One of the best films at Cannes last month, The Pianist is beautifully told in a manner reminiscent of Truffaut or Merchant-Ivory. Based on fellow Canadian Anne Ireland’s semi-autobiographical novel, A Certain Mr Takahashi, Claude Gagnon’s film is a charming romantic drama that will certainly win praise and success on the specialized circuit. Deft marketing could see it break into wider release in some markets, although lack of star names will inevitably prove a stumbling block.
Yoshi Takahashi (Eiji Okuda) is an acclaimed Japanese concert pianist living opposite the Toronto home of two young sisters, and whose presence changes their upper-middle-class lives forever.
Less groupies than frolicsome teenagers, they watch and document his every move, planning how to attract his attention. As the girls grow up the relationship becomes more emotionally and erotically charged until eventually they share the same bed.
For Jean (Gail Travers), the introverted sister, this event spurs unfulfilled passion. When she learns that Yoshi has chosen her voluptuous sister Colette (Mascha Grenon) as a secret lover, she is driven to distraction.
A few years later, the family moves to a sumptuous new house
on Vancouver Island. Matters between the two sisters reach an emotional climax as Jean confronts her sister about the relationship with Takahashi.
Events are further complicated with the arrival of Cody (Maury Chaykin), an old friend of their father. The sad, self-destructive Cody finds himself drawn towards Jean, sharing with her the torment of losing a great love (Jean’s mother).
Heading an impressive cast, Travers and Grenon encompass the sisters’ passing years with infinite credibility . They are able to show their characters’ development from gawkiness to sophistication with subtle force.
Chaykin (Dances With Wolves, The Adjuster) adds to his gallery of supporting roles, while top Japanese star Eiji Okuda is fully convincing as idol, lover and pianist.
Appearing richer than it’s above -average budget of C$4.5m (3.9m), this sublime film has numerous layers including first love, betrayal and ancient versus modern romanticism.
The film was snapped up by Far Eastern and Latin American countries at Cannes, and is certain to figure prominently at major festivals throughout the year.
3948 Chesswood Drive, Downsview, Ontario, M3J 2W6 Tel: (416)663-9079 Fax: (416)638-5282
Aska Flim / At Work production.
International sales: Asks Flim. Prods: Yuri Yoshimura - Gagnon, Claude Gagnon. Dir/scr: Claude Gagnon Ph: Sylvain Brault. Mus: Andre Gagnon. Ed: Andre Corriveau. Cast: Gail Travers, Macha Grenon, Eiji Okuda, Dorothée Berryman, Ralph Allison, Maury Chaykin. Can. Reviewed at the Cannes Film Festival.
TONY CRAWLEY IN CANNES
Gail Travers is an actor and screenwriter who has appeared in a variety of theatrical and film projects. She is a member of ACTRA and SAG as well as a Canadian and U.S. citizen.