Montreal Location Scouting with Ginger Coffey

I attended a rare screening of The Luck of Ginger Coffey (Canada, 1964) last Saturday, as part of the Cine Gael Irish Film series. It stars Robert Shaw, who was just beginning to be something (he shot this a year after he starred as “Grant” in From Russia with Love) and was directed by Irvin Kershner, who went on to an illustrious career shooting little-known space romps such as The Empire Strikes Back.

In brief, The Luck of Ginger Coffey (Wikipedia) is the story of an ambitious but somewhat misguided Irish immigrant to Montreal in the early 1960s. Ginger Coffey is a master of well-meaning but destructive lies and misdirections, as he wages a tug-of-war between telling his wife and teenage daughter that yes, the Montreal experiment is over and we’ll soon be back in Dublin, while simultaneously chasing down his next big opportunity. The fact that he cannot afford return passage further complicates things and makes his situation even more desperate.

The film is based on a Brian Moore novel of the same title (Moore also penned the screenplay). I read the novel a couple of years after I moved to Montreal, and I found a lot of myself in that character, as I too was an outsider with great but unfulfilled ambitions, and was at a loss as to how to go on.

Ginger is almost delusional in his desperation to find legitimate and meaningful work that provides good appearances. When he hears of an “assistant to the sales manager” position all he hears is “manager.” When told about a proofreading job, he says “so it’s like an editor then,” to which he is told “it’s sort of a sub-editor.” By the end of the conversation Coffey is convinced the “sub-editor” job is “only temporary” (which is essentially his catch-phrase for the entire film) and he proceeds to tell his wife that he’s been hired as an editor.

This is a very Montreal film in that the city does not stand in for elsewhere. It is set, and filmed over a Montreal winter, with plenty of cold and wet black-and-white exterior shots from various places around the city. On such occasions it is fun to location-check those shots; some were easy to identify, and others less so.

After the screening I took advantage of the tools of our modern times to do a bit of research, and I’ve identified some of the key locations, as indicated below.

The Coffey’s first apartment

This is on Drummond, above Sherbrooke. The old redstones are gone now, but the large apartment building is still there.

Tight view:
house on drummond

Wider view:
wider view

Google Street View:
street view

Ginger’s apartment at 1221 rue Plessis

This one was easy, as Ginger gave his address at his arraignment for indecent exposure (see the film for details on that). He said “1221 Plessis Street,” and indeed that is the address of the location used. It’s between Ste-Catherine E. and René-Lévesque.

Stairs view:
1221 Plessis

Balcony view:
21221 Plessis balcony

Google Street View:
street view

Vera Coffey’s Apartment

This is on Square Saint-Louis. Specifically, the building on the north side of Laval and Prince-Arthur. The walking route they took to arrive there makes no sense; they walked through the west side of Square Saint-Louis, in a north-east direction, then turned and crossed Ave. Laval near the intersection at rue du Square Saint-Louis (north side), then doubled-back on Laval. But that’s cinema for you.

High view of Square Saint-Louis:
square saint-louis

Crossing Laval:
square saint-louis

Google Street View:
street view

Entrance to the apartment:
entrance

Wide view:
laval and prince-arthur

Google Street View:
street view

Newspaper Presses

A few times we see Ginger step outside of his workplace at the fictional Montreal Tribune and pause for a moment against a bank of windows where you see newspaper presses chugging away. I’m pretty sure this is the old Gazette building on Saint-Antoine near Bleury.

In the first screenshot below, you see Ginger rounding a corner with a large round column barely visible except for the light reflection. The next shot is him with his back to the presses; the large column is just out-of-frame to his left. That building is now a hotel, but I recall seeing the press machines behind those windows back in the 1980s. You can see the column in Google Street View.

The column:
gazette 1

The presses:
Gazette

Google Street View:
street view

Scene of the Crime

Ginger’s fateful call of nature occurred while he was waiting for a bus in front of the Windsor Hotel. He went around the corner onto rue Cypress to find a darker and quieter spot to relieve himself. Specifically, he seems to have done the deed in the doorway of what is now 1100 rue Cypress.

Side of the Windsor Hotel:
crime scene

Google Street View:
street view

Palais de Justice

This one shouldn’t be hard, but for some reason a lot of Montrealers don’t recognize the Palais du Justice on rue Notre-Dame. Perhaps it’s because it’s set back from the street a bit so we don’t notice it, or maybe it is overshadowed by the magnificent Ernest Cormier building across the street that houses the Appeals Court but for me will always be the place where Jane Fonda had a moment in Agnes of God. But there it is, unchanged, in all its neoclassical glory.

Tight view:
palais de justice

Google Street View:
street view

You can watch The Luck of Ginger Coffey yourself on YouTube, although the highest resolution is 480p.

Jane Austen with Kittens

You’ve probably heard of this movie that mashes up Jane Austen and Zombies. Well, there’s a story unfolding around our house that feels like something out of a Jane Austen story, but it involves kittens.

If you haven’t been following the kitty situation chez nous, here’s a quick recap: In spring of 2016 a local feral cat had kittens. The mother and kittens became regular visitors to our back yard over the summer, and as the months wore on we socialized the kittens (Phoebe and Fiona) and finally brought them into the house in November. The mother is friendly but too feral to adopt. We already have a grumpy 14-year old black cat named “the Mini.”

So what happens when you bring two spry young female kittens into the house of a 14-year-old neutered male cat? You’d think nothing, owing to the gonad-free life that the Mini has been living since George W. Bush was President. But apparently not.

You see, one of the kittens — Phoebe — has been madly in love with the Mini since the beginning, before we even let them into the house. Last summer, when they were wild and living outside, Phoebe, Fiona, and their mother appeared on the deck several times a day. If the Mini was sitting in the patio doorway, Phoebe would rush up to the door and go nose-to-nose with him through the screen, purring madly. While the other two cats displayed a mixture of mild interest and utter indifference to this black furball who lived in the mysterious world on the other side of the patio door, Fiona was enthralled and would rush to see and sniff him whenever she could.

The Mini showed no interest, even by October, when the kittens started coming inside occasionally, nor in November when they moved in permanently. He would either ignore Phoebe’s eye-batting and snuggly invitations or actively swat her away. So it looked as though we’d have no real trouble with these as-yet-unspayed kittens, until Fiona — who had previously showed no interest in the Mini — went very explicitly into heat.

The G-rating quickly took a dive, as Fiona turned her eye on the Mini. And not just her eye; her modus operandi was to turn her tush on Mini’s face in a presentation so brazen and vivid that I expected the Vice Squad to burst through the door at any moment. Mini responded by biting her on the back of the neck, arching his spine, and assuming a position that would be referred to as “mounting” except that his aim is off, and despite the humping and yowling their naughty bits rarely seemed to be in the same ZIP code.

According to my research, a female cat stays in heat for a few days, then is done with it until the next time. But Fiona has apparently not consulted Wikipedia because she’s been in a state of heat — whether real or imagined — ever since, without a break. As a result, this furry tango with the Mini happens at least three times a day, sometimes at meal times, which is highly disturbing to the mood, and I find myself sitting there over dinner with cat screwing sounds drowning out the Spotify playlist, thinking “the only thing missing is the banjo kid from Deliverance.”

But where does that leave Phoebe? For the first few weeks, she would just sit there, eyes agog, as the love of her life ravaged her sister — or perhaps more correctly, ravaged the carpet while hunched over her sister. Unlike the copulations of apes, this furry yowling would go on and on, for what seemed like hours. Phoebe’s unrequited love was tragic to witness, which means, in Victorian romance tradition, it can only get worse. And it did.

Early in January, Phoebe finally caught on to this “heat” thing, and started slinking around the Mini with a whole new slutty look in her eye. Unfortunately she’s a bit of a klutz in the romance department, and she can’t quite bust the right moves. Whereas Fiona simply sticks her tush in the Mini’s face until he catches a whiff and springs into action, Phoebe prefers to slither alongside him and to roll over and purr like, well, a thing in heat. The Mini’s response is either to walk away or to growl at her and then walk away.

There is no happy ending yet; the house is a den of exploitation and sorrows. I hope this will be resolved “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” style by sexually lobotomizing the kittens under the veterinarian’s knife, after which we can go back to the usual snuggles and hisses.

Missing the Point(s)

Yesterday, millions of women and men in the United States and around the world came out to march against the Trump presidency. The reaction among the Trumpists was predictable. I am shocked, however, to see the extent to which otherwise reasonable people — mostly not even Trump supporters — have piled onto the bandwagon of “where were these people on voting day?”

That bandwagon and the thinking behind is so wrong, so unbelievably wrong, that I am almost rendered speechless. Fortunately I can still type, so here is why that sentiment is wrong and completely misses the various points behind yesterday’s Women’s March.

(1) Your math is wrong

You seem to think that if all those protesters had simply voted against Trump on election day, that Trump wouldn’t have won and they’d have nothing to complain about. First off, who says that the people in the marches are the ones who didn’t vote?

The low voter turnout is irrelevant. The people who marched are most likely the people who did vote. After all, if you’re too lazy to vote you’re probably too lazy to go to a march. While we will never be sure about the actual percentage of marchers who did or didn’t vote, assuming that even half of them were vote-skippers is naïve in the extreme (see above point about laziness).

Even with the most pessimistic of voter turnout numbers, that still leaves tens of millions of U.S. citizens that voted against Trump, many of whom we saw yesterday.

(2) Your assumption about sour grapes is wrong

Your gripe implies you think the point of the march was to complain about the outcome of the vote. No, that’s over and done with. Although many questions remain unanswered about the role of Russia, and the “popular vote vs. electoral college” question remains forever in purgatory, the objective of the Women’s March was not to complain about losing.

The objective was to state loudly and clearly that although the election is a fait accompli, there is much about Trump, the Trump cabinet nominees, and other aspects of the Trump Machine that is already worthy of protest. The lies are as thick as ever, the inauguration speech was downright frightening, the ethical problems with Trump, his family, and his nominees are eye-popping, and his presidency is only a day old.

People against Trump could see this coming. It is absolutely known among clear- and objective-thinking people (both democrats and republicans, as well as people from around the world) that the Trump presidency is a disaster in the making on multiple levels. The Women’s March was protesting the on-coming train wreck, not the vote count.

(3) You don’t understand democracy

You seem to think that democracy involves going out to vote every four years and then just rolling over and letting your elected dictator do whatever he or she wants. No. This is not the Soviet Union. This isn’t the Vatican. Democracy doesn’t end at the ballot box; that’s where it begins.

In a properly functioning democracy, those who are elected are not granted short-term dictatorships. They are accountable to the people from the day they enter office until the day they leave. The people speak through the media, through the various committees and organizations that actually run the country, and through direct action (read: protests).

That’s how it works. It doesn’t stop. Yesterday we saw millions of people come out and say “No.” These people are holding Trump accountable for what he says and what he does, and yesterday’s march sets the tone for the next four years.

If you are against Trump and against the Women’s March, then I don’t know how you can even see straight given the cognitive dissonance that must be ravaging your brain right now. Unless, that is, there is something in your view of democracy that makes you think it’s just a once-every-four-years inconvenience and in the interim you’re happy to be lorded over and dictated.

In Trump’s inauguration speech he said “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.” Boom. That, right there, is the reason for the Women’s March on Washington (and its avatars around the world). The people standing up to the government, demanding to be heard.

(Published simultaneously on Facebook.)

The (alleged) Truth Behind Episode Six of “The OA”

SPOILER NOTICE! (Not quite an “alert” as this post doesn’t contain any significant spoilers.)

The OA” (Netflix original series) is a bit like “Stranger Things” but for slightly older people and with cuss words and nudity. And it’s trippy. Very trippy.

The series is composed of eight episodes, and when we watched episode six last night we were surprised that it clocked in at only 31 minutes. Previous episodes have been 60 minutes, give-or-take a few.

My first thought was that Netflix had messed up and truncated the episode, but a check of the episode running times confirmed the short duration. I Googled around to see if there was a reason for it, and was surprised to find almost no one mentioning the inexplicably short episode. I finally found a Reddit thread where someone claimed that Zal Batmanglij, the show’s co-creator, has said that they did not feel the need to be constrained by conventional television time slot durations; that they preferred to have flexibility in episode lengths in the same way that chapters in a novel are not constrained to specific page counts.

Fair enough. It makes sense, given that Netflix is watched entirely according to the viewer’s schedule, so there’s no need to fit into time-slot boxes. But then I looked at the durations for all episodes in the series:

Episode 1: 71 minutes
Episode 2: 58 minutes
Episode 3: 60 minutes
Episode 4: 64 minutes
Episode 5: 61 minutes
Episode 6: 31 minutes
Episode 7: 41 minutes
Episode 8: 50 minutes

Notice that the first five episodes are pretty much locked into a one-hour duration (with the exception of the first, which runs an hour and 11 minutes, but it’s not unusual for a first episode of a series to run a bit long). Then there’s a dramatic shift at episode six, to 31 minutes. The concluding two episodes are 41 and 50 minutes.

So we’re supposed to believe that the show creators did not want to be constrained to traditional time-slot durations, but this creative freedom only kicked in after the fifth episode?

No. I’m not buying it. Here’s what I think happened:

We know that the show sometimes goes off into very trippy dimensions, which is usually balanced by the more grounded parts that take place in the abandoned house and the abandoned mine. We also know that the show has received mixed reviews, with some viewers giving up after a few episodes because they were turned off by the trippy bits.

I suspect that the last three episodes were originally about an hour in duration, but were even trippier than the first five. When the Netflix programming executives saw the finished product they demanded cuts to the extra-trippy bits in those last three episodes because they though it was over-the-top and would cause viewers to bail. (As it stands, there are plenty of accounts of people bailing, even after the alleged cuts, due to a sense that the show had gone “off the rails.”)

I further speculate that the show creators don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them, so they have not complained and have come up with this story about freedom from the constraints of conventional formats.

It’s pure speculation of course, but I’m sticking to it, and perhaps one day the official story will change, at which point all you nay-sayers can send me a “You were right” card with a dollar in it.