Toronto stars as itself in Cohen-inspired film

And you’ll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your  wrist
Oh my love, oh my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz
It’s yours now, it’s all that there is.
– Leonard Cohen, from Take This Waltz

At a Massey Hall tribute on May 14 Leonard Cohen was honoured with the Glenn Gould Prize celebrating his lifetime of achievement in the arts. His work has inspired writers, musicians and artists for half a century. Director Sarah Polley has titled her second feature film after his song, in turn based on a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca.

Take This Waltz opens June 29 and stars Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby and Sarah Silverman. Polley made her directorial debut at TIFF in 2006 with the acclaimed Away From Her. When Take This Waltz launched at TIFF last September, Polley said, “the film is a love story and it’s about a marriage, but it’s also really a love song to Toronto.”

Her hometown has never looked better: “This film really belongs here.”

It’s exciting to see our city on film as itself with the tree-lined streets, funky neighbourhood restaurants and cinemas (the Royal). Polley admits that she romanticizes the city. “I knew I wanted to feel lost in the colour and vibrancy and heat of Toronto in the summer.”

Actor Luke Kirby at Kew Beach in a scene from the movie Take This Waltz, filmed and set in Toronto.

Take This Waltz was filmed at the height of the hot, muggy summer of 2010. Its lush visuals show us the sidewalks, streetcars, ferry boats and beaches where Polley herself likes to walk. Most of the film is set in the west end (College Street at night, Little Portugal, Trinity Bellwoods Park), but there is a beautiful sunrise scene on Kew Beach, a stone’s throw east from the Leuty Lifeguard Station we all know and love.

Hamilton-born, Guelph-raised Luke Kirby plays Daniel, an artist/rickshaw driver who carries Margot (Michelle Williams) “down to the pools” of Lake Ontario as the sun rises over the breaking waves. The early bird catches the warm glow of dawn’s light, the ‘magic hour’ just after daybreak. (Don’t go looking for the bench on the beach where Williams and Kirby sit, it was just a prop.)

How do we find our partner in the dance of life? In love everything looks brighter in the beginning. Margot is attracted to her neighbour across the street. Daniel becomes the vehicle for her hopes and dreams. Is the grass really greener on the other side? As the sun rises on a new relationship, is the sun setting on Margot’s marriage? Do we reach down for that shinier reflection in the pool of life only to find, as one wiser character says, “Everything new becomes old again”?

Williams has said about Margot, “Maybe it was her walk on the wild side.”

Take This Waltz is a bittersweet love story about what happens to a relationship when the ‘honeymoon’ period is over. Seth Rogen plays a cookbook writer who cooks only chicken. Some people don’t want chicken every night. Polley’s movie won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it will set you thinking and talking. Hey, it’s better than watching another sequel with superheroes in Spandex.

Check out Sarah Silverman learning to talk ‘Canadian’. She doesn’t say “eh,” but she does throw in a “Trawna.” Watch for a cameo from acclaimed stage actress and former Beech Avenue resident Diane D’Aquila who raised two wonderful kids in the Beach. Listen to the soundtrack which includes Cohen’s Closing Time sung by Feist and Rise Up, the classic Toronto anthem by The Parachute Club. One last question: How does a rickshaw driver afford a huge loft?

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