Photo by Kyle West

By: Natalie Clark

When the quaint and beloved Westdale Theatre closed down in early 2017, residents of the Westdale community and many McMaster students were especially upset. Although fairly run down, the Westdale had been the community’s hot spot for Friday night dates, Hollywood’s must-see films and the best popcorn in town for as long as anyone could remember.

On Feb. 14, the Westdale community celebrated the long-awaited re-opening of the Westdale Theatre. Guests were told to dress in period attire for a special event accompanied by cocktails and a screening of the 1942 classic, Casablanca. The event also featured a silent auction, where guests could explore the new and improved venue while admiring local Hamilton art.

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With searchlights lighting up the night sky and a red carpet gracing the floor of the doors of the theatre, the Westdale certainly dressed to impress for their grand re-opening. The 350 ticket event sold out in two weeks.

For the past 30 years, the Westdale was owned by an elderly man in Toronto. It wasn’t until he passed away that his family put the theatre up for sale, allowing new owners to claim the theatre, known as the Westdale Cinema Group.

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“An enormous amount of changes were made… the theatre was in terrible condition, we spent 2.5 million dollars restoring it,” mentioned Fred Fuchs, chairperson of the Westdale Cinema Group.

“Besides equipping it with state-of-the-art projection, screens, new seats, new sound, new acoustic panelling, we also had to completely redo the air conditioning and the heating, the electrical system, the roof, the bathrooms — it was a complete overhaul of the entire theatre,” said Fuchs.

About two years later, the Westdale Theatre is back open for business, and the community is thrilled. Westdale resident and Silhouette alumnus, David Simpson, had one word to describe the re-opening event, “fabulous”.

“I think that the re-opening will be great for Westdale and for McMaster too, creating a hub for the community,” said Simpson.

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Members of the Westdale community are thrilled about the re-opening of the theatre but are also admiring the other advantages that the theatre welcomes to the community.

“It’s wonderful to see it revitalized, and to see hundreds of people in the theatre is great,” said Vivian Lewis, a member of the Westdale community.

“I think that the theatre is going to bring a diversity of films to the community,” mentioned Lewis. “Right now in Hamilton we just have lots of box theatres that are showing the same thing on every screen, and so this theatre will be our chance to see more art films and more alternative films that aren’t currently available in Hamilton.”

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Aside from standard film movies, the Westdale Theatre will also be hosting frequent live music shows, talks, performances and other special events.

“I’m excited about the idea that it’s not just a movie theatre anymore and that it’s also performance based,” said Sue Trerise-Adamson, another Westdale resident.

“I think that is a really good idea, and it expands all the possibilities of the theatre… I think it’s a real anchor for the whole community of Westdale,” mentioned Trerise-Adamson.

Westdale locals have already begun visiting the theatre for their regular screenings and are grateful to have the theatre back in the community.

Experience the new and improved Westdale Theatre on your own and check out all available screenings and shows on their website: https://www.thewestdale.ca/now-playing/

 

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The Artist
Starring: Jean Dejuardin
Directed by: Michael Hazanivicus

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Myles Herod
Entertainment Editor

On the surface, The Artist is a familiar story. Love, loss, redemption – you get the idea. Its trait of distinction, mind you, is that it dares with two cinematic no-no’s in the face of anxious modernity: silence, and black and white.

This year’s Best Picture winner is a nostalgic ode to Hollywood’s dawn, where acting came from the body and the screen gushed with monochromatic silver and shade.

No film comes easy, and it is this painstakingly constructed risk that gives The Artist its elegance and purpose.

Unusually, the inter-titles (vital of the pre-sound era it mimics) are scarce, leaving the film’s director to conduct solely between musical cues and two sparkling performances.

Hollywood, 1927. Tinseltown’s golden boy, George Valentin (Jean Dejuardin, in his Oscar-winning role) is impervious to failure. Adored by the masses, his swashbuckling stature comes as no fashionable fluke – he dances, he emotes and he seduces, too.

Paired with a capering canine, both man and dog conquer the industry, appeasing public appearances with comedic jest while subsequently obstructing their co-star’s kudos.

Nevertheless, his star burns bright. Looking closely, one will see that Jean Dujardin’s face is etched with ‘classic’ features – undoubtedly the film’s secret weapon.

A finely drawn mustache akin to one Douglas Fairbanks (on which the portrayal is loosely based), a dapper smile and certain machismo to boot, the film absorbs his radiance and projects it to screen, making the silent, black and white film work for a 2012 world.

One day, amidst the rallying onlookers of his latest première, a spontaneous ‘meet cute’ ensues. Surrounded by  the surging press and crackling cameras, fate places casual fan Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) alongside George, who instantaneously ceases the magic moment to prop his swaggering ego.

Sensation transpires as the tabloids scream, ‘Who is George’s new girl?!’ Sensing a good thing, he and producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) agree to include Peppy in their next picture.

Attraction blossoms, and the married Valentin soon adopts the role of mentor to the rising starlet, taking her under his wing.

Inevitably, as The Artist reaches 1929, the advent of ‘talkies’ erupt on Hollywood’s lawn, in turn threatening Valentin’s career while propelling Peppy’s.

Persuasion does little to convince him that sound is the future. Self-absorption finds George foolishly financing a silent ‘last hurrah’ as director and star, unknowingly setting himself up for an inescapable fall from fortune and fame, ultimately alienated by his own talkie-phobia.

The film’s look is tightly gelled and charming – much like George’s debonair dress, or its deco decor.

No doubt The Artist is a beautiful looking picture. Trudging deeper, it is also cleverly crafted, sonically challenging our perceptions when real sounds are used for dramatic effect.

Above all else, The Artist is a silent movie. Commend director Michael Hazanivicius for not having compromised, where the word ‘homage’ could have easily come ascribed.

Instead, it is an engaging love triangle between Hollywood and two people who meet within its pivotal years, one representing the old guard (Barrymore, Fairbanks, etc.), the other the future of cinema (Hepburn, Davis).

I liked The Artist because it worked. Indeed it delivers in the face of detractors, with the absence of colour and sound as endearing as the three words that started it all: lights, camera, action!


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