Paris, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — Charles Aznavour, the French crooner and actor whose performing career spanned eight decades, has died. He was 94.
One of the Armenian diaspora's most recognized faces and vocal defenders, he seduced fans around the world with his versatile tenor, lush lyrics and kinetic stage presence. He sang to sold-out concert halls until the end, resorting to a prompter only after having written upwards of 1,000 songs by his own estimate.
His death was confirmed by the French Culture Ministry. "Thank you, M. Aznavour," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux tweeted.
Often compared to Frank Sinatra, Aznavour started his career as a songwriter for Edith Piaf. The French chanteuse took him under her wing. Like her, his fame ultimately reached well outside France: Aznavour was named entertainer of the century in an online poll by CNN and Time magazine in 1999.
London, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — A year after it became an unwilling focus for Britain's #MeToo movement, the Old Vic Theatre says it is trying to stamp out abuses of power in all workplaces.
The London theater company once led by actor Kevin Spacey said Monday that 20 cultural organizations have joined it in appointing workplace "guardians," specially trained staff who serve as a first line of defense against bullying, harassment and abuse.
It has been a year since abuse allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein spurred women around the world to organize the "Me Too" and "Time's Up" movements, and triggered an outpouring of allegations against powerful men in entertainment, politics, publishing, academia and business.
The scandal rocked the venerable Old Vic when Academy Award-winning actor Spacey, its former artistic director, was accused of sexual misconduct by men in the United States. Police in the U.S. and in Britain are investigating several claims.
After an investigation, the Old Vic said it had received 20 complaints of inappropriate behavior by Spacey, who led the theater between 2004 and 2015. It said most of the alleged victims had been staff members, and acknowledged that a "cult of personality" around the Hollywood star had made it difficult for them to come forward.
In response, the Old Vic trained staff members to act as "confidential sounding boards" to staff members experiencing abuse and unsure about what to do.
Old Vic executive producer Kate Varah said the guardians can provide a "sanity-check conversation" for employees who feel they are being bullied or abused. She said the goal is to bridge the gap "between a water cooler conversation with a mate where you can say 'This happened and it doesn't feel right' and then formalizing that" by going to management or a union.
The guardians get legal training to give "neutral support," with the employee deciding what action to take. Guardians pass information to management, but only once it has been anonymized.
Varah said 20 organizations have signed up to a Guardians Network, including the British Film Institute, the English National Opera, the Society of London Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland. A further 30 groups in the cultural sector and beyond are considering joining.
Member organizations receive legal training and get the chance to get together and share information and lessons.
"It feels incredibly important that this isn't just identified as an issue within one particular industry," Varah said. "This is something that any workplace faces."
Heather Rabbatts, a founder of Time's Up U.K., welcomed the Old Vic program, calling it a step toward eliminating workplace abuse.
The allegations against the famous and powerful Spacey, sparked soul-searching within Britain's theater industry, where rumors of inappropriate behavior by him had long circulated — though an investigation by lawyers found no evidence that suspicion about Spacey's behavior was widespread at the Old Vic.
Varah acknowledges it was "a challenging time" for the theater, which is celebrating its 200th birthday in 2018. She's keen to ensure the scandal doesn't distract from the venue's achievements under artistic director Matthew Warchus, who took over from Spacey in 2015.
Under his tenure the Old Vic has developed the musicals "Groundhog Day" and "The Girl From the North Country" and tempted Glenda Jackson back onto the stage after two decades for "King Lear."
Varah said that since Warchus took over, "we've never felt this was a place where we needed particularly to fix a problem."
"But that is almost naive. I think any organization that feels that they've got nothing to solve in this area probably hasn't had their eyes open to some of the day-to-day issues that could arise.
"I think as an organization, we are stronger," she added. "We have learnt from our experiences and we have done everything that we can to ensure that the organization now leads the way, not just on stage but also offstage as well."
Dhaka, Sept 30 (UNB) - A classical musical programme with the participation of the Indian artists was held on Sunday in the city for third gender people.
Rethink, a platform that works for the eunuchs, organized the programme.
Indian Sarod artiste Arnab Bhattacharya performed in the programme accompanied by Nilimesh Chakraborty on tabla.
The people of the hijra community spoke about the presentation of artists. They said that this arrangement has really inspired them. They also expressed their satisfaction as they could enjoy the programme along with the general people without any disturbance.
The artists also expressed their gratitude towards Rethink for introducing such kind of programme.
Arnab Bhattacharya said, “We have served in many countries of the world. But there was no such arrangement anywhere. This class of society has always seen us from a distance and we have never been able to come to them like that.”
Director of Rethink Lulu-Al-Marjan said that the able people should create more opportunities for the third gender people so that they never feel neglected.
The organisation is regularly holding many cultural sessions in the city with the participation and performance of transgender people.
Chicago, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — Legendary Chicago blues guitarist Otis Rush, whose passionate, jazz-tinged music influenced artists from Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton to the rock band Led Zeppelin, died Saturday at the age of 84, his longtime manager said.
Rush succumbed to complications from a stroke he suffered in 2003, manager Rick Bates said.
Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Rush settled in Chicago as an adult and began playing the local clubs, wearing a cowboy hat and sometimes strumming his guitar upside down for effect.
He catapulted to international fame in 1956 with his first recording on Cobra Records of "I Can't Quit You Baby," which reached No. 6 on the Billboard R&B charts.
He was a key architect of the Chicago "West Side Sound" in the 1950s and 1960s, which modernized traditional blues to introduce more of a jazzy, amplified sound.
"He was one of the last great blues guitar heroes. He was an electric God," said Gregg Parker, CEO and a founder of the Chicago Blues Museum.
Rush loved to play to live audiences, from small clubs on the West Side of Chicago to sold out venues in Europe and Japan.
"He was king of the hill in Chicago from the late 1950s into the 1970s and even the 80s as a live artist," said Bates.
But he got less national and international attention than some other blues musicians because he wasn't a big promoter.
"He preferred to go out and play and go back and sleep in his own bed," said Bates. "He was not a show business guy."
Rush won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Recording in 1999 for "Any Place I'm Going," and he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984.
In one of his final appearances on stage at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2016, Rush watched beneath a black Stetson hat from a wheelchair as he was honored by the city of Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune.
He is survived by his wife Masaki Rush, eight children and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, according to a family statement.
Tokyo, Sep 28 (AP/UNB) — His film roles range from police officer to serial killer, dashing characters to self-destructive losers, a samurai warrior to an ordinary "salaryman," as Japanese office workers are called. But through all his work in Japan and Hollywood, Koji Yakusho has found what he must do as an actor remains surprisingly the same.
"It's lonely," he said recently. "You're before a camera, and you have to do something, and you can't make mistakes.
"You can't ever totally become a character, but you must get as close to that person as possible, and that moment you feel you are him — you make sure you don't lose that moment."
Yakusho, who is being honored at the Tokyo International Film Festival next month, has worked with the legends of Japanese film and starred in Shohei Imamura's "The Eel," which won the 1997 Palme d'Or at Cannes. He also appeared in "Babel" and "Memoirs of a Geisha."
"Koji Yakusho is Japan's leading international actor, demonstrating unparalleled versatility in wide-ranging roles across every genre," said the festival's program adviser Kohei Ando on why Yakusho was being honored at the festival.
"He has indelibly played dozens of characters, and imbued them with humanism."
Ando pointed as an example to one of Yakusho's well-known roles, as a salaryman who becomes obsessed with ballroom dancing in "Shall We Dance?" directed by Masayuki Suo. It became a 2004 Hollywood remake, starring Richard Gere.
He learned to dance for his role in the heart-warming film.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press at Toho Studios in Tokyo, Yakusho said with a laugh it's true his professional surname was picked years ago by his mentor, Tatsuya Nakadai. He was working at a "yakusho," or local government office, when he joined a theater group Nakadai ran.
Nakadai had hoped the civil servant-turned-actor would go on to play many roles. "Yaku" means role; the first character in Koji, his real name, has the meaning for "wide."
Yakusho, 62, is being honored at this year's Tokyo International Film Festival, which opens Oct. 25 and runs through Nov. 3.
"We are all aware of the perspective of extremely regular people. That's something we are always thinking about and trying to observe," said Yakusho, noting he is one movie star with the regular-person experience of catching a rush-hour commuter train.
The hardest roles to play are the noble, honorable characters, he said, like the samurai in his next movie, whose tentative English title is "Touge: The Last Samurai," set for release in 2020.
The work requires memorizing long, complex lines because of the way samurai talk, he added.
Yakusho has directed one film, "Toad's Oil," a pensive story about coping with a young man's death. He plays the lead, the father of the man. He wants to direct more. He promised to be gentle with his actors so they feel free and natural, since he knows what it's like to be on the receiving end.
"I want to create a film that's like those images in my head," he said of the work he wants to direct, stressing it's about the ideas, while declining to go into specifics.
"That kind of special film," he said.
Yakusho watches his films only once. Each time, it's a bit embarrassing, and being objective may not be possible "for a lifetime," he said.
Yakusho seems to excel at evoking that strange mix of good and evil.
In one of his latest films, "The Third Murder," Yakusho plays a mysterious killer. The 2017 film was directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose "Shoplifters" won the Palme d'Or this year. In another recent film, "The Blood of Wolves," he plays a wild-spirited police officer, who starts to resemble the criminals he is trying to arrest.
The protagonist in "The Eel" murders his wife when he catches her having an affair. After serving time as a model convict, he starts a barbershop. An eel, which he keeps in a tank, is his only friend at the start. But he gradually begins to open up and form relationships with people around him.
Like many of Yakusho's movies, it's a bleak story of a normal life that goes awry, the daily challenge of trying to live in search for meaning amid betrayal, loneliness and abuse.
"The complexity of Koji Yakusho's acting is illustrated by his unique interpretation of flawed but intriguing humanity," says Maggie Lee, film critic specializing in Asian cinema at entertainment magazine Variety.
"He is a master at portraying characters who retain a dignified core."