Reality Intrudes, Again

Ciao, bellaSome movies opened today. You can find my reviews at Metro’s movies page, but I’d rather talk about something — someone — that matters.

Angie Baldassarre, a central player in the Toronto critical establishment and a very good friend, passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer. She was … well, she’d smack me if I was vulgar enough to mention her age, but she was far too young to go.

We hear stories about people who fight valiantly against terminal illness, and god knows we see a lot of movies about them; melodramas, mostly, told by people who surely have the best intentions.

The stories and movies get plenty of stuff right — the endless combinations of pills, the lulls and swells of fatigue and sickness, the inexorable progression of that filthy fucking disease — but fiction by its nature expands some realities and compresses others. And it’s all over in a couple of hours, or a few hundred pages.

Angie was sick for most of the 21st century. She rebounded from the first bout, and believe me, that was one for the books — and in one of those horrible ironies you wouldn’t believe in fiction, she found out the illness was back just a few months after being ready to believe she was cancer-free.

Two years ago, she told me the cancer had returned; from then to the end of this summer, she fought all over again. She never stopped working; she never stopped being involved in the world. She was constantly around, constantly present — in the business of the Toronto Film Critics Association, where she served as vice-president since the organization’s inception; in the lives of her husband and daughter, who were just as unbending in their support of her during her illness; in the lives of everyone she knew.

And then I looked up, and she wasn’t around. I’d been distracted with the film festival and the Vancouver trip and the London trips and all the other stuff that piles up in the course of an ordinary life, and when it became obvious she was badly off, I waited for some sign that things were turning around again. She’d had bad spells before. She’d always come out of them.

Not this time.

The funeral mass will be held Monday morning. At the family’s request, in lieu of flowers donations may be made to The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. Their donations page is kind of buggy, so I’m just doing it the old-fashioned way, by calling 416-946-6560.