A World No More

Visited for the first time Royal Ontario Museum’s H. H. Mu Far Eastern Library yesterday. An unexpectedly small, dim-lit, shabby, and somewhat messy reading room with stuffy air. It is a little hard to reconcile this image with its official description that this is “the most important library in Canada uniquely devoted to the arts of the Orient” and “service point for library collections on the Near East & Egypt and West Asia.” The entrance is at the back of the museum from the basement level, opposite to the extravagances and glamour of the public front on the Bloor Street.

Unexpected, yet not unpleasant. On the contrary, it reminds me of all the goodnesses this city used to have.

Just a few months ago, Cinematheque Ontario abandoned its small home at the basement of Art Gallery of Ontario, moving into the unwieldly TIFF Lightbox – and lost all its charm. The last screening there didn’t bode well: it was Julian Schnabell’s Before Night Falls, an intolerable misrepresentation of Reinaldo Arenas’ masterpiece. The full audience sat sheepishly after the screening, listening to the non-Q&A between Noah Cowen and the Master , a multi-millionaire masquerading as one of the people of Walmart. The gist of the Master’s non-answers is that “my friend Javier Bardem and my friend Johnny Depp are the best actors in the world.” I left when a handsome, well-dressed and obviously university-educated young man started to ask about “the symbolism of the water, the sea and the blue color in your paintings and films” with the most reverent tone.

I walked past the front desk staff who recognized me as one of the regulars. They asked me: “Is the Q&A done?” This was not as much a question as a friendly farewell.

“Not really.” I replied in a cold voice and left. I’m never a fan of the bureaucratic style of those AGO people, but I could have been more understanding. At least, they represent a world that is no more.

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