A night off

18 Jan

Nostalgia for the Light

Last night my wife and I thought we would go out on the town WITHOUT GOING TO A RESTAURANT… Save some money. See a movie. Have fun without eating.

“Let’s see this,” suggested Wendy. “Nostalgia for the Light. Peter Howell, film critic of The Toronto Star, writes that it might possibly be the most profound film he has ever seen.” It’s playing at the TIFF Lightbox. So off we go.

Love the Lightbox. A great building.  In fact, we just used it for a photo shoot for the coming issue of harry magazine. I’ve written before about Luma, the very good Oliver Bonacini restaurant on the second floor, but this was a restaurant-free expedition so I spared the room no more than a single wistful glance and we headed to the BlackBerry Lounge bar to wait for the movie. A glass of wine for each of us. Another glass of wine (we had over an hour to kill). And inevitably something on which to nibble – a $4 bowl of peanuts (huge and certainly containing more than $4-worth of warm, real peanuts), then an equally generous $4 bowl of green, brown and black olives, warmed and juicy, each one distinctively flavoured and textured. That hour slipped by. A sudden panic as we realized we only had a couple of minutes before the film began. Called for the bill. $80, including tip. Wha…??! Add the price of the tickets and we might as well have gone out to dinner.

Oh well. It is lovely, once in a while, to leave the house and not have to eat four to ten courses. The wines were delicious (as were the nuts and olives). And the film was truly extraordinary. It will surely stay with me as long as I live. I think the dozen or so people in the otherwise empty cinema would agree. It’s a documentary that links the astronomical study of the universe through telescopes in Chile with the despicable tragedy of Pinochet’s political atrocities, using that country’s Atacama desert as a fulcrum. The air there is the driest on earth, giving us the best view of the stars this side of Hubble. It also preserves human remains – mummifies them – letting us exhume pre-Colombian Indians reverently interred by starlight a thousand years ago or discover the bone fragments of Pinochet’s political opponents from the 1970s, their bodies raked up from mass graves by bulldozers, soon after they were buried, to be secretly dumped into the sea. Maybe.

All mirrors are time machines. The mirrors in astronomical telescopes are particularly powerful examples, bringing us images from just a moment or two after the creation of the universe. Pinochet murdered his tens of thousands of victims rather more recently, with the blessing of the CIA and the tight-lipped teatime smile of Margaret Thatcher wagging an admonitory finger at anyone who suggested something might be amiss in Santiago.

This coming Saturday I have to introduce Chilean and Argentinean wines to a merry group of wine aficionados at Massey College’s annual Wine Grazing, an event I always look forward to and enjoy. I’m just happy that we will not be opening any vintages from the Pinochet or Galtieri eras. How could they taste of anything but blood and bitter tears?



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  1. Barry Chaim

    January 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Always great to read your thoughts and experiences and to talk with you. All the best to Wendy. Smart girl, that one!