Posted on February 8th, 2011 by .

Montrealers love free stuff, not because we’re cheap, of course not (we love our luxuries, from wine and cheese to spa days on the St-Lawrence), but because we love a good party populated by a variety of potential new friends, lovers and entertaining bon vivants. Hence our well-known, year-round fetish for festivals…

Festivals are like a big collective hug, which at this time of year is great for staying warm – whether watching fireworks outdoors in the body heat of a crowd or eating, drinking and being merry in the subterranean spaces transformed by the Montreal High Lights Festival, a.k.a. Festival Montréal en Lumière, which culminates in the February 26 all-night fun and art fest that is Nuit Blanche.

For something completely unique to Montreal, Les Rendez-vous du cinéma Québecois brings the buzz about Quebec film back home, with two days of free film screenings and activities (we’re talking serious DIY entertainment like Ciné-Karaoké), Feb. 25–26 at Place Pasteur (1430 St-Denis).

For the more sonically inclined, the Festival Nouvelles Musiques, Feb. 18–26, provides some all new ear-candy, including the free public-participation performance “Apportez votre cellulaire”, with composer/conductor Walter Boudreau leading us through how to use cell phone ring tones in beautiful new ways, on Feb. 20, 2 p.m., at Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste. And check your head throughout the fest at the New Music Lounge in the grand foyer of Place des Arts.

Outside the festival sphere, the free-stuff river keeps flowing into the future via fascinating new art. Running with the unofficial February theme of film (and what better for getting cozy and content indoors), the Musee d’art contemporain opens three new exhibitions this month, all featuring film and video work: a big, beautiful and extremely well-executed exhibition by film artist and music lover Anri Sala; a video and sculptural work on urban landscapes by Young & Giroux, and Kevin Schmidt’s Epic Journey – Lord of the Rings screened from a boat on British Columbia’s Fraser River.

While Valentine’s Day can be a pricey time, Words For(e)Play: Montreal Love Poetry at Infinithéâtre proves that love is free, if not always easy – Feb. 13, 5–7 p.m., at Bain St-Michel (5300 St-Dominique), a pay-what-you-can benefit for Poetry Quebec and Infinitheatre.

Nature remains forever free in this city, and a walk up Mount Royal, while slightly more intense and significantly less green in February, is still rewarded by a panoramic view of the city and an abundance of urban wildlife, such as squirrels, owls, neon-attired winter joggers and crazy-carpet-riding tobogganers. Down at the Old Port, Montreal history museum Pointe-à-Callière brings to life the voices of boats, trains and other “urban instruments” in its Port Symphonies (Feb. 27 and March 6, 1:30 p.m.), conducted by pianist and composer Anthony Rozankovic. The seas are alive with the sound of music!

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