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Successful Montréal-based writer Joshua Shapiro, in middle age, is facing both professional and personal crises, which make him reflect on his unusual life bringing him to where he is today. That success belies having grown up in the working class Jewish district of the city with his multi-career father, Reuben Shapiro (with most of those careers veering into the realm of the illegal), and his mother, Esther Shapiro, whose penchant for performing, which she demonstrated much to the delight of Joshua's friends at his bar mitzvah, took her into her own highly "exposed" career. Wanting to go to Spain to cover the conflict there in his younger years, he initially went to London instead, where he met arguably two of who would be the most important people in his life. The first is writer Sidney Murdoch, the two who eventually came up with a money making scheme at that time which is now the cause for one of those crises. The other is who was named Pauline Fraser (née Hornby) at the time of ... Written by
Joshua Shapiro (James Woods) is a famous writer caught in a scandal. His wife has left and his kids are inconsolable. He recalls his life starting with his childhood in the tough Montreal neighborhood during WWII. His father Reuben Shapiro (Alan Arkin), involved in some sketchy stuff, goes on the run. His mother is a performer who does burlesque stripping for his friends. Reuben gets out of prison. Joshua wants to go to the Spanish Civil War but ends up in London. Nobody wants his writing and he befriends Sidney Murdoch. His writing finally gets into the newspaper as he pursues a mysterious blonde. Pauline turns out to be the wife of a wannabe communist Colin Fraser and daughter of Senator Hornby. Her brother Kevin is troubled. Joshua would steal Pauline away and be married with kids.
This is a Canadian art-house film based on Mordecai Richler's novel. Canadian director Ted Kotcheff continues after doing the previous Richler movie. The look has more in common with a 70's movie. It's a long fictional biopic. There is limited drama or tension. It's fun to see James Woods and even better to have Alan Arkin in supporting role. The movie excels when Arkin is on the screen. This life is too rambling to be concise. There are bits of great scenes like his mother stripping for his childhood friends. This is an interesting part of Canadian cinema.
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