The Revue Cinema is a Toronto institution. Originally opening in 1912, with a revitalization in 2006, the theatre has been bringing quality film programming to Roncesvalles Village for a very long time. It’s fair to say that almost all of the independent and repertory cinemas in Toronto are community-minded, but The Revue takes this to heart, programming a not only great movies on a regular basis, but interactive film events that allow the community access to a truly diverse slate of programming.
One of their most popular ongoing events is The Book Revue, a bimonthly screening that encourages attendees to read the book a film is based on before the screening so as to participate in a discussion of the two after the film. Ellen Moorehouse, one of the organizers of The Book Revue, says that The Book Revue came from the Revue Film Society’s desire to offer unique film experiences to the neighbourhood. “We always wanted to experiment with additional programming. We were looking to offer things that the neighbourhood would be interested in,” she says.
The evenings are hosted by a guest expert in the field of cinema. Frequently the events are hosted by local film critic and journalist Geoff Pevere, but they have had experts that include everything from The Jane Austen Society to a local Shakespeare historian come to lead the post-screening discussions to Atom Egoyan and Don Shebib.
For past Book Revues they have shown such diverse works as The Last Picture Show, Much Ado About Nothing, Pride and Prejudice, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Black Stallion, The Age of Innocence, and of course, The Shining. The Book Revue also hosted a special evening for the publication of Pevere’s book on Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Road.
Reading the books and watching the films are only the half the fun. Things really start to get interesting when the discussion starts, but Moorehouse is careful to note that the special guest is only there as a guide. “It’s a discussion of equals. It is a real discussion,” she remarks. “It’s interesting when Geoff does the post film discussion. He’s very interested in what the audience has to say, because it’s a very informed audience. They often bring up points and themes that he hasn’t considered.”
Moorehouse also notes that the comparison between the two – gaining a deeper understanding of the art of adaptation – was always part of the plan for The Book Revue. “It’s interesting to see what Hollywood has to do to make a film work, “she says, “That was the original theme of The Book Revue, to see what happens when you take a work from page to screen, what is the effect of omission, so all of those, that was one of the real ideas underpinning The Book Revue.”
When organizing the evenings themselves, Moorehouse says that it depends a lot on what is available. “There are fewer and fewer 35 mm prints. It’s a much better presentation than a DVD,” while she also notes that the other main considerations is “to offer a variety of books and films that we think a) people would be interested in reading and b) would like to see again.”
She also mentions that the films themselves are a big draw. “One of our most popular was A Single Man. It was Colin Firth and the film that really drew people. Strong films will spell whether the evening will do well or not.”
Beyond finding films with good prints that are available to a smaller theatre, the other main obstacle to programming a good evening is time constraints. “We screened The Godfather and that was a full night, because The Godfather is brutally long, and there was a really lengthy and interesting discussion after that,” Moorehouse says.
The Revue doesn’t let that stop them, however. In keeping with their very community-minded programming, they are beginning to work with their local Toronto Public Library branch in hopes of expanding the series. In specific, they are hoping to add an evening on detective fiction, a fascinating genre with a lot of social aspects to it, which they will alternate with their regular Book Revue programming.
The Book Revue returns on October 29, 2013 with a screening of The Third Man hosted by Toronto architecture critic Christopher Hume (it’s his favourite movie), and again on December 10, 2013 with Girl with the Pearl Earring, hosted by art educator Tina Urman.
Visit The Revue’s website for more details on these and upcoming Book Revues, as well as all their wonderful programming.
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