The Art of Woo
|The Art of Woo|
|Directed by||Helen Lee|
|Produced by||Anita Lee
|Written by||Helen Lee|
|Music by||Ron Sexsmith
|Edited by||Vesta Slivanovic|
|Release date(s)||9 September 2001|
|Running time||97 minutes|
Alessa Woo (Sook-Yin Lee), an art gallery employee in Toronto, has built an image as a rich heiress, but is in dire financial straits. She attempts to court rich men to feed her lifestyle, but is prone to changing partners. One day, talented aboriginal artist Ben Crowchild (Adam Beach) moves into the apartment next door, leading to the two sharing a bathroom. In order to spurn a persistent suitor, Nathan (Don McKellar), Woo takes hold of Crowchild and kisses him. The two later become friends with benefits.
Soon, Woo is approached by the idly rich art collector Patrick Aucoin (Joel Keller), who proposes to her; Woo becomes tempted. However, she has developed feelings for the seemingly unwealthy Crowchild. Crowchild, who has similar emotions, reveals to her that he was adopted by Aucoin's father and that he himself is rich, but posing as a poor artist to be better received by the community. Woo and Crowchild become a couple.
The Art of Woo was the feature film directorial debut of Helen Lee. After the failure of Lee's previous short film, Priceless, she was approached by co-producer Anita Lee and offered the chance to direct a feature-length romantic comedy; finding herself depressed by the "heaviness" of Priceless, Helen Lee accepted. She wrote the first draft in two weeks after watching several "classic" romantic comedies; the speed in writing was caused by her desire to receive a grant for up to C$ 500,000 from the Canadian Film Centre's Featured Film Project (FFP), granted for low-budget films. After approval, they received assistance from FFP member Peter O'Brian to ensure they would finish the film within a year.
As there was a scheduling conflict with Sandra Oh, the first choice to play Alessa Woo, Helen Lee cast MuchMusic video jockey Sook-Yin Lee. Sook-Yin Lee underwent acting courses in Montreal with Jacqueline McClintock.
Helen Lee was lent paintings from local artists Michael Snow and Suzy Lake to use for filming, while Ron Sexsmith and Kurt Swinghammer did the soundtrack. The Art of Woo was filmed digitally in Toronto over 20 days between March and April 2001. Locations included the University of Toronto, The Power Plant, and Archive Gallery Inc.
Helen Lee intended to insert themes of gender and race through showing social anxieties, class distinctions, and cultural displacements. Two reviewers noted a resemblance between The Art of Woo and the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Release and reception
Upon its release, The Art of Woo was "slashed" by Canadian critics. Erin Oke of Exclaim! found the film to have "many appealing aspects", but felt that the situations were often contrived and it lacked a uniting vision; she surmised that it could have been a better film had it not tried "quite so hard to be likeable all the time". Lisa Braun of Jam! enjoyed the soundtrack but found the dialogue poor; she summarized that the film was "uneven, but audiences [would] be interested to see what Lee does next". Jonathan Crow, writing for the Rovi Corporation, found the film "less fun and less accomplished than a third grade theater production". At the 2002 Genie Awards, Ron Sexmith won Best Achievement in Music – Original Song for his work in the film.
- Braun, Lisa (7 December 2001). "Art Of Woo an incomplete study". Jam!. Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
- Crow, Jonathan. "The Art of Woo". Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
- "Feature Films". Toronto Film and Television Office. 20 December 2001. p. 1. Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
- Hoolboom, Michael (2008). Practical Dreamers: Conversations with Movie Artists. Toronto: Coach House Books. ISBN 978-1-55245-200-4.
- Oke, Erin (November 2001). "The Art of Woo Directed by Helen Lee". Exclaim!. Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012.