Issue: February 2013 - French Canadian Cinema

Cinema Revisited: Gilles Groulx’ Le Chat dans le sac

Ah the sixties: a time of existential angst, political turmoil, and cultural revolution. OK, so I was born in 1983…but it doesn’t mean I can’t dream. Of course, the ’60s were a seminal moment globally and cross-culturally: the sexual revolution took hold in the West while films and music began to experiment with form, and the strength of the student and labour movements engendered the protests of May ’68. But what was going on at home was   much more specific and thought-provoking: the Quiet Revolution swept the province of Quebec (so called because it was not a revolution...

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Media Impact: prizes and awards (or how Monsieur Lazhar came to a theatre near you)

Have you heard of War Witch , the French Canadian film directed by Kim Nguyen that’s up for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film  this year? I hadn’t, I’m not gonna lie. Until it was nominated. Even if I had, I would have had a heck of a time trying to find a theatre that would play it, since, barring a film festival or two, it hasn’t actually hit theatres outside of Québec. Unfortunately this is no anomaly for French-Canadian films. The past two Oscar-nominated Canadian films, Monsieur Lazhar and Incendies , both ran in Québec  for...

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Essential Canadian Cinema: Bon Cop, Bad Cop

Still Canada’s reigning domestic box office champ, Bon Cop, Bad Cop is hailed by some as an important move towards trying to join the francophone and anglophone film industries within Canada.  The film is entirely bilingual and takes on the concept of mixed cultures and languages – something you’d think would be more common in a mixed language country like ours. Fun facts about Bon Cop, Bad Cop : the entire movie was filmed using 2 scripts – one written in French and one written in English; the language used in each scene was decided upon during the editing...

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Quebecois comedies get the Hollywood remake treatment

Quebec’s film industry has always been a rich and vibrant one, and many Quebecois’ films are smash hits at the local box office. Handsome heartthrobs such as Roy Dupuis‘ are huge stars at home, so much so that they rarely have a need to travel to Hollywood to find the kind of fame and fortune they already enjoy in Quebec. For the most part, Hollywood hasn’t shown a huge amount of interest in Quebec either, save for some noteworthy Oscar nominations (Incendies, Monsieur Lazhar and War Witch, most recently) and wins (Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions). And in the...

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TFS Awards Quickie: Shawn Christensen, Oscar-nominated director of Curfew

During the lead up to the Oscars every winter, much ink is spilled discussing what studio prestige release is going to win Best Picture and which high profile name will be trumphant in the Best Director/Actor/Actress categories. There are, however, 20 other categories to consider, including Best Live Action Short which actor/writer/director Shawn Christensen knows a thing or two about: his film Curfew is in the running to take home the golden statuette on February 24. The film follows the story of Richie (played by Christensen) who’s depressed and borderline suicidal yet agrees to take care of his nine-year-old...

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Cinema Revisited: Denys Arcand (even masters make mistakes)

First of all, doesn’t Denys Arcand kind of look a little bit like John Waters? Hm. Despite this jarring similarity, let’s take a look back at the work of one of Canada’s most internationally-renowned auteurs. But when we aim to “revisit” cinema, what is it exactly that we are doing? In my view, it is one of two things: recuperation or time-testing. In the act of recuperation, a formerly-maligned film might be re-read to excavate some previously unnoticed qualities, or perhaps to highlight the usefulness of those of its qualities which were used against it in contemporary criticism (think of Paul Verhoeven’s now-cult-classic 1995 film Showgirls ). In the act of time-testing, we try to see how a film “holds up”, and whether the praise it originally received is still relevant today. One of the first films that garnered Arcand major notice was the Oscar-nominated and multi-Genie-winning Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986), a comedy-drama about the intimate conversations and relationships among a group of intellectual friends (professors, no less) before and during a dinner party. As the first of the “unofficial” trilogy, onto which 2003’s Les invasions barbares and 2007’s L’age des tenebres were added, Le déclin…   offers a not-so-subtle critique of contemporary capitalism and Western sexual morality. The critique, however, is not an outright attack; rather, Arcand’s skill as a writer (he wrote the script, too)...

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The TFS List: successful French Canadian films you haven’t seen but probably should

Admittedly, French Canadian cinema isn’t my strong suit. What little I knew about it, I learned from halfheartedly paying attention in a Canadian cinema course I took a few years ago. After writing this list, I can say I am only slightly more knowledgeable, but I am completely more willing to seek out the hidden gems of French Canadian films. I’ve separated this list into two categories: films that were extremely successful in Québec  but failed to make the English Canada crossover; and films that were successful outside of just the Québec  market. The one thing that all of...

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