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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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This week in Movies...

Last night I attended a screening at the Toronto Free Gallery of Ron Mann's 1994 documentary on Rochdale CollegeDream Tower.

Rochdale College was a student residence at U of T meant to be an experiment in open education, run by the students living there. When it opened in 1968, hopes were high and applications many. But after a promising start problems set in. The building began to fill up with free-loaders and hangers-on (some of them hippies recently chased out of Yorkville) who were just using the place to crash and hide out, drug dealers started using it as a distribution point, and a flawed financial plan meant they couldn't even make the mortgage, let alone pay for any education programs. After many small incidents and one spectacular police raid/riot, it was closed down in 1975.

Also shown was another NFB documentary Flowers on a One-Way Street about the aforementioned hippies trying to get Yorkville Avenue turned into a pedestrian mall in the early 1960s. One of the great ironies in the film was that a lot of the traffic problem in Yorkville was cause by sightseers out to check out the hippies. There's a long sequence filmed in Toronto City Hall where the leader of the group were trying to deliver a brief on their position, and the endless nitpicking by one board member in particular determined not to give them a chance to do so. I though it was interesting that the only two women on the committee seemed more than willing to hear what they had to say.

The Free Gallery is current exhibiting the top contenders and the winners in a design contest for new manhole covers for Regent Park, designed on three themes: water values, storm drains, and sanitary drains. Some of them are quite fun, although the artists should have taken the medium into full account, but can't replicate gradual shading in stamped steel (the winner all had strong lines).

Tuesday was a free showing of the new Tony Jaa (of Ong Bak fame) movie at the Royal, The Protector. Us Kung Fu Friday disciples could get free passes before hand, although they opened the theatre up the day of the showing. Jaa's elephant is stolen, and he goes to Sydney to get it back. Much leg-breaking (literally, the "crunch" sound of breaking bones must have been played 40 times) ensures. Jaa is not a great actor, he doesn't have anything near the easy charm of Jackie Chan, but boy can he fight. The highlight of the picture is what is being billed as one of the longest unbroken fight scenes ever when he charges into a hotel and throw an endless number of bodyguard thru furniture as run up the staircases and around the balconies of a huge atrium. This was the "international" version of the film, which means its 27 minutes longer than the North American version will be. Apparently, among other things they'll cut out all reference to the main bad girl being a transsexual.