Tuesday, September 23, 2014

French Canadian films are a credit to Canada

Here in English speaking Canada we are not very conscious that the rest of the world has a positive view of our country in part because of Quebec's French Canadian film makers.  In 2004, "The Barbarian Invasions" won the Oscar for best foreign language film.  Over the years a number of Quebec films have made the final cut for foreign language Oscar nominations:  "Jesus of Montreal"  "The Decline of the American Empire" "Incendies"," Monsieur Lahzar" and most recently,  "War Witch." 

Because of Quebec sensitivities about being a language minority they have fought in various ways to protect their heritage.  The future is in the hands of our youth and Quebeckers realized that movies get the attention of the young.  If they can be pulled away from the Hollywood onslaught there is some hope the language and culture will be respected.

"Mon Oncle Antoine" in 1971 is considered a Canadian masterpiece.  It was considered Claude Jutra's best film. He had gotten off to an early start in Canada (after completing medical studies), but then went to France where he worked with Francois Truffaut and Jean Rouch.  Another movie of his, "Kamourouska" featured Genevieve Bujold, a Quebec actress that went onto Hollywood success.

Denys Arcand was another prominent director and writer that created international recognition.  He started out early while at the Universite de Montreal by co directing a movie.  He worked for the National Film Board of Canada and did a film,so controversial about the Quebec textile industry that it was withdrawn from the public.  "The Decline of the American Empire" in 1986 with an intellectual and sexual overtones won awards at Cannes as did  "Jesus of Montreal" in 1989.   "The Barbarian Invasion" developed even more attention, not only at Cannes, but also winning best foreign film at the Oscars.--Marie-Josée Cruze in that film won best actress at Cannes.  I had been very struck--with  her smile in "The Diver, Bell and  Butterfly" an excellent movie made in France and had assumed she was European French,   

Denys's brother Gabriel has been a stalwart actor in Quebec.  Recently enjoyed his performance in "The Auction" and "Congorama"  Earlier he had played in Quebec favorite, "Les Plouffe."

Denis Villeneuve director/writer, in 2000 brought up "Maelstrom" and won a lot of recognition in Canada and for Marie-Josée Cruze.  Another award winner "Polytechnique"came out in 2009 depicting a tragic anti-female incident.  "Incendies" broke new ground in 2010.  I had been warned about the underlying surprise, but it still is very shocking once you get inside the head of the two protagonists and watch them uncover layers of confusion and hate.  One of the most powerful films I have ever seen and I did feel it was the best film I saw that year.  It was nominated for a the best foreign film at the Oscars.  Since then Denis has been recognized by Hollywood and has directed, "Prisoners" and "Enemy"both with Jake Gyllenhaal with more getting set for release.

Philip Falardeau in 1993 won a tv contest that required him to travel and take 20 shorts.  From there he worked for the National Film Board and made two documentaries that gained national attention.  His first feature was "La Moetie gauche, du frig" gained international attention.  In 2006 he set up a Canada, Belgium and France co-production for "Congorama."  In 2008 the came up with another winner, "Cest pas moi je le jure." In Philippe  adapted a stage play, "Monsieur Lazhar" that was nominated for best foreign film in the Oscars.  This was a movie that the non Hollywood ending caught me off guard.  His latest film "The Good Lie" with Reese Witherspoon is his first Hollywood effort.

From "Monsieur Lazhar" another Canadian, young Sophie Nelisse who won an award for the film has gone on to play the lead in "The Book Thief"  

Stephane Lafleur who edited "Monsieur Lazhar"  was the director/writer for "The Auction" and recently released "Tu dors Nicole" that is making a good impression on the festival circuit.

Ken Scott, started as a writer and actor including "La Grande Seduction" (a.k.a. The Seduction of Dr Lewis") later he re wrote  in English as "The Grand Seduction."  He wrote the script for one of Quebec's greatest heroes, "The Rocket," Maurice Richard.  He wrote and directed "Starbuck" and then got to write the English version,  "Deliveryman" starring Vincent Vaughn. 

Jean-Marc Vallée is still another Quebecker who was grabbed by Hollywood.  A really different movie, "C.R.A.Z.Y."  got early attention and he also did "Cafe de Flore" with French actress Vanessa Paradis.  He directed Emily Blunt as "The Young Victoria."  He directed two actors to Oscar acting nominations in "Dallas Buyers club."

"Gabrielle," directed by Louise Archambault  portrays the problem of a mentally challenged young woman wanting to be independent.  It was the Canadian nomination for the Oscar best foreign language film, but didn't make the cut to the short list.

"War Witch"  (a.k.a. "(Rebelle") directed and written by Kim Nguyen, set in Africa was on the short list for best foreign language film at the Oscars.

Xavier Dolan  is an up and comer who has written, directed and acted in award winning movies and is now moving into English films.  Made his mark with "J'ai tue ma mere" ("I Killed My Mother") as director, writer, actor and costume designer.  acted in Canada's foreign langage Oscar nomination for 2014--"Mommy" won the jury prize at Cannes   Also noted for "Laurence Anyways".  In 2014 acted in "Elephant Song." an English language film.

Other notable films from Quebec include "Louis Cyr" another hero, but with a very human story to tell.   Directed by Daniel Roby and starring Antoine Bertrand who had a supporting role in "Starbuck" Other Quebec movies I enjoyed were "Gerry" put on by the Art Gallery of Hamilton World Film Festival and  "Bon Cop Bad cop" a bilingual action movie starring Patrick Huard and Colm Feore. 

As Canadians we should take pride in what our francophone brethren have contributed to national pride, but also help us understand  them a little better.  I was not able to view all of the movies listed, but put the ones I saw (and enjoyed) in bold letters.  Will be investigating the others.

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