Mika Kaurismaki’s “Road North,” a well-intentioned, jovial little comedy in which a feckless ex-bank-robber/small-time crook improves his piano virtuoso son’s life by taking him on a road trip and introducing him to his half-sister, his heretofore unknown real mother, and effecting a family reconciliation before departing in melodramatic fashion, keeps me off the streets before it’s time to get in line at Roy Thomson Hall for the Gala presentation of Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s contemporary adaptation of “What Maisie Knew,” one of my favorite Henry James novels – hell, one of my favorite novels, full stop.

"What Maisie Knew"
Millennium "What Maisie Knew"

I often want to kill people inside Toronto’s theaters, as they text and check messages with abandon, but I enjoy them on line, as we discuss what we’ve seen and hope to see.  I strike up a wary instant friendship with a young man who’s working on a project at WNET in NY that sounds “Baraka” or “Samsara”-like, and I have his card to prove it, as I know many people who would like -- no, love -- to provide him with footage. I also enjoy the constant fashion show parading by on King Street: it’s a sultry night, and quite the leg show.

Inside, for their $43.25, the rushees are given the worst remaining seats and miss the stage introductions of cast and crew, as the film starts within seconds of our group sitting down. I find that “What Maisie Knew” translates quite nicely from the turn of the 19th century to the dawn of the 21st, although tiny and fragile Onata Aprile seems less knowing than my remembered Maisie, more acted-upon than acting.  

As I trudge homeward from the subway, I spy a sleek fat rat racing past the Canadian Yacht Club into some shrubbery. He seems as unthreatening as the lightly-clad college kids partying on the streets.