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Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Expo 67 revisited (Gazette Story)
Some 50-plus years ago, Montreal played host to an international summer fair they named Expo ’67: Man and his World, and transported the universe on a voyage no one had ever experienced before.
Next month, at Hudson Village Theatre, we get to relive those moments in the brilliant new Quebec film entitled Expo ‘67, Mission Impossible. It will be screened on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the celebratory opening of the Hudson Festival of Canadian Film, a stunning cinematic journey which continues to Sunday, March 4. Wednesday night revenues go to Village Theatre’s current expansion project.
The opening, along with hosting special guests and Man and His World participants, will also ensure sufficient elbow-rubbing time for Expo ’67 alumni to reconnect.
Expo ’67: Mission Impossible, the film, is a masterpiece, lovingly put together by three Quebec filmmakers: Guylaine Maroist, Michel Barbeau and Eric Ruel. Not only does it walk the viewer through Expo ‘67’s fundamental yet complex multi-level planning stages, most of which have been kept under wraps, it also shares the glory moments, few and far between.
We meet the on-site team of dreamers who made it happen – remember, they had less than four years to complete the project – a team locked into the goals of innovation and experimentation such as the world had never seen.And it all focused on the fair’s man-made islands, shapes of muck dredged from the St. Lawrence River, islands which blossomed into action central once the doors opened.
Then, miracle of miracles, when that ribbon-cutting day arrived, everything was up and ready. A task that should have taken six to ten years to accomplish was completed in less than four.
The fair was launched, as per schedule, on a cool Thursday in late April, although as multitudes poured through the gates and onto the grounds, it soon became apparent, weather was the last thing on their minds.
Expo ’67: Man and his World: a fantasy perched in the middle of the St. Laurence River had come to life. Its goal, the “building of bridges between people” was now a reality.
And the people came, and came, and then came back again.
Long-time Hudson resident Audrey Wall was a hostess at the Canadian Pacific Pavilion that year. She remembers her Expo summer as an “exhilarating, transformative experience, a significant coming of age chapter in my life.”
Audrey was just one staff member among thousands, including local residents, who made the whole thing work, so much so that what with its focus on innovation, imagination, popularity and visitor satisfaction, there has never been another world’s fair to match it.
Peter Mundie, cinema authority and Hudson resident, gives the example of film. “Expo ‘67 changed the world of film,” he insisted. “Arguably, the most lasting contribution, and one in which Canada’s cinematographers played a key role, relates to innovations in film projection size, ranging from single image to multi-image and from flat screen to surround systems, now all the norm in today’s ever-changing cinema.”
“In fact,” as Film Society’s David Glazier stated, “one might say that even our film society is an oblique outcrop of that expansion.”
Expo ’67: Man and His World wrapped up on Oct. 29, 1967, almost six months and 55 million guests to the day it opened.
The lucky few who then turned off the lights for a last time, did so in the knowledge that this magnificent achievement had shaken the world, even making converts of those naysayers who had insisted it couldn’t be done.
Today, our special summer of ‘67 has become the stuff of legend. All because a core of brilliant, unrestrained star-gazers possessed the courage, the will and the determination to make the impossible — possible.
Do try to see the movie: you won’t be disappointed.