview films that probably won’t debut at your local art house, while mingling with directors and actors who introduce the films and take questions at public press conferences. This year, actress Kathy Bates was on the jury. Because US audiences generally want films dubbed, releasing subtitled films in cities other than New York, Washington, and LA is usually hard. As a result, only about 20 percent of the films at the MWFF ever get general world-wide distribution.
After a day of viewings, make time to devour some of Montreal’s extraordinary cuisine in restaurants that seduce both eye and palate.
La Maison VIP, 1077 Rue Clark, (514) 861-1943 has an extensive menu more authentic than most, is inexpensive, clean and has a good word-of- mouth reputation. Locals can probably direct you if you get lost.
Milos (www.milos.ca) A favorite of luminaries like Madonna, politicos and headliners from the MWFF, Milos is the first of three fine-dining establishments created by George Spiliadis. The others are Milos New York and Milos Athens. Spiliadis’ mission was to elevate Greek cuisine to gourmet standards and to feature organic vegetables and the freshest seafood flown in daily from seaports around the globe. His cooking methods are simple and understated, allowing the flavor of the ingredients to speak for itself. The restaurant is hung with vibrant paintings of Greek villages and the service and wine list superb, but the acoustics make conversation challenging.
AIX Cuisine Du Terroir (www.aixcuisine.com)
Opened by Chef Janick Bouchard in November 2003, AIX Cuisine Du Terroir snared the 2004 Prix du Jury and quickly positioned itself as top dog in fine dining. Located at street level in the sophisticated Hotel Place D’Armes, this intimate and ultra chic dining room is Bouchard’s second and newest. The menu is French, the creations novel but happily not extreme, and the lunch, in particular, well-priced. Bouchard also operates Restaurants Les Remparts, another trendy restaurant located in the converted basement of the Auberge du Vieux-Port.
For ticket and program information, visit
www.ffm-montreal.org. Find accommodations and other tourist information at www.tourism-montreal.org. The festival normally runs late August through early September.
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