I’m actually in Montréal right now. While I’m here for the next few days, I’ll do my best to find time to hash out a few posts between my errands.
This will be a 2-part series on Denys Arcard and his place in Québec’s film industry and his role in helping to shape Québec’s modern society.
- Post 1 (this post) will offer you a general backgrounder which gives you the context for Denys Arcand’s place in Québec’s history of film making.
- Post 2 will cover his films, spanning two eras of cinema.
Québec’s and Montréwood’s film industry has a history unique from any other film in industry.
In a nutshell, Québec’s film industry is comprised of three general eras:
- The First Era: The pre-1960, Catholic Church controlled era, characterized by the Catholic church’s control and dominance over the industry (children under 16 were not even allowed to watch movies until 1961),
- The Second Era: the post-Catholic, Secularized Nationalist Era which lasted until just after 1980. Films in this era often took on nationalist subjects and overtures (very much towards sovereignty). Directors of this era very much embodied the ideals of Québec nationalism
- The Third Era: the International (and Post-Nationalist) Era from the early 1980s until present.
The above underlined “titles” I attribute to these eras are not formally recognized names, but from my vantage-point, I would argue they are fairly accurate descriptions of the eras.
Everything that characterizes Québec film can be said to relate to, or at least stem from one of these three eras. But what is most important to realize is that these eras were lead and carried by many of the film-makers themselves (rather than the other way around – which is a unique characteristic of Québec cinema… whereas other filmmakers elsewhere in the world tend to try to “fit the already-establish mould”).
Québec filmmakers of the first-era have all passed away.
The most influential, celebrated and well-known filmmakers & directors of the second era, for the most part, have also passed away. They included Pierre Falardeau (the creator of Elvis Graton which we saw in the last post), Claude Jutra, and Gilles Carle.
Of the big film producer names from the second-era, only a very small handful remain, one of whom is Denys Arcand (who also happens to be the biggest of them all). Because of the nationalist overtures of second-era filmmakers, they played a key role in crystalizing Québec’s post-Grande noirceur self-awareness and coming of age. They have profoundly marked Québec – and helping to shape the collective psyche to modern Québec’s society.
Filmmakers of the third era have come and gone since the early 1980s, and have achieved success on all ends of the spectrum (much like any modern film industry with a global outlook and global reach). The third-era films are not political (at least most are not), they have wide appeal in Québec , as well as elsewhere in Canada and the world, and they fit the mould of a globalized industry, accessible to all via the Internet, international marketing and international film festivals.
The next post will specifically look at Denys Arcand from the perspective of how he fits into the above.