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Calendar Girls, the film true to real experience

Thursday, February 5, 2004

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Written by SUE RICHARDS

(Feb 5, 2004)

Part way through the feel good flick "Calendar Girls", I had the urge to stand up in the new Galaxy Theatre and invite the mostly female audience to be calendar girls in the Guelph- based, 2005 Breast of Canada Calendar.

"Don't just watch," I thought, "participate". The feeling passed, partly because I have an aversion to grandstanding, but primarily because I was absorbed in the movie's delightful depiction of female angst, daring and creativity.

Mostly, Calendar Girls is charming and sufficiently naughty to provide ample entertainment. The movie is based on the true story of a group of British Women's Institute members who break traditional form and pose for and publish a nude wall calendar for a good cause. The Women of Rlystone calendar was a rousing international success and in fact provided some of the incentive for my Canadian nude breast version.

The movie resonated well to what I'm certain was the actual experience. The English countryside as backdrop offers much for the eye while the English lifestyle provided comfort and amusement. Actors Helen Mirren (Chris) and Julie Walters (Annie) provide the dry, yet hilarious funny bits without saying a thing. In fact the entire cast have the gift of subtle humour.

Calendar Girls is a wonderfully warm and accurate picture of the world of amateur nude models, fine art photography and the consuming nature of a do-good project. Having attended a couple dozen photo shoots with women whose age range fluctuates between 19 and 69, I recognized the fear and eventual softening of each of the charming movie models as true to form.

The process of allowing oneself to be captured by a gifted photographer, in nothing more than our original wrapping transforms and liberates permanently. This is not just a Hollywood phenomenon. It works in real life. I know. I'm a calendar girl too.

Once the creative process of making their product turns into the business process of marketing the calendar, the story changes. With the photos in hand the commitment has been made. And so we see the results of such a pledge, not only in the the energy of the eleven models but rippled through to their families, friends and associates. Some families strengthen and others implode.

The personal angst each of the ladies experienced while nude is replaced by facing the complexity of hangups and attitudes of the outside world. No matter how pure the intention of anything we attempt, the public eye will indeed project their own dirt.

And so providence wins the day and the ladies find their calendar's tipping point in the form of a face-to-face with Jay Leno. Hollywood runs away with the story for a while but thankfully, releases the gals without damage and lets the women continue with their lives, more satisfied, having lived and learned much about their strengths and weaknesses.

I laughed, I cried and I didn't reel back in horror. A rare treat at the cinema these days. Go.

Sue Richards publishes the Breast of Canada calendar. She lives in Guelph.

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