Monday, April 02, 2007

Quebecois Cinema

Living a stone’s throw from Canada, I’ve been fortunate to catch a slow but steady stream of Quebecois cinema over the years. I’m amazed by the obscurity, in America, of even the greatest figures of Quebecois film history: Michel Brault, Claude Jutra, Pierre Perrault, Gilles Groulx, etc. In fact, even in English Canada, their work is not ubiquitous; I’m not exactly sure why. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with underlying Anglophone/Francophone tensions and Quebec’s vigorous sense of identity—distinct from its identity as simply another Canadian province—but these are just casual suspicions.

So, what I’ve done here is throw together a small and highly personal collection of strong Quebecois cinema I’ve had the fortune to discover over the years.

* * *

But first, some film-historical background, in broad strokes. Cinema in Quebec was influenced and shaped, in the mid-1950’s, by one crucially important factor: pioneering innovations in cinéma vérité documentary filmmaking that occurred at the state-supported National Film Board (NFB). When the NFB headquarters moved from Ottawa, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec in ’56, it opened the door for greater involvement by local filmmakers.

The 15-minute Les Raquetteurs (1958), by Michel Brault and Gilles Groulx, is a key film. It documents a snowshoe festival in rural Quebec, and is generally considered to be the first work of le direct (“direct cinema”). It had no pre-planned script, used no voiceover narration and captured real events as they played out, with minimum intervention. (Now, I’m not exactly sure how “direct cinema” differs from “cinéma vérité,” although I also suspect these terms don’t have locked-down, universally agreed-upon definitions.) The film’s images consist mainly of: villagers, the wintry Canadian landscape, the performance of traditional rituals.

* * *

Then, Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault traveled to a rural community on the Gulf of St. Lawrence to make Pour La Suite Du Monde (1962), which became the first Canadian film to compete at Cannes. They persuaded the village inhabitants to resurrect the old practice of hunting the Beluga whale by using a trap of tall wooden staffs placed in the shallows of the river. The film lyrically documents the ways of work—and ways of leisure—of this rustic community. A note: the title of the film translates as “So That The World Goes On,” but the English-subtitled version is sometimes known as The Moontrap.

* * *

Jean Rouch springs to mind when we think of cinéma vérité but it is little known that Michel Brault traveled to France to initiate Rouch into the uses of new cameras and camera/sound technologies in the late 50’s, and worked on Rouch and Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer (1961). I found this generous quote from Rouch: “All that we’ve done in France in the area of cinéma vérité came from the National Film Board. It was Brault who brought a new technique of shooting that we hadn’t known and that we have copied ever since.” There is also an interesting Canadian documentary called Cinéma Vérité: Defining The Moment (1999) by Peter Wintonick—he also made Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky—that traces the development of the movement and Canada’s role in it. I’m not sure it’s on DVD but it has aired on cable. It interviews numerous key players (including Brault, Rouch, Perrault, Richard Leacock, Bob Drew, etc) and is well worth a look.

* * *

Chris Gehman: “Brault’s documentary style is at once an affirmation of and a rebuke to theorists of cinéma vérité: While his approach to the documentary is anti-literary and emphasizes the unscripted gathering of film and sound images, to be given their finished form in the editing process, his shooting style opposes the notion of the documentary as a form of surreptitious surveillance put forward by theorists such as Dziga Vertov, who emphasized the importance of “life caught unawares.” For Brault, this approach, perhaps voyeuristic and indicative of veiled aggression, is characterized by the use of the telephoto lens, which allows a camera operator to photograph a subject from a distance and without the subject’s knowledge. Brault’s documentary camerawork, in contrast, is a distinctly “wide-angle” style, putting the camera operator in close proximity to his subjects, not separate from but within the action, and it is this style, derived from a strongly-held ethical position, that makes his contribution so distinctive.”

* * *

More good Brault. Les Ordres (1974), which won Best Director at Cannes, is a political docudrama that deals with the fate of five characters—composites of actual people—following their arrests when the War Measures Act was implemented in Quebec during the October Crisis of 1970. Civil rights were suspended in Quebec during this period, and many innocent people were arrested and held without being charged. The film tracks the characters without painting a detailed picture of the sociopolitical context of the time, which makes it both inescapably specific—especially for Canadians who could not help but be acutely aware of the period the film documents—and also universal.

Brault always wore two hats: he was both a director and a reputed cinematographer. He shot Francis Mankiewicz’s Les Bons Débarras (1980), a Quebecois backwoods Gothic tale about a thirteen-year-old girl who is obsessed with Wuthering Heights, idolizes her mother, and is intensely jealous of her mother’s lovers. A dark tale set against a palpably powerful backdrop of Quebecois specificities, this is among my favorite Canadian films.

* * *

Claude Jutra is something of a Canadian legend. He also got his start at NFB with Brault and Groulx, and made his first feature, the autobiographical and controversial À Tout Prendre, in 1964. It was ostensibly a fiction film, but made with documentary-like methods. Good portions of it were unscripted, and he cast himself and his ex-girlfriend Johanne Harrelle. Both Jutra and the character he played disclosed their bisexuality in the course of the film. The film is set in Montreal’s bohemian/art world and Jutra’s character was, self-excoriatingly, not very sympathetic. (Johanne Harrelle later married Edgar Morin.)

Jutra’s masterpiece is Mon Oncle Antoine (1971). In polls of Canada’s film critics, it has been repeatedly voted as the greatest Canadian film ever made. A coming-of-age story set in the asbestos region of rural Quebec, it’s one of the few films mentioned in this post that’s actually available here on DVD. In 1986, at the age of 56, Jutra disappeared. His body was found five months later in the St. Lawrence River with a note in his pocket which said simply, “Je suis Claude Jutra.” He had been suffering early symptoms of Alzheimer’s at the time, and was also having great difficulty obtaining financing for his films.

* * *

You can walk into the NFB Mediatheque on John St. in Toronto, plunk down a toonie, and choose from a menu of hundreds of films. On a recent visit, I took in Gilles Groulx’s Le Chat Dans Le Sac (1964) (“The Cat In The Bag”). One of the earliest and most important films of the Quebec New Wave, it’s also a bit uncanny. The black-and-white cinematography, documentary immediacy, and the intellectually heady conversations in French automatically evoke Godard and his films of that period, like Vivre Sa Vie. But below these surface similarities, the political and cultural realities are all Quebec. The film is about the relationship between a Francophone Quebecois intellectual and an Anglophone Jewish actress, and the rapidly growing gulf between them. It’s set both in Montreal and in the Quebec countryside, and is memorably shot in an almost painfully intimate, vérité-style.

* * *

In high school, I had a raging crush on Genevieve Bujold after seeing her in the medical thriller Coma. (Ah, that impossibly melodious accent!) Who can forget her in Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, Alan Rudolph’s Choose Me, Brian De Palma’s Obsession, Alain Resnais’ La Guerre est Finie….? But her strongest work is arguably in her ex-husband Paul Almond’s moody, fantastical trilogy Isabel (1968), Act of the Heart (1970), and Journey (1972). The middle film also stars Donald Sutherland, and I’ve seen it quietly pop up on late-night cable.

Bujold was also in Brault’s 1967 film Entre La Mer Et L’Eau Douce, which was restored and shown at TIFF ’04. Along with Hou’s Café Lumiere and Denis’ The Intruder, it was a festival stand-out for me that year, but it received not even a fraction of the ink spilled on those films. Is it my imagination or do older films get little respect, in terms of press coverage, during a film festival…?

* * *

I haven’t touched on Denys Arcand because he is already very well known outside Canada. Moreover, it’s been a good 15 years since I saw the only two Arcand films I know, Decline of the American Empire (1986) and Jesus of Montreal (1989), and I don’t remember them very well. I’ve been meaning to revisit Arcand; I’ve also heard that some of his earlier work, unavailable here, is worth seeking out.

Some Qubecois filmmakers I’d like to hunt down and check out: Jean-Pierre Lefebvre; Léa Pool; Anne Claire Poirier; Jean-Claude Lauzon; Gilles Carle. Also, save the experimental animator Pierre Hébert, I haven’t had the chance to see any avant-garde cinema from Quebec….

* * *

So, what are some of your favorites in Quebecois movies? Or films and makers you’ve been curious about but haven’t had a chance to check out? Perhaps we can use this place as a little reservoir of Quebecois cinema suggestions and ideas….

The doodle is a small tip of the chapeau to Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault’s “Pour La Suite Du Monde” (1962).


Blogger Sachin G. said...

Hey Girish,

Good post. Shamefully, I have to admit I have not seen most of the titles you mention. The ignorance of Quebecois cinema by mainstream Canadian theatres (outside of Quebec) is a frustrating aspect. In recent years, only Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y and Bon cop, Bad cop found a place in most English Canada theatres. Which is not saying much.

Your guess is probably accurate on why Quebec cinema is ignored. The bright spot is that there are some French language film festivals in Alberta which show mostly Quebec films, so slowly I am finding my way around the rich and complex cinema that Quebec has to offer. And your titles are a welcome edition :) But finding old titles will be another matter though.

April 02, 2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I think Chris Gehman is misreading Vertov's intentions, though it's far from uncommon. "Unawares" here means surprised; you can't argue that the woman waking up and going about getting ready for work didn't know Vertov was there and agree to it, perhaps even help him stage it; cameras at the time simply wouldn't allow that kind of filming (too large, too noisy, required too much extra light to meter properly, etc.). Nor the homeless man who wakes up, smiling in disbelief at the camera, nor the car of women driving down the street, mocking the cameraman, nor the people walking their wheel barrows towards the camera and around the cameraman. Many of these interactions are shown in the second cameraman's footage, making it clear that the people on film interact with the camera, and I think that's part of Vertov's vision; it starts with the theater getting ready and is peppered with images of the cameraman setting up (including inside a beer stein) and interrupted with images of the editor selecting shots and making edits; it's clear that Vertov considers the film crew workers the same as the rest (though it's also of course true that he envisioned the day when cameras could go anywhere and film anything undetected).

Some of the footage in the film was surreptitious, but the cameras were so bulky and noisy that Vertov had to arrange surreptitious filmings by tactics such as putting the camera in a bit of luggage on a cart and using someone else to cause a diversion. So I think "caught unsuspecting" is less the rule than the exception, and the more correct interpretation of the phrase is unfortunately uncommon.

April 02, 2007 6:36 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

They are obscur in France too... I haven't seen any, nor heard about them. Except for Arcand, I doubt most of them even get an official release in France. Maybe in festivals or occasionaly in certain arthouses.

Though I've seen a couple of films from Quebec in the past years, staring the great Pascal Bussières (apaprently because she acted in France and had a fame appeal for the French audience).
August 32nd on Earth (1998/villeneuve); The Five Senses (1999/Podeswa); Maelström (2000/villeneuve); La Turbulence des fluides (2002/Briand)
They are not major films, but the atmosphere is quite original. I recommend The Five Senses particularly, an ensemble film in 5 parts, each using one sense to organize the drive between people.

April 02, 2007 6:58 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Whatever the rationale, posts such as this one kickstart attention and contribute greatly to the lack of commentary. Thank you.

April 02, 2007 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Back in the early Seventies, MoMA had a series of films from Quebec. I don't remember what I saw except for remembering the title Q-bec, my Love. I remember liking the French Canadian films better than the English language films until Cronenberg came on the scene. I saw an early film by Arcand at MoMA, but I can't recall the title. Of his later films, I like Love and Human Remains. Also Stardom is kind of funny. For Lea Pool, I only know Lost and Delirious. The Jutra and Almond films mentioned are the only films I've seen by those respective directors.

April 02, 2007 8:53 PM  
Blogger Peter T Chattaway said...

Interesting that no one has even mentioned Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions (2003), the sequel to Decline of the American Empire and Jesus of Montreal which also happens to be the only Canadian film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film!

FWIW, one Quebec film of late that I rather liked was La Neuvaine (2005). And Robert LePage's The Far Side of the Moon (2003) is a wonder to behold -- easily my favorite of his films to date.

April 03, 2007 1:39 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I love that doodle, which I recognized as an interpretation from Pour la Suite du Monde as soon as it started loading. I haven't seen the film myself, but that image makes it look gorgeous. I've still only seen Les Raquetteurs from among Brault's filmography.

Quebecois cinema is not much other than a blind spot for me, though. I finally saw my first Arcand film, Jesus of Montreal, earlier this year on DVD.

April 03, 2007 1:59 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

EDIT : read Pascale Bussières. And she is not in The Fives Senses, the lovely Marie-Josée Croze is though (she is in The Barbarian Invasions too).

I agree with Brian, it's a beautiful doodle, Girish. And the French expression is like in English "Coup de chapeau".

April 03, 2007 2:24 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Coup de chapeau! I will remember that expression...

Sachin, Tuwa, Harry, Michael, Peter N., Brian, Peter C. -- Thank you for your comments and suggestions and kind words....!

My memory is defogging a bit: I have seen a Léa Pool film, Emporte-Moi (1999), and Pascale Bussières was in it (and she was wonderful) although the movie was so-so. I've heard of the Podeswa film but haven't seen it. Villeneuve's Maelstrom got quite a bit of praise in Canada but I couldn't appreciate it; it seemed like Kieslowski Lite to me, but perhaps I need to see it again, in the context of his other films. (I've seen nothing else by him.)

I'm curious about Robert LePage. I hear Le Confessional is set in Quebec City during the period of Hitch's shooting of I Confess there and even features Hitchcock as a character (!).

Brian and Harry -- Thanks to your encouragement, I resolve to do more movie-inspired doodles!

April 03, 2007 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am curious. Is there a Quebecois film similar to Amelie? One that features the visual charm of the old Quebec walled city?
(Excuse my poor English please)

April 03, 2007 2:13 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Maelstrom (and La Turbulence des fluides) aren't the best in my list. Though they are just what I've caught, not must-see recommendations. The other two are worth a look. August 32nd on Earth has a quirky sequence in Utah's Salt Lake desert.

April 03, 2007 5:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Anonymous, I don't know the answer to that but perhaps somebody else here might...

Harry, thanks for the tip. The film got quite a lot of attention at TIFF '98, the year before I started attending the festival.

For the 25th edition of TIFF (2001, I think), they came up with a cool idea: hiring ten Canadian filmmakers to each make a short film (a minute long, if I remember right) and show them during the festival. Guy Maddin's was the best (THE HEART OF THE WORLD) but Cronenberg's was wonderful too (a touching film called CAMERA about children wheeling an old man around in an apartment). The Snow, Egoyan, and Podeswa films were also interesting. I haven't checked but it'd be nice if they were all available on a DVD.

April 03, 2007 9:29 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, just remembered that the short films I mentioned above like Maddin's The Heart of the World, were about five or six minutes long each...

Harry, if you're reading, I was wondering: Is the French spoken in Quebecois films identical to your French (in terms of vocabulary, grammar, speaking accent, etc.) and easy for you to understand? Just curious...

Some links:
--Just stumbled upon Eric Henderson's personal canon.
--Jim Tata on seeing Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau in concert.
--Lists galore at The Listening Ear.
--Thom at Film of the Year on Frankenstein (1931).
--Dave Kehr's NYT column:
"The powers that be at the Criterion Collection have chosen five early works by the Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman to initiate a new label, Eclipse, meant to offer relatively low-cost collections of relatively low-profile films. The Bergman set, for example, lists at $69.95 (as opposed to $99.95 for Criterion’s recent Paul Robeson box set), the savings made possible by eliminating supplementary materials and commentary tracks. It’s a solid idea, and a good way for Criterion, long the Tiffany of home video, to get out of its golden ghetto. No longer will the company largely be restricted to publishing deluxe editions of established classics. It’s time for Criterion to cut loose and take some chances.

"Which is exactly what it hasn’t done with this cautious initial offering. Mr. Bergman remains identified with the great art-house boom of the 1960s and ’70s, when his films were seen all over the world, were almost invariably hailed as masterpieces and consistently topped critics’ polls and all-time-best lists. But film aesthetics have since drifted away from the literary-theatrical underpinnings of his work, and his reputation has declined as those of more cinematically engaged, visually and aurally expressive filmmakers have risen. This release already seems out of date, a slightly musty holdover from days of repertory programming long gone by."

April 04, 2007 6:36 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Mubarak posts several good excerpts on Godard by Daney, Wollen, etc.

April 04, 2007 10:00 AM  
Anonymous jesse said...

Like most others that have commented, my experience with Quebecois cinema (and Canadian films in general) is limited entirely to C.R.A.Z.Y. The friend who introduced it to me, a longtime Quebec citizen, insists that it's as much the coming-of-age story of Quebec as it is about the maturation process of its protagonist. Not familiar with the history I can't comment, but it's a fascinating idea.

April 04, 2007 2:29 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

French in Québec is like in France, in terms of grammar (globaly). Both are based on older French and they evolved independently.
The main difference is the local vocabulary, expressions and idiomatics. Sometimes their language is more protective of root French, so it may sound oldish to us, formulations we don't use anymore.
Sometimes we give a distinct meaning to the same word (e.g. "un char" is a car, in French it means "tank/charriot").
They say "écouter un film" (to listen a movie) we say "regarder" (to watch). They say "gradué" (graduate), we say "diplômé".
But on the other hand they also tend to use a lot of American words, and conjugate English verbs à la French (e.g. "triper" = to be excited). They say "céduler" from schedule to mean "to plan", we say "plannifier".
In French we just incorporate the English words as is, but maybe not in their English use (e.g. we say "un smoking" for a tuxedo).

And yeah they have a particular accent and we both mock eachother's accent anyway.

p.s. I hope the accents come out well on your browser.

April 04, 2007 4:49 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Hey Girish. Wish I could see some of these! Especially Brault/Perrault's Pour la suite du monde, which I've been wanting to see for ages. I think the dvd (under its alternative English title, Of Whales, the Moon, and Men) can be ordered from the NFB site but it was a bit pricey when I last checked.

I haven't fully explored LePage either, but Le Confessional is worth seeing.

April 05, 2007 12:26 AM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Never mind: just saw this.

April 05, 2007 3:42 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Jesse -- I remember people buzzing about CRAZY in Canada but I haven't seen it. Just realized it's at Netflix and lined it up in my queue.

Harry -- Thanks for those great examples! "Triper" sounds pretty awesome...

Mubarak --Wow, didn't know about the Brault 5-DVD box! There's much in there I haven't seen. I'll see if I can get a deal on it on my next visit to Toronto.

April 05, 2007 12:31 PM  
Blogger girish said...

-- At Doug's site, Film Journey: Robert Koehler has been blogging from the Buenos Aires film fest; his latest post is about a new documentary on Pedro Costa.
-- Anticipation builds for the San Francisco International film fest at Michael Guillen's The Evening Class and Brian Darr's Hell On Frisco Bay.
-- New issue of Frieze.
-- At the academic blog Dr. Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope: Jason Sperb blogs about Barbara Klinger's book Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home.
-- At Movie City Indie: a large Werner Herzog dossier, via David Hudson.

April 05, 2007 12:32 PM  
Blogger girish said...

So, a little movie trivium:
What contemporary filmmaker has a PhD in math? (He is also, um, writing a book on Jesus Christ...)

April 05, 2007 12:36 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

That's easy--Paul Verhoeven!

The Brault DVD box set is stunning; I've been planning to blog about it for some time. (and I love your sketch, Girish!)

April 05, 2007 1:57 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey nice one, Doug!

April 05, 2007 2:32 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

As a Canadian, I'm somewhat ashamed for not knowing more about our own seemingly unique Quebecois film heritage, though I'd like to offer up a favourite of mine:

Claude Chabrol's co-production of BLOOD RELATIVES in the 70s. I forget whether it was intentionally set in Quebec, or supposedly France, but I do recall that this visiting filmmaker showcased a uniquely sinister side to Montreal.

Too bad that all transfers or home video incarnations of this are all unbelievably washed out.

April 05, 2007 4:43 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I dig the sketch too, FWIW.

April 05, 2007 7:26 PM  
Blogger Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Girish,

Since you make it up to Toronto occasionally, were you aware of the CineFranco Film festival ( It just wrapped up here on April 1st and showed over 40 French language films. Out of those, they had about 6 or 7 from Quebec (2 from Louis Belanger). Unfortunately I only had a chance to see a single film out of the lineup (the non-Quebecois "Transylvania" by Tony Gatlif).

I haven't seen too many recent Quebec fare, but I greatly enjoyed both "C.R.A.Z.Y." and "La Turbulence Des Fluides". As well, I also liked "La Grande Seduction" ("Seducing Dr. Lewis") which was kind of slight, but felt a bit like a Quebec version of "Local Hero".

As for those short TIFF films, I found both Maddin's "Heart Of The World" and Cronenberg's "Camera" on YouTube. Have you tried searching for the others?

April 05, 2007 7:45 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

Hey Girish,

San Fran had a Michel Brault Retro a bit back and it was mesmerizing and I became a quick fan of Brault. I definitely was intrigued to catch more Quebecois Cinema because of it. I wrote up a piece for Brian Darr's HELL ON FRISCO BAY about my experience -

btw, I understand that a TV Serial was to be released in Canada regarding the "October Crisis" investigated in Brault's LES ORDRES. Did that find final production and have you seen it or heard anything about it?


April 05, 2007 9:17 PM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

OK, I give up, Girish--I've got nothing to say other than, thanks for posting this!

I've wanted to see a few of the films you've mentioned for a while. This is a useful primer.

April 05, 2007 10:04 PM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

Thank you very much for your useful information about Quebecois cinema.

Living in Bangkok all my life, I have very limited experience with Quebecois films, but my favorite ones are:

1.SOUS-SOL (NOT ME) (1996, Pierre Gang)
I posted a comment on this film in IMDB here

2.TU AS CRIE “LET ME GO” (1998, Anne Claire Poirier)
This is a documentary film about the director who tried to come to terms with losing her daughter. I gave it A- just after watching it. (The grade implies how much I like it, not how good the film is.) But strangely, after a while, I find myself crying every time I think of its ending. So now this film is one of my most favorite documentaries of all time.

3.TWO SUMMERS (2002, Bruce Lapointe)
It is an English language film, but was filmed in Quebec.

4.DOSSIER SANS TITRE (UNTITLED FOLDER) (1998, Benedicte Ronfard)
A short film about children and violence. Very powerful and shocking.

5.LES MARCHES DE LONDRES (LONDON’S MARKET) (1996, Mireille Dansereau)
I can’t remember much about it. I saw it in January 2000. This is a 24-minute film. If I don’t remember it wrong, this film shows a documentary image of London’s Markets in 1969, but the film also presents some dialogues between two unseen people, which make the film seem like a hybrid between fiction-documentary. Maybe this film should be shown together with LONDON (1994, Patrick Keiller).

The Quebecois films which I would like to see very much are

1.A SCREAM FROM SILENCE (1979, Anne Claire Poirier)
From what I have heard about it, I think the film might be like THE ACCUSED + ADAPTATION. The film is about ‘a film about a rape victim’, the (fictional?) filmmakers’ reactions to the film, and the (true?) story which inspired the filmmakers to make this film.

I think Ron Burnett wrote a very good article about this film in the book “CULTURES OF VISION: IMAGES, MEDIA, AND THE IMAGINARY”

2.POSSIBLE WORLDS (2000, Robert Lepage)
Tilda Swinton is in it, and I think it might be as weird as her other films which I would like to see very much, such as FRIENDSHIP’S DEATH (1987, Peter Wollen), or THE PARTY: NATURE MORTE (1991, Cynthia Beatt). Someone should organize a Tilda Swinton retrospective.

April 06, 2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Aaron, Tuwa, Bob, Adam, Zach, CelineJulie --Thank you!

Aaron ~ You know, I have that Blood Relatives videotape but haven't actually watched it yet...

Tuwa ~ Thanks for the kind words!

Bob ~ I know of Cinefranco but have never attended. Sometimes they show French or Quebecois films that were screened a few months earlier at TIFF. And I didn't think of searching YouTube for Cronenberg's Camera and the others in the series. Also, I have Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World on a DVD with Archangel and Twilight of the Ice Nymphs.

Adam ~ My sieve-which-doubles-for-a-memory does not seem to remember that post, even though I'm a long-time and loyal Hell On Frisco Bay reader. Thank you for posting the link! And I didn't know about Les Ordres on TV...

Zach ~ I'd been thinking about doing this post for a while, but what finally catalyzed it was seeing your Iranian Cinema Until 1979 primer post. So, thank you for that...

CelineJulie ~ I was glad to notice a few days ago that you now have an English-language version of your blog Limitless Cinema.

Thank you for the suggestions. The London documentary you mention reminds me; I've seen just one film by Mireille Dansereau and it was terrific. It's called La Vie Revée (1972) and it was the first woman-made Canadian feature. It's about the close friendship between two women who work in a firm that makes commercials. It has a wonderfully free, reverie-like structure and a lightness of touch which conceals the political realities of its moment which are constantly, quietly, coursing underneath...

Anne Claire Poirier has a good reputation and I would love to see something/anything by her.

April 06, 2007 8:09 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Adam, yes I remember your post now! (I should; I even left a comment on it!) Sheesh, my memory is going to the dogs...

A couple of links:
-- Noel, Oggs, et al: perhaps you noticed that Robert Koehler covered some Filipino cinema in his latest blog post from Buenos Aires...?
-- Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader on The Hoax and The Cats of Kirikitani.
-- Tucker at Pilgrim Akimbo connects Gerhard Richter, Tarkovsky and Wordsworth.

April 06, 2007 7:51 PM  
Blogger shahn said...

thank you- this is a great post. i highly recommend visiting the nfb in toronto, not just because its air conditioned. i'm surprised no one's mentioned the nfb website. they have clips of films you can't even see at the nfb viewing stations plus they sell vhs versions of some. that's where i found a cliip of yul 871 by jacques godbout- i'd love to see that. there's also a book out, one hundred years of canadian cinema by george melnyk. it has a lot of cinema quebecois.

April 07, 2007 1:31 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Shahn, thank you for reminding us about the NFB website and their plentiful online viewing! (btw, I've been enjoying all the great silent film screen captures you've been posting at your site...)

David Bordwell reports from Hong Kong on, among many other things,avant-garde filmmaker Paolo Gioli:

"Paolo Gioli has been making experimental films since the 1960s. From one angle, his approach converges with the work of filmmakers like Ken Jacobs and Ernie Gehr. Gioli employs optical printing and other techniques to halt, fragment, and superimpose images, many of them from found footage. Perforations flutter across the screen and framelines dance; single-frame montage imparts hallucinatory movement to a static picture; negative and positive images bounce off one another. The very concepts of a shot or of a film frame dissolve in this lovely work.

But Gioli’s originality goes beyond the tradition of recasting found footage. Anticipating recent gallery artists who rig up their own movie machines, he films with pinhole cameras made of buttons or seashells, or uses leaves to create an extra shutter. The results can be aggressive or lyrical, and I found them completely fascinating. The first of four programs of his work was my first sight of Gioli’s work. How could I have missed it?

All the five films in the set, mostly from the late 1960s and early 1970s, were very impressive. In Traces of traces (1969), the abstract whorls and speckles are made from filmstock pressed upon his skin and fingertips. According to My Glass Eye (1971) assaults us with a flurry of Muybridge-like postures and fluttering close-ups, all to a threatening drumbeat.

My favorite was the gentler Anonimatograph (1972), recomposed from a 35mm home movie from the 1910s and 1920s. The shots settle into layers, and as they peel off we see people in different phases of their lives, sometimes studying each other across the years. Family portraits become eerie silhouettes and cameos. Even gouges on the emulsion serve as testimony to time gone.

Mark McElhatten, an expert on experimental film, provided the catalogue essay and an enlightening introduction to the screening, as well as an after-film discussion. He pointed out Gioli’s fascination with the textures of the human body as they are shaped by time and space, and then captured on the skin of film itself. Film as a tactile medium: No surprise that Gioli is also a sculptor."

Go here for all David Bordwell posts (9 so far) from Hong Kong.

April 07, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Jan at Jahsonic on an interesting blog discovery:

"Valter’s Surreal Documents is an excellent blog on subversive surrealism as professed by Georges Bataille and the Acéphale group. Recent subjects have included Alice Coltrane, Coffin Joe, books acquired and Nico."

April 08, 2007 7:44 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...


Thanks for the list, and good to see Les Bons Débarras, which I remember really enjoying. The screenplay was by the writer Réjean Ducharme, who is one of Québec's best-known novelists despite his very low public profile.

His first novel L'avalé des avalés caused a stir due to its success in France, and I liked l'Óceantume as well - both feature young female misfits akin to Manon in Les Bons Débarras.

Those who are interested in a musical parallel to the rural Québec of that movie might find Fred Fortin interesting - his 2000 cd Le plancher des vaches is an odd one - funny, obscene and touching.

April 09, 2007 7:34 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Paul, for those connections, none of which I knew...

April 09, 2007 7:44 AM  
Anonymous Peet said...

Sorry for discovering it so late, but I really like that drawing, Girish.

April 12, 2007 5:58 AM  
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