Roxana Sizzles On Opening Night
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Roxana Sizzles On Opening Night

2007_02_08Roxana.jpg Experienced CBC television-buffs will ardently sing the praises of Opening Night, a Thursday night tradition which since 2001 has been delivering exceptionally high-quality arts-based programming. Unfortunately, the majority of the people out would rather spend their Thursdays with CSI than with CBC, hence the current and already truncated season of Opening Night (now only 1 hour, instead of 2 and featuring only 11 episodes) is almost certainly going to be its last. As those of us still in mourning for ZeD know, CBC does have a history of cancelling some of its most interesting programming. But the loss of Opening Night will be a real shame. Over the years, it’s showcased some amazing television, from concerts, to filmed Stratford productions, to Guy Maddin’s sublime Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary, which remains the best film adaptation of Stoker’s novel and probably one of the best dance films ever made.
Which brings us to this week’s episode. Another dance film, Roxana is an adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s 17th century novel of the same name. Director Moze Mossanen shifts the setting to Toronto of the 1950s and 1960s – it’s pretty cool to see a period piece which features close-ups on Canadian one and two dollar bills. The titular Roxana (played to sizzling perfection by dancer Greta Hodgkinson) is a dancer-by-night, prostitute-by-later-night whose fortunes rise and fall over the decades. Always at her side is a friend from her nightclub days (played by quintessentially Canadian Sheila McCarthy), who is sometimes her accomplice, sometimes her madame and sometimes likes to watch Roxana entertain her clients through air vents and imagine she’s the one getting physical with her friend. The cast is rounded out with dance-superstars Christopher Body and Rex Harrington.
The film is lovely to look at; the cinematography ably displays the fantastic dancing and striking costumes used for the piece. The story is told mostly through dance and voice-overs from Sheila McCarthy’s character, which helps condense the novel-sized plot into an hour of television. It definitely feels tightly-packed, and the ending comes somewhat abruptly, but considering the constraints of the medium, Mossanen does an admirable job. So, why not give this film a chance and throw a few Nielsens towards one of the nation’s most innovative and high-quality programs? It may be one of your last chances to do so.