QUÉBEC CINEMA : NATION AND NARRATION
The film festival is sponsored by Québec-New York 2001, a showcase of the best that modern Québec has to offer in the areas of art, culture, science, technology, business and industry. Québec-New York is a program of Le Bureau des Saisons du Québec, a non-profit organization appointed by the Québec Government to organize major cultural and economic events abroad. It also hosts similar events from other nations in Québec, including one from France in 2001 and one from Morocco in 2002. Its head office is located in Québec City.
Program 1: DOCUMENTARY FILM (Monday, September 10)
Read by actress Marie Eykel, Michèle Lalonde's great anti-colonialist poem acts as a background to a photomontage of archival black and white stills. The authors create an intense and rhythmic work of art that protests and exposes the linguistic and cultural oppression of the nation of Québec and other colonized peoples. Paradoxically, Pierre Falardeau, with his kitsch movie Elvis Gratton 2, is also the only filmmaker in the world to have outdrawn George Lucas on the first weekend of Star Wars: Episode 1, The Phantom Menace, at the box office in Québec.
Pour la Suite du Monde (The Moon Trap) (Of Whales, The Moon and Men)
For this significant work of direct cinema, the filmmakers were attracted to the heart of the Saint-Lawrence River, l'Île-aux-Coudres, for two reasons: language and white whale hunting. Through the language and daily gestures of fishing a real mythical spirit was revealed. This spirit includes the moon's mysteries, the cult of the ancestors, the power of tides, the sacred creation of tradition, and a sense of identification with the animal kingdom. cult of the ancestors, the power of tides, the sacred creation of tradition, and a sense of identification with the animal kingdom.
The strongest images are the most silent. They emerge as introspective moments amid the interrupted flow of lyrics and music. Two visual anchor points support these moments: the close-up of the face and the slow panning of the landscape. The link is thus easily made: the inhabitant, the earth, the river. For Perrault, the filmmaker and the writer-poet, the primary film time is the one really based on the oral rhythm, pieces of memories, categories made safe under the labels of "authenticity" or of "cinema felt from within." They are conspirators of a present to be improved.
These "speech discourses" are not univocal. That is why they are often left in opposition. In that regard, they are subversive. They don't always correspond to the preconceived notions about the country, notions conveyed by the urbanized elite from the Quiet Revolution, a name given by sociologists and historians to the rapid and confusing socioeconomic changes Québec experienced in the sixties, the time the film was made. The contrast is exactly what Pierre Perrault seems to be looking for. Memories must be reactivated and the past reread in order to redefine Québec's destiny. Perrault's direct cinema is stuck between argumentative ethnography and reticulated construction, movie after movie, in a system of renewed political conscience. Such a situation forces the filmmaker to use the "rescue alibi." With Perrault, we find ourselves faced with a profound rereading of an identity too rapidly repressed by the "discontinuity ideology" prevailing over the creation of the idea of the Quiet Revolution, an ideology supporting all political and social revolution.
Nevertheless, Perrault tries to avoid the trend of disguising an intimate reality in a spectacular fiction-the reality of inheriting a culture that has become strange to us. That is what we call "folklorisation." He denounced this in a later movie, Un Pays sans Bon Sens (1970).
NOTE: Monday's films will be introduced by Yves Rousseau, who teaches film theory and filmmaking at College François-Xavier-Garneau, in Québec City. He is past editor of the movie magazine Ciné-Bulles, and has contributed numerous articles on film to such reference works and periodicals as Dictionnaire du Cinema Québécois, 24 Images and La Revue Belge du Cinema. In 1997-98, he served as script doctor for the feature film, Les Fantômes des Trois Madeleines (The Three Madeleines, 2000), which was selected for inclusion in the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes International Film Festival 2000. In 1999, Rousseau co-founded and directed Images du Nouveau Monde, a Pan-American film and new media festival hosted annually in Québec City.
The Street is an adaptation of a short story by Mordecaï Richler, a Jewish Montreal writer who told, in some of his books, the story of Jewish immigrants living around St. Urbain Street in the forties and fifties. Several movies have adapted his works of fiction, namely Ted Kotcheff's movies, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) and Joshua, Then and Now (1984), to which Richler contributed. The Street is a bittersweet tale about sibling rivalry, aging grandparents and "other mysteries of the human heart." Animator Caroline Leaf retells the story by means of drawings made of sand on a glass slide lit from below. Born in Seattle, and raised in Boston, Leaf emigrated to Montreal to work for the Animation Studio at the National Film Board. She has been honored numerous times for her contribution to the art of animation in cinema.
Mon Oncle Antoine (My Uncle Antoine)
Claude Jutra is considered as one of those who represented the advent of modernism in Québec cinema. He personified L'Enfant Terrible of Jean Cocteau's famous novel more than anyone in the local film industry. Because he knew since he was very young that some day he would become a filmmaker, he started spending time early on in Montreal's movie theatres. Born to a well-off family, Jutra had already been around the world before he turned twenty. Fortunately for him, by the end of his teenage years he already owned an eight millimeter Bolex camera with which he produced two short films with his friend Michel Brault, Le Dément du Lac Jean-Jeunes (1948) and Mouvement Perpétuel (1949). After studying medicine, he took part, as a young adult, in the fledgling adventure of television in Québec (writing the first telefilm), and ended up working as a producer at the National Film Board in 1956. He co-produced movies with Norman McLaren, whose influence led him to reveal his homosexuality at a time when doing so was still something heroic, and he announced it in a brilliant movie, À Tout Prendre (1963). This filmmaker maintained a quite ambiguous relationship with his country. Urbane, and a citizen of the world, his original point of view colored his entire work.
The action in Mon Oncle Antoine takes place in the forties, and recreates the atmosphere prevailing in a small mining town in Québec on Christmas Eve, the only day in the year the plants were closed. The population was gathered at the general store and, forgetting its poverty, engaged in holiday merriment. A fifteen year old boy paying attention to the adults' conversations and gestures discovers, through the people around him, the world of sensations and roughness, the world of suffering and everyday acts to which we hang on and which appear, if only for a moment, to be happiness.
NOTE: Tuesday's films will be introduced by Yves Rousseau (see bio above).
Program 3: EXPERIMENTAL VIDEO (Wednesday, September 12)
Crush is the story of a man who wants to return to the animal world. He uses different methods in order to transform himself into a beast. He cuts off parts of his body. He trains. He swims. He wants to return to the water to accelerate his evolution. Has he gone mad, or is he only tired of belonging to the human race?
Nelson Henricks is a video artist. He was born in Alberta. After studying at the Alberta College of Art, he obtained his BFA in cinematography studies at Concordia University in Montreal. Many retrospectives have honored his work and have made him internationally recognized. His last work is called Planetarium (2001).
Even though it is on video, Yes Sir! Madame was made as a movie. The use of video here is nothing but a mask of veracity.
Direct from his living room, Earl Tremblay comments for us on home movies while he constantly changes the reels. It is the movie of his life. Born to a French-speaking father and an English-speaking mother, he tells his story through the double language of his upbringing, half in English and half in French. From the shore of his native Gaspé, we rapidly go to the Montreal jungle, where he takes part in numerous adventures. The fundamental division he carries from his bilingual culture will have surprising effects on him.
With the help of his ultrasubjective camera, in this magnificent work of art on the topic of identity, Robert Morin explores the vicious relationships uniting Nation and Narration. All centered on the theme of the double, the work reflects several levels of meaning. Yes Sir! Madame is an acid charge against Canadian/canadienne schizophrenia. Morin never stops denouncing his society's incapacity for reconciliation.
For Morin, reality and fiction are intertwined. Saying so confirms the point that this fiction becomes much more revealing than the initial reality he could have described. Perhaps he starts from the principle that any life is a thriller deserving nothing but a climax. So he makes the show his own, and he does so to explore inhibited aspects of his society.
NOTE: Wednesday's films will be discussed by Robert Morin, star and director of Yes Sir! Madame…. Robert Morin was born in 1949 in Montréal and studied Literature and Communications. In 1971, he began to work as a cameraman, joining television station ORTQ in Rimouski, where he directed films and videos. In 1977, with a group of friends and colleagues, Morin founded the Coop Vidéo de Montréal, where he continues to produce his own work. Since the early '70s, in collaboration with Lorraine Dufour, Morin has produced close to thirty short works and two feature-length videos, including Le Voleur Vit en Enfer (1984) and Tristesse Modèle Réduit (1989). He has also written and directed four important feature-length films: Requiem pour un Beau sans Coeur (1992), Windigo (1994), Yes Sir! Madame (1994) and Quiconque Meurt, Meurt à la Douleur (1998) which won the AQCC-SODEC Prize (of the Association Québécoise des Critiques de Cinéma) for the best 1998 feature-length film. In 1991, Morin and Dufour received the Bell Canada Prize in art video offered by the Canada Council for the Arts for their collaborative work.
Program 4: CONTEMPORARY CINEMA (Thursday, September 13)
Louise Archambault's Atomic Saké, produced by Filmo, is a compelling short story about three best friends sharing secrets over a sake-filled night. The film presents not only a nice trio of actresses, but also a director with a strong sense of mise en scène and a natural talent for directing actors. André Turpin's beautiful black-and-white photography and complex camerawork adds a stylish element to a simple story about love, friendship, and truth.
La Moitie Gauche du Frigo (The Left Side of the Fridge)
Philippe Falardeau's work has many times been compared to Michael Moore's. It must be because Philippe's films are both very funny and socially conscious while often dancing on the thin line between fiction and documentary. La Moitie Gauche du Frigo produced by Qu4tre Par Quatre Films tells the story of an out-of-work engineer's quest for a new job while his activist roommate makes a film about his whole job-searching ordeal. Again, the film introduces us to a slew of extremely promising young actors, and Falardeau's documentary background is put to good use by having almost all of the film shot from the point of view of the activist videographer. The wisdom of using digital video to make this film goes without saying because of its subject, but also because of the beautiful look achieved through the transfer to the final film print.
NOTE: Thursday's films will be discussed by Philippe Falardeau, director of La Moitie Gauche du Frigo. After studying Political Science and International Relations, Philippe Falardeau participated in the competitive TV series Course Destination Monde, for which he travelled around the world making some 20 short films, emerging as the grand prizewinner. Falardeau then worked as co-writer and assistant director on Jacques Godbout and René-Daniel Dubois' documentary about the British conquest of Canada, Le Sort de l'Amérique. He subsequently directed Pâté chinois, a humorous documentary about Asian immigration to Canada, and then La Moitie gauche du Frigo which won several awards, including Best Canadian First Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2000 and the Claude-Jutra Award at the Genie Awards (Canadian Academy) in 2001.
Texts for these film notes were prepared by Fabrice Montal and Martin Brouard, with some information provided by the National Film Board of Canada and by Videographe, an artist-run independent film-making collective based in Québec City.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.