The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche

Torontoist

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The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche

File this one under: "Unsolved."

Severn Thompson plays the once-prominent Canadian author Mazo de la Roche.

DIRECTED BY MAYA GALLUS (Canada, Next)


SCREENINGS:

Sunday, April 29, 4:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)

Monday, April 30, 6:30 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Sunday, May 6, 4:15 p.m.
Cumberland 3 (159 Cumberland Street)


Apart from lending credence to the theory that its subject was a closeted lesbian, The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche does little to illuminate the life or legacy of a forgotten Canadian literary icon. De la Roche achieved fame and fortune in 1927, when her novel Jalna won a $10,000 prize from Atlantic Monthly, but the author apparently went to great lengths to shield her private life from the contemporary press. Her reclusiveness also seems to have stymied director Maya Gallus, who, despite conducting interviews with subjects that include de la Roche’s daughter, succeeds only in constructing a half-realized portrait.

Perhaps to compensate, Gallus leans heavily on perfunctory, old-timey re-enactments of de la Roche responding to newshounds with enigmatic quips, and sharing longing glances with Caroline Clement (her adopted sister and ostensible life partner). More effective are the passages that propose an autobiographical, homoerotic subtext to the various romantic entanglements depicted in Jalna, which eventually became a 16-part saga, selling a total of 11 million copies worldwide. But beyond the compelling notion that the popular series was also a covert lesbian confessional, Mystery‘s cursory biography sees de la Roche remain just that.


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