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Elvis Gratton – “Unveiled” (#188)

The last few posts touched on matters which have much to do not only with societal accommodations, and political correctness, but also matters involving society’s respect for others.  Thus, for those of you who DO know “what” Elvis Gratton is, you may think I’m lacking a bit of tact and judgement by writing a post on Elvis Graton directly after a series discussing multiculturalism.

You may even be thinking “There he goes…– he’s going to hold Elvis Gratton above everyone’s heads as a statement of societal intolerance, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”.

Well, actually… don’t get ahead of yourself.   I want to say that I AM going to hold Elvis Gratton up as a statement regarding bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and gross prejudice.  BUT, I’m sure my take on it is going to surprise you.   I’m actually going to tout Elvis Gratton’s place in Québec’s culture to illustrate some of the best of what Québec is – the best of its people, the best of its society, and Québec’s deep concern for others, regardless of their backgrounds.

I need to first explain who and what “Elvis Gratton” is (considering that many Anglophone Canadians may not know about Elvis Gratton).

To start, if I were to mention Cheech and Chong”, most people in Anglophone Canada will definitely remember this iconic Canadian-American comedy duo (at least those who have a cultural recollection of 1980s)

Québec also has two similar cultural phenomenon – which are some of the most iconic, most widely referenced and biggest Québec pop-cultural hits of the last 35 years:

  • The Québec equivalent which could embody the “stage comedy” aspect of Cheech and Chong could be the stage comedic duo Ding et Dong” (popular in the 1980s & 1990s).
  • But the Québec equivalent which could embody the “movie” aspect of Cheech and Chong probably would be “Elvis Gratton” — which not only spanned the 1980s with the release of several movies, but also continued will into the 1990s, and up to 2009 in a later televised series format.

Elvis Gratton was a series of comedy movies, centred on one main character named Bob Gratton.  He had an ever-present sidekick best-friend, Méo.  In the movies, Bob Gratton won an Elvis impersonation competition, it went to his head, and he lived a frankly bizarre life and an even more bizarre view of the world.

Posters for two of the six movies, not to mention 40+ television episodes

e.gr.1

What made the movies stand out was the bigoted nature of its characters, the political incorrectness of the plots, nasty cheap shots at every possible aspect of society, and some of the most crass language and behaviours I have ever seen of any movies in Québec or Canada (if you want to learn every Québec swear word under the sun, you only need to watch 10 minutes of any of the given movies).   The movie was so raw and crass, in fact, that I’m even a little embarrassed to attempt to describe it.  I could go so far to say that it plays on themes which are downright racist (think of the themes of South Park x 10, or Borat x 20).  Needless to say, you’ll be able to find sufficient movie footage of it online to see what I mean.

Why and how could such a series of movies and television shows be such a hit (to the point that I would describe it as an iconic cultural hit)?   I think you have to understand the timing of it in Québec’s own modern history, in addition to understanding the movies’ creator’s own place in society.

In a nutshell, the first movie came out shortly after the first 1980 referendum.  The subsequent movies came out between the two referendums and during the first several years following the 1995 referendum.

The movie director, Pierre Falardeau (died 2009), was one of Québec’s few larger-than-life directors (it’s difficult to not think of Québec cinema without thinking of Pierre Falardeau)Falardeau was a very public supporter of sovereignty, and brought a good deal of philosophical perspective to the arena – debating it from his unique vantage point of the creator of many of Québec’s most appreciated cinematic works.  The loss of the 1980 referendum would have been a tough blow for Falardeau, as would have been the loss of the 1995 referendum.  It’s pure conjecture on my part, but men and women like Farlardeau often express their frustrations through their artistic works.  Their works can also embody a healing process for their own anxieties.

The fact that Falardeau chose to use the Elivs Gratton movies to make fun of the most taboo, most delicate, most emotional and most intense topics in Québec before and after the referendums could possibly have been his way of not only coping with the issues, but perhaps helping society to cope with the issues themselves.

When individuals internalize their own pain and thoughts, the psychological damage can be crippling.  Thus phycologists encourage people to find a way to externalize pain and painful.   I wonder if Falardeau felt that Québec society as a whole was also in need of a psychological therapy session and a way to externalize its referendum anguish.  Perhaps he was using the Elvis Gratton movies as a “psychologist’s sofa” to allow Québec, as a collective society, to revisit and externalize what it had been going through during the 15 – 20 years surrounding the two referendums.  Perhaps he used Elvis Gratton as a catalyst for Québec to “get it all out”, on their movie and television screens, so that society could begin its own healing process.  After all, the referendums tore apart aspects of society, pitting segments of society against each other.   The fact that Pierre Falardeau used some of the most crass and politically incorrect plots and humour with which to make people laugh was perhaps the only way he felt he could compel society to look at these issues head on.

Regardless if my above take on Elvis Gratton is or is not correct, the movies were a monstrous success.  They were so successful and so popular that lines and language from the movies have been immortalized in every-day common Québec French (I have even used some of them myself in some earlier posts).   In this respect, lines and scenes from Elvis Gratton movies could be to Québec what the lines and scenes of Monty Python are to Great Britain.

Because Falardeau perhaps used the movies as his own substitute for a defacto “Truth & Reconcilliation Commission”, he took on issues as complex and sensitive as the chummy relationship between the federal Liberals and Power Corporation (a media corporation), how Québec viewed and treated visible minorities and immigrants, how sovereignists and federalists treated and viewed each other, how disabled people were viewed by society, religion’s place in society, how people seemingly followed ideologies like blind sheep without understanding what they were following, some of the least desirable aspects of marriage… and the list goes on.   He created comedic sketches making fun of all these matters, in the most crude and extreme ways – using the most crass language in French vocabulary.   But it made the masses pay attention, and laugh.   People laughed like you would not believe.  Years later, I know people who still recall Elvis Gratton scenes, and who continue laugh at them.

I’m not sure if you read my earlier post on “Sugar Sammy” (click HERE for it).   If you have not read it, I recommend you read it before reading the remainder of this post (it will put the following into perspective).

In the “Sugar Sammy” post, I made the specific point of emphasizing that laughter is the best medicine – especially when people can laugh at themselves.  In the Sugar Sammy post, I used the example of comedy + language politics to make the point.    However, in the case of Elvis Gratton, I’m using comedy + “sovereignty vs. federalism vs. society vs. everything else” to make the same point.  Laughter lets people heal, and it allows people to reconcile.  Under any other circumstances, the type of politically incorrect and controversial humour we saw in Elvis Gratton would have been condemned (after all, it contains repeatedly strong undertones of racist humour and other taboo topics).   But in this case, the movies were not condemned at large – probably because Falardeau did a great thing… he used his talents as a producer to portray these topics in a manner to invoke laughter for the sake of society’s healing.

I think these movies did serve their purpose, and they did allow Québec, at large, to heal and to come to terms with the turmoil and emotion which stemmed from the referendums.

One specific example I can give you was during the Bouchard-Taylor Commissions (it was a commission which explored the whole issue of reasonable accommodations in the context of multiculturalism and interculturalism)The commission suggested that Québec cease to use the expression “Québécois de souche” (“purebred Québécois”) when refering to anyone whose roots in Québec can be traced back to white settlers in the 1600s and 1700s.  Rather, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission suggested using the expression “French Canadian”.

Pierre Falardeau knew that these latter terms stirred up strong emotions from opposing aspects of society, almost to the point that it pitted certain groups against other groups, based on lines drawn by the opposing use of these expressions;  invoking notions of nationalism, federalism and sovereignty.  He therefore incorporated a puzzling mix of this confusing “identity” vocabulary into Elvis Gratton to come up with some of the funniest scenes.  Prior to these movies, society likely thought there would be no way they could ever laugh at such emotional and gut-wrenching issues.  But after the movies, everyone was laughing at these matters – to the point that many of these former “society-shredding matters” simply became cursory points of discussion.  That is a very powerful transition – by any definition.

The scene to which I’m referring to above can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZS7sOOpELI.

From 2007 to 2009, for a period of three years, the movies were re-interpreted into a 3 year television sitcom.   The fact that Elvis Gratton made the jump from the big screen to television in no way diluted the crassness or political incorrectness of the scenes.   The television series was named “Bob Gratton” (not “Elvis Gratton”).  It aired on TQS (today known as Télé-Québec).  Again, I’m sure you’ll be able to find video clips of Bob Gratton online.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that Elvis Gratton’s place in Québec’s culture illustrates some of the best of what Québec is – the best of its people, the best of its society, and Québec’s deep concern for others, regardless of their backgrounds.

I said this because after Québec’s society had its emotional “release” through laughter, by way of these very politically incorrect movies and television, society never really re-embarked on making fun of such issues, at least at a societal level, ever again (issues which, under any other circumstances, should never be made fun of… i.e.:  it’s not OK to laugh at and make fun of people with cerebral palsy, such as the movies did with Bob Gratton’s side-kick friend Méo; nor is it ok to make fun of gay people, or Muslims, or developing countries and their people, etc. etc.).   And in this spirit, after Québec’s healing-period via Elvis Gratton, Québec put this kind of humour to rest.  It has never really crept back into Québec’s mainstream media again.   I think this shows that society knows how and when to put things into context.

In my blog series talking about Multiculturalism and Interculturalism, I spoke of “isolated” flare-ups of culturally sensitive matters, as well as political point-scoring by “lone” political camps.   But I truly cannot emphasize enough that these are just what I said:  “isolated” and “lone” scenarios.  They do not represent a tendency towards societal racism, intolerance, or bigotry.  On the contrary, Québec is one of the most welcoming, caring and warmest societies in the Western and developed world.  Québec may be soul-searching for the best way to integrate immigrants (and it may have its odd hiccups and growing pains), but frankly speaking, so too are Vancouver and Toronto, and other provinces have issues as they are dealing with these subjects.  But on the whole, we (as Canada as a whole or as Albertans, Manitobans, Québecois, or Newfoundlanders, as well as individual towns and cities) do a much better job of dealing with these matters than other parts of the world.  We tolerate and empathize with them more than most other countries in the world.  How Québec’s society has waded its way through these matters is truly commendable and remains a model for other societies which are undergoing rapid diversification while, at the same time, they are facing questions on how to best deal with serious, complex, and intense questions of cultural and heritage preservation.   All-in-all, Québec has pulled it off and continues to evolve.

We really have to be careful to differentiate lone political camps (ones who seek to capitalize on isolated instances from society at large) from society’s individuals who exercise the utmost humanity with which to build a compassionate, just and tolerant society.

Political & Society Related Posts

A word of warning:  Brace yourself… because boy, do I have some opinions!
Je vous mets en garde, alors soyez avertis, car oui mes chums, j’en ai des opinions, moi.  Attachez bien vos tuques avec d’la broche !!
In and of itself, this blog is not political.  But that does not mean that I shy away from certain topics of a political nature from time-to-time.  You’ll notice below that the odd time I “let’r rip!”

Major Canadian parties

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Note in the above chart that:

1.  The Alberta New Democrats are further to the right than the Federal New Democrats (The issues are different at a provincial level, which requires different positions.  Western Canadian political commentators regularly point out that Alberta NDP positions are very similar to British Columbia Liberal positions).

2.  The Alberta PC (a) was not as far to the right as the Federal Conservatives and that (b) there is much overlap with the Alberta Liberals (one of the reasons why the Alberta Liberals could not get a foothold during the last Alberta elections — which opened the door widely for the Alberta NDP).

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[Montreal Gazette] Dan Delmar: Why sovereignty withered under Stephen Harper (#381)

One week after the Federal election: The aftermath in Québec’s context (#380)

  • An autopsy of the 2015 Federal election with the view from Québec and where things stand moving forward.

Qu’est ce qui est arrivé durant les quelques années suivant l’arrivée des Britanniques au Québec? (#379)

  • Pas ce que tout le monde en pense.

Funny what gets dragged from the attic when politics get involved (#369)

  • This posts highlights the importance of not skipping out on historical events when one wishes to bring up history to explain the present.

How you know you’re doomed on election day (kidding… well, kinda) (#368)

  • Why I endorse the fact that Canadians, who have resided abroad for 5+ years, should not be allowed to vote.
  • At least the reasons are one other factoid which seems to transcend the Two Solitudes.

A well-made BBC video questioning if Québec is able to integrate the Anglophone immigrants it “needs” (#363)

  • A well made video by the BBC, which presents an fresh unbiased angle on the topic from an outside point of view.

The Two Solitudes come to the fore after the French-language election debate (#361)

Our numerous Federal politicians’ French-language train wreck (#360)

  • How good French-language skills (or lack thereof) can make it or break it for Federal politicians.

CBC and the two solitudes (#359)

  • A classic case which shows how the right hand (English) doesn’t know what the left hand (French) is doing, and how, politically, it can lead straight to straight to… nowhere.

Article of interest: French new wave: A cultural shift for Toronto as ‘invisible francophones’ settle in [Globe & Mail] (#356)

  • A Globe & Mail article on the rapid and sizable growth in the number of Francophone schools across Toronto.  One more positive sign on how things are evolving on the French-front across Canada.

The push from Montréal to found the West (#347)

  • A societal post on how the founding of the West, and subsequent “building” of the West (into the early 1900s) was largely driven by hopes and dream from Montréal.  It’s a major part of history which binds the West with the East (and more specifically, Montréal).

Immigration et certaines prises de position des associations francophones hors Québec (#342)

  • Ma critique envers les organismes nationaux francophones hors Québec, et leur manière de traiter des questions relatives à l’immigration hors Québec.

Philippe Couillard’s “premptive” damage control positioning and constitutional preps (#334)

  • How Premier Philippe Couillard is beginning to position himself in a constitutional and referendum showdown with PKP-Snyder.

Poll: How certain celebrities may vote (#332)

Two “mystery forts” tied to Québec’s role in founding Alberta and Western Canada (#330)

  • A bit of history which is not necessarily taught in Eastern Canada (but which students in Western Canada learn)

Louis-Jean Cormier – one of a few political rarites (#317)

  • A lesson on the awkwardness which can occur when sovereignist and federalists meet on the field of culture (quite an interesting experience which occurred in Toronto).

Julie Snyder : « Je ne peux plus produire des émissions de télé » (#299)

  • Je ne me suis pas retenu face à la manque d’assumer la responsibilité de ses propres actions.

Julie Snyder’s statement today stating she can no longer run her production company (#298) — Including a MAJOR addendum at the end.

  • My candid thoughts on what I see as a move to mark political points and garner public sympathy.
  • Exactly as I predicted — She “sold” Productions J to a friend (this is all getting easier and easier to see).   Owing to the fact that her friend likely wasn’t making all that much in his former position, I can’t help wonder how much Productions J was sold for (perhaps a “nominal” sum which could facilitate “selling” it back to Julie in the future after she leaves politics?).  We’ll never know because, guess what… they won’t talk to the media about it (Shock!).   Funny how the writing was on the wall, isn’t it?

Chantal Hébert (#297)

  • One of Canada’s foremost political journalists and commentators.  Known to Francophones and Anglophones alike.  It is worth following her in both languages.

24 June: La Fête nationale du Québec / La Fête St-Jean Baptiste (#293)

  • Changes are in the wind… and they might not be as small as you think.

Is there a “personality difference” between Francophones and Anglophones? (#291)

  • A post which is more social / societal in nature than political.  But because of misunderstandings, such issues can “become” political.

200e anniversaire de la bataille de Waterloo : Comment elle a pu façonner à jamais le Québec et le Canada (#290)

200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo:  How it shaped Québec and Canada (#289)

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SERIES:  EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL (13 POSTS)

A series regarding how the omission of facts and the conveyance of an incomplete picture can affect Québec society’s view of it’s place in Canada.

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Texto Lingo, and the debate about dedicated cycling lanes (#274)

  • How the issue of urban bike paths, dedicated biking lanes and biking as a “commuter lifestyle” is viewed in Québec versus the rest of Canada.

The first poll & interviews since PKP became head of the PQ (#272)

A widely read opinion article on PKP and the question of his shares in Québecor (#271) — written by Sébastien St-François (and features in the Huffington Post Québec)

A very interesting French-language experience in Anglophone regions of Canada (#270)

  • A good example of how Canada continues to change and move in the right direction since 1995.
  • Un bon exemple qui démontre comment le Canada continue d’évoluer sur le front linguistique, surtout depuis 1995.

Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 16th, 17th & 18th positions [post 9 of 10] (#264)

  • A brief, but telling analysis and summary of Julie Snyder’s in-depth involvement in Québec politics from 2012 to now (11 May 2015).  And for the first time, a few thoughts on the uncomfortable position in which this must be placing other high profile celebrities, such as Céline Dion.

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(French / Français) SERIE:  LES PRÉJUGÉS À L’ÉGARD DE L’ALBERTA (6 billets)

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Ville d’Ottawa: Mouvement pour le bilinguisme official (drive to make the city of Ottawa officially bilingual) (#248)

  • FRENCH AND ENGLISH POST:  Les enjeux dans le débat pour faire d’Ottawa une ville bilingue (avec l’exemple de Moncton comme point de repère)
  • The current questions in the drive to designate Ottawa an officially bilingual city (using Moncton’s case as a reference point).

Les publicités négatives 2015 / 2015 Attack ads (#229)

  • Il en existe toujours “une”  /  There’s always that “one”

How a little bit of ignorance of the Two Solitudes can lead straight to failure (#227)

  • I wrote this in the context of how I predict that the Canada-Australia-New Zeland-UK freedom-of-movement initiative is likely to fail if leaders of the initiative do not change their arguments from the standpoint of being firmly entrenched in on of the two camps of the Two Solitudes.

UNIS (Canada’s newest French-language TV station) — Tout franco, tout beau (#225)

  • Although this station is not political in nature, it nonetheless has the potential to fill a very large, long-standing void in Québec — in the sense that Québec’s traditional media (and education system) is so Québec-centric, that it rarely gives Québec’s population a (positive and balanced) view of the lives of Francophones outside of Québec.   UNIS has the ability to change that (and it possibly is).   Projections cast through the media have the ability to change societal and political perceptions.   It’s called “soft power” — and I am keenly watching what might happen.
  • That being said, I do NOT believe there is any hidden political agenda with the launch of UNIS (after all, it is owned by Télé-Québec, Radio-Canada, and TFO, and two of the owner networks produce shows such as Bazzo.tv, Tout le monde en parle, Les Francs-tireurs, 24/60, Deux gars en or, La soirée est encore jeune — some of the most “nationalist” programming in Québec).
  • But as UNIS evolves, it will be very interesting how it may change public perceptions (for the better) of what is going on outside Québec, and how people live and view their lives elsewhere in Canada.   In this sense, UNIS can serve as a real game-changer to make headway regarding the “Québec-towards-other-Francophones”, and the “Québec-towards-the-rest-of-Canada” Two Solitudes.

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS — These are the more political/societal posts in a several-post series which talk about sensitive issues regarding Ontario’s Francophone population:

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“Les Ontarois”: More than double Acadia’s population, yet they rarely get outside attention (#219)

  • A whole lot of Two-Solitudes, on many many levels.  The title speaks for itself.

PKP’s major Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Immigration Muck-up (#213)

  • This is regarding the super-controversial remarks PKP made during the leadership campaign which referred to immigrants as a ticking time-bomb against sovereignty.

Even the media can have a bad day, week… or year (#211)

  • Highlights how different elements of the Left and Right media can sometimes be at each other’s throats, and how they can sometimes abuse the “broadcast to air” button, but hitting it a bit too quickly.

Une pub forte intéressante “pro-français” à la télé en Saskatchewan, qui passe à l’écran aux heures de grande écoute (#207)

  • Un exemple de la vague d’ouverture envers le français, de la part des anglophones à travers le Canada.
  • Je discute, d’ailleurs, des nuances et différences entre certaines groupes d’anglophones au Québec même, et d’autres groupes d’anglophones qui se trouvent á l’extérieur du Québec.  Parmi ces nuances, certaines ne seraient pas nécessairement perceptibles au francophone moyen du Québec.  Mais ce sont quand même des nuances importantes, surtout lorsqu’on se laisse former des opinions au sujet des anglophones et leur interactions avec la culture francophone au Québec et ailleurs au Canada (un sujet assez délicat et sensible).

An Interesting, “Pro-French” Advertisement on Prime-Time TV in Saskatchewan (#206)

The 24/60 Charkaoui interview (#203)

  • An example of how emotions can immaturely get out of hand in the media (this time on Radio-Canada’s 24/60).

An embarrassing example of the “Two Solitudes” (#197)

  • When English Canada’s media and film industry was, well… not at their best.

Denys Arcand: A quick Québec film industry backgrounder — Post 1 of 2 (#189)

  • Discusses some of the political history in Québec’s film-making industry.

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SERIES:  MULTICULTURALISM AND INTERCULTURALISM (8 POSTS)

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Elvis Gratton – “Unveiled” (#188)

  • Perhaps Québec’s own post-referendum “Truth & Reconciliation Commission”, but expressed through a comedic film and television series

Multiculturalism Redefined? (#179)

  • J.Trudeau’s more-than-interesting definition of multiculturalism… one which could bridge the gap between Federal multiculturalism and Québec interculturalism (a possible happy definition for everyone).

Le multiculturalisme redéfini? (#178)

  • Une découverte surprenante – J.Trudeau, réécrit-il la définition même du multiculturalisme pour le rendre plus réaliste pour les besoins du Canada et le Québec?

The Duo “Coderre – Lebeaume” (#175)

  • They’re quite the pair.

The significance of Canada’s French Immersion Program – for Québec (#165) – Part 3 of 4

  • A must read for those who say nothing has changed in Anglophone Canada since 1995.

L’Importance du programme d’immersion française au Canada anglophone – pour le Québec (#166) – Part 4 of 4

  •  Pour ceux au Québec, un billet à lire absolument (pour ceux qui prétendent que rien n’a changé au Canada anglophone depuis 1995).
    • 1,000,000 (million) d’élèves…
    • 2,000,000 (million) parents…
    • des milliiers et milliers d’écoles et commissions scolaires…
    • ainsi que la force de toutes les machines gouvernementales de toutes les provinces, territoires et le gouv’t fédéral.
    • Là là… les chiffres parlent fort!

“L’autre midi, À la table d’à côte”; Nadeau-Dubois / Payette discussion summary post 3 of 3 (#155)

  • A friend, who I would consider a “Soft” Sovereignist, kicked my butt encouraged me to be a bit more forward in my blog (at least in one post) on my own views towards sovereignty.  The commentary in this post did just that.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois – An “eavesdropping” short series: Nadeau-Dubois / Payette – Post 1 of 3 (#153)

  • A summary of Québec politics from March 2012 to January 2015 – and how public sentiment was shaped in part by the public strick and activism activities involving Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
  • Addendum 2015-04-01:  A quick addition on what is happening with renewed student strikes in the spring of 2015 in Québec.

Julie Snyder (#9)

Guylaine Tremblay – An “eavesdropping” short series: Moffatt-Tremblay – Post 2 of 3 (#151)

  • In this post, I briefly share my own thoughts (in one paragraph) about what I think when I see actors & actresses (and singers too) politicize themselves by declaring a partisan affiliation (regardless of the affiliation).

La tragédie cette semaine en France – partie II. (#145)

  • People all across Canada showed tremendous solidarity with France & Charlie-Hebdo. But unfortunately, despite gestures going on for days, media reported very little across linguistic lines on grass-roots events across the country – a perfect example where the media can contribute to the notion of the Two Solitudes.    The post makes for interesting reading & perspectives (post written in French)

Comparisons can be a good thing (#137)

  • Some thoughts on why it’s twisted to focus on negative differences rather than seeing them as positives (unfortunately too many columnists, PQ politicians and BQ politicians absolutely love to twist differences between people to make anyone else seem like the devil who you have to flee from at a billion miles an hour).   The French equivalent of this post is here:  Comparisons can be a good thing (#137)

Végreville — et les petites villes du Canada (#125)

  • Our small towns across Canada, in every corner of the country, including Québec, are undergoing tremendous changes.  It’s time to lay-off them and stop thinking of them as small kingdoms of hickdom-come (I mean, really… lay off).

Gérald Fillion – Watch this guy if you want to know about Québec’s economy (#124)

  • Contains a commentary and examples on how little national coverage there can be on on major national events, especially by Francophone media coverage of major news of national importance outside Québec.  It even highlights how Anglophone media does not report major events in other parts of Anglophone Canada.  All this directly contributes to reinforcing the notions of The Two Solitudes.

Oil Pipelines in Québec – A Hot-Button issue (#123)

  • How various regions and aspect of Québec society and government are hotly debating the whole issue of new pipelines being laid in Québec — and how this fits into politics.

Bouleversement politique en Alberta (#122)

  • A post (in French) pertaining to Alberta’s mass Wild-Rose defections, and the direction the PC party seems to be going in (on the “progressive” and “conservative front) when faced with major demographic changes in Alberta.
  • Un billet en français portant sur la défection en vrac des députés du Parti Wild-Rose, et la direction que prend le PCP (sur les fronts “progessistes” et “conservateurs), et ce, comme résultat des changements démographiques massifs en Alberta.
  • Contains a February 2015 addendum with a link to a very interesting updated analysis from CBC

Premier Philippe Couillard’s Year-End Interview (#120)

  • A sit-down interview with Céline Galipeau.  Footage available online (see link in post)

Québec’s network of opinion-makers (#111)

  • A discussion of the close-knit nature of Québec’s political & societal commentary community (opinion-makers) in the media, and the implication of this realm’s unique structure in Québec.

Official Francophone Representation Outside Québec (#107)

  • A brief summary of organizations which represent Francophone communities across Canada (socially and sometimes politically), as well as some thoughts on the meaning of the Francophone community flags.

Michaëlle Jean & La Francophonie (#106)

  • A discussion of some implications for Canada with Michaël Jean as the new head of La Francophonie, the future of French in the world, and the place of La Francophonie in that world.

Sugar Sammy – People generally love him, yet some others… well… (sigh). (#103)

  • A discussion of the echos of yesteryear’s language politics

Some thoughts on common values (#100)

  • How Québec & Québecor print media has helped to forge a sense of local community across Canada,
  • How Francophone values and Anglophone values have become interwoven through progressive causes like health-care,
  • Some thoughts on Equalization and mutual assistance through the decades (with a very interesting photo).

ar.dp

Une de mes photos que je considère parmi mes plus chères, prise par mon arrière grand-père sur les prairies dans le sud en Saskatchewan dans les années 1930:   Le gouvernement arrive avec urgence dans l’ouest du Canada avec des provisions parachutées à la population durant la “Grande dépression” (à Pasqua, entre les villes de Moose Jaw, Rouleau et Belle-Plaine, Saskatchewan).  Les provisions étaient envoyées par le peuple du Québec (par des gens ordinaires)  pour éviter que les gens de la Saskatchewan ne meurent de faim.  C’est une des plusieurs raisons pour lesquelles l’ouest est tout à fait d’accord avec la notion de contribuer au système de la péréquation — une valeur profondément ancrée dans l’esprit des gens de l’ouest du pays.  C’est un geste que l’ouest n’a jamais oublié, et on est toujours reconnaissant envers le Québec.  Mais malheureusement, il me semble que le Parti québécois l’avait rayé des cours d’histoire au Québec dans les années 1970 dans leur but exprès d’effacer tout lien émotif avec le reste du pays (Merci beaucoup M. Jacques-Yvan Morin, ministre de l’education péquiste de ’76 à ’81 — C’était très gentil de votre part!).

One of my most cherished photos, taken by my great grandfather on the Prairies in Southern Saskatchewan in the 1930s:  The government arriving in the West, parachuting supplies to the population during the Great Depression, in Pasqua, between the towns of Moose Jaw, Rouleau and Belle-Plaine, Saskatchewan.  The supplies were specifically sent by the people of Québec so that the people of Saskatchewan did not die of starvation (one of the many reasons why the West has no problem with the notion of providing equalization).  The West has never forgot it, and is still thankful towards Québec.  But unfortunately the Party Québécois seems to have erased it from Québec’s history textbooks in the 1970s.

Louis Morissette (#93)

  • Contains an example of how the cultural world and the Québecor corporate world could clash, and questions that may pose now that PKP is running for the PQ leadership.

No way, le Figaro (#76)  (This post is a running post on matters involving PKP).

  • 2014- 11-04 – My response to Le Figaro’s Alberta-bashing comment, and some related thoughts on PKP’s politically motivated media and investment strategies
  • 2014-12-03 – Addendum:  Suspicions appear to have materialized
  • 2014-12-14 – Addendum:  (1) Translation of original French post, (2) New controversies seems to have come to light
  • 2015-02-08 – PKP doesn’t like people who sing in English in Québec.
  • 2015-02-13 – Sun News TV (the subject of this initial post) got shut down.

Le Plateau (#72)

  • One of Canada’s and Québec’s most influencial urban areas and ridings which receives some of the most attention – culturally, politically and socially.   A discussion of the influence certain political critics feel this riding holds, and their definition of La clique du plateau.

Political interview series of major Federal party leaders (#62)

  • Radio-Canada interviews which can be streamed online.

Anglo-Franco cultural nuances in the use of humour and comedy (#58)

  • Discusses how differences in humour can have a political impact on public perception.

Maurais Live (#49)

  • Discusses the concept of “soft sovereignists”

Les états généraux du Canada français en 1967 — Autrement surnommé “La première Nuit des longs couteaux” . 

http://journallareleve.com/wordpress/?page_id=609

(Ooof… que je touche des sujets sensibles! Non?) … …

  • Du côté linguistique (envers le français), les changements qui auraient eu lieu à travers le Canada auraient été profonds, bien plus vites, et auraient changé le Canada à jamais (même la Colombie-Britannique s’appretait à imposer des menus bilingues dans tous les restaurants de la province au début des années 1970).    Mais hélas, la trahison de Jacques-Yves Morin et sa délégation du Québec aux assises des États généraux du Canada français en 1967 a fait que les changements les plus radicaux et les plus beaux qui auraient eu lieu partout au Canada fussent tous tombés à l’eau — Et les Francophones hors Québec (et de nombreux Anglophones sympatiques à leur cause – beaucoup d’Anglophones d’ailleurs) étaient laissés à leur propre sort pour ramasser à eux seuls les morceux du pot brisé (car le “syndicat” des francophone pan-canadien pour le changement – [faute de trouver une meilleure définition] s’esteffondré d’un seul coup suite aux actions de Jacques-Yves Morin et ses délégués).
  • Certains francophones hors Québec l’appellent encore une trahison sans précédente dans l’histoire moderne du Canada – peut-être même plus grande que la deuxième Nuit des longs couteaux de 1981.   Tout le progrès linguistique et historique qui allait être implanté au Canada au cours des années 1970, et tous les efforts des francophones hors Québec (et leurs nombreux alliés Anglophones) qui allaient porter fruit dans un avenir très très prôche…  le tout s’est vu poignardé dans le dos par Jacques-Yves Morin et sa délégation du Québec dans un seul jour, en 1969.
  • Si cette acte n’aurait pas eu lieu, le Canada d’aujourd’hui aurait pu être un pays bien différent:  bien plus bilingue, et bien plus bi-culturel qu’il l’est à présent.   Et la Deuxième Nuit des longs couteaux de 1981 — celle qui est tant évoquée par les souverainistes comme la cause des malheurs des malheurs — n’aurait probablement pas eu lieu si ça n’aurait pas été pour les actions de Jacques-Yves Morin cette seule et sombre journée en 1967.
  • C’est une version d’histoire bien connue par les francophones hors Québec, mais c’est une version d’histoire carrément rayée des livres des cours d’histoire dans les écoles du Québec.  Malgré tout, les péquistes veulent éviter à tout prix de donner l’impression à leur propre électorat que leurs prôches collaborateurs (et leur ministre d’éducation lui même) étaient les instigateurs de la mort de ce qui aurait pu être une des plus belles révolutions envers la francisation du Canada – point.  Ils parlent si souvent, les péquistes, d’un génocide “culturel” des francophones hors Québec dans les années 1970s et 1980 (jusqu’au début de la nouvelle remontée des communautés francophones hors Québec dans les années 1990).  Mais si c’est ainsi, et si c’est la façon dont ils veulent bien le décrire, il tombe alors sur leurs mains aussi ce “génocide métaphorique” — Car c’était leur gang qui a mis les batons dans les roues pour ceux qui étaient sur le point de faire avancer la situation à grand pas partout au pays.   Bien sûr, ils n’oserait jamais faire réapparaître ce chapitre triste dans les livres des cours d’histoire au Québec.  Cette réingénierie de l’histoire est honteuse (Pour eux, c’est toujours la faute à quelqu’un d’autre et surtout aux “méchants anglos” ailleurs au Canada).
  • Mais, à la fin de la journée, tant pis pour eux.   Moi, au moins, j’ai le sentiment gratifiant que je contribue pleinement et activement à l’amélioration et l’édification de ce beau pays qui comprend non seulement le Québec, mais la francophonie canadienne dans son ensemble – et je suis loin d’être le seul.  Lorsque je vois des anglophones qui y participent avec enthousiame, et qui eux aussi font de partenaires et compatriotes hors paire, moi, je dors la nuit avec un sourir, et je me lève le matin plein d’énergie.  Mais comme j’ai dit, tant pis pour ceux qui ne le voient pas du même oeil.
  • Pour moi, les péquistes, bloquistes, et les Onistes (l’Option nationale… et surtout l’Option nationale) n’ont aucune crédibilité.  Ils voient l’histoire avec les oeillères sur la tête — comme une personne qui se plaint d’être la victime éternelle.  Ils feraient mieux de recanaliser leurs énergies pour coopérer avec les millions de gens au Canada qui veulent vraiement améliorer le pays – sur le plan linguistique, économique, culturel, et social.  Mais ils ne le feront jamais.  Je me sens toujours un peu mal pour ceux qui décident, à travers leurs propres actions, de mourir en “tristesse” lorsqu’ils refusent d’ajuster leur propre entêtement et bloc mental – surtout lorsqu’il y a des gens qui sont là pour les acceuillir ailleurs à bras ouvert.  Mais ils ne veulent pas… Ils ne le voient pas (encore la question des oeillères… Ben coup donc !!  On n’est plus en 1995!  Kessé ki s’passe?!  Voyons!).
  • C’est tout pour dire que je suis FORT FORT sur le principe d’appuyer sur le “bouton de réinitialisation”.   Que le passé appartient au passé… et que nous “vivons, construisons, et aimons à partir d’aujourd’hui” plutôt que de vivre âme et coeur par la devise “Je me souviens”.  Certes, une telle divise est belle, remplie de symbolisme glorieux sur plusieurs niveaux.  Mais aussi belle qu’elle soit, il faut regarder en avant sans assumer la notion saugrenue qu’il faut se venger des torts faits contre nos ancêtres qui sont déjà morts depuis des décennies, voire des siècles, et par des gens d’une époque qui n’ont rien à faire avec nos concitoyens et compatriotes d’aujourd’hui (qu’ils soient anglophones ou francophones).
  • En tout cas, je vous avais déjà averti au préalable que j’ai des opinions 😉

Gettin’ down ‘n vulgar! – Swears M to SAC – Part 4 (#242)

WARNING:   These few posts are not suitable for minors.  They contain quite explicit vocabulary.

Let us continue our little adventure down the road of French swear words.   They are something which certainly adds more than just a little colour to our French in Canada and Québec.

Apart from informal talk between friends and peers, you will also tend to hear them used extensively in stand-up comedy, movies (dramas, and especially comedy movies), and literature which features Joual.

You may recall the earlier post on Elvis Gratton.  When watching the Elvis Gratton movies and television series, you would almost get the impression that every third word uttered was a vulgarity in some form or another.

I find it unfortunate when I hear learners of French say they have a difficult time understanding us in French when the language level becomes a bit more informal.   Of course, one reason is the structure and vocabulary used in Joual, but vulgarities and obscenities (swear words) certainly can throw a person off if you’re not familiar with them.

Hopefully these few posts give you some context and help to fill some of the missing gaps (I actually find it kind of awkard to write about this topic… it’s rarely written about in any depth – but all the more reason for me to cover it, and for you to hopefully find it useful 😉 ).

Reminder notes:

NOTE 1:  In the examples below, it is difficult to give an exact translation for every word.   I’ve therefore given the closest approximates with respect to their degree of impact.  That is why I list more than one English equivalent after most words.

NOTE 2:  Underneath the main words, I also list the “toned-down / softened” versions of the words.   These are versions of the main swear word which are considered to be milder, and more acceptable to a wider audience.   In English, the equivalent might be the transformation of “F&@#” to “Fudge”, or “Damn” to “Darn” (the latter words which could be acceptable, even on television).

THE LIST: M to SAC

Marde – Shit!, Damn it! Crap!

This one is interesting because it is softer than “shit” in English (which is “Merde” in French).   “Marde” is also softer than “Merde” — soft enough to the extent that you will hear it on television and the radio.   It also is used in many expressions:

  1. “Un tas de marde” (a pile of crap),
  2. “C’est de la marde” (it’s crap),
  3. “Toute cette marde” (all this crap),
  4. “Marde!” (Crap!, Damn!, Shit!).

I recommend that you try your best to replace “Merde” with “Marde” as much as possible.   It sounds better and less offensive.

Maudite merde – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!

Maudit – Shit!, Damn it!, Crap!, God damn it!, Piss!

This is one of the most common curse words out there…  Right up there in the top five.

  • Mardi
  • Marois grand P
  • Maudasse
  • Maudine
  • Mausus
  • Mautadit
  • Morpion
  • Morsac
  • Motadit
  • Saudit
  • Saudine
  • Sautadites
  • Zaudit

Maudit bâtard – Damned bastard / F’ing bastard!

A bit Stronger — AVOID if possible, because it is a direct insult.

Although “Maudit” is not so serious of a word when said on its own, if you add “bâtard” after it, you’re looking for trouble (especially if you call someone this).

Maudit calvaireFor Christ’s Sake!, For F’in Sake!

RATHER STRONG, Recommend not using it.

Merde – Shit!

See “Marde” above.   It’s stronger than “Marde”, and roughly the exact same meaning, impact, and degree of acceptability (or non-acceptability) as “shit” in English.   This is also one of the most common curse words (likely in the top five).

Moses – Christ!, Damn it!, Shit!

  • Mosus

Mon… XXX –  Used to form “self-curses” by placing “Mon” in front of the curse word.

In English, there are four levels of “self-curses” which are used to give emphasis.   Examples:

  1. Least offensive could be “My Goodness”.
  2. One level up might be “My bloody luck”.
  3. A level higher might be “I’ll be damned”.
  4. The most offensive level would be “F*** me!”

French also has similar levels of “self-curses”.    Examples:

  1. Mon bonjour!
  2. Mon bon Dieu!
  3. Mon ciboire!
  4. “Mon Tabar*** !” or “Mon Câlisse!”.

The rule is this:  In Canadian French, you can pretty much add “Mon” in front of any Canadian-specific obscenity (it will work 90% of the time).    The more offensive the word to which “mon” is added, the stronger the message.   Exception:  You generally can NOT add “Mon” in front of most swear words which also exist in Europe (ie:  It does NOT work to say “Mon maudit”, “Mon pute”, “Mon foutre”, etc.)

Noune – Cuss word for vagina.

It is not quite as bad as saying “C$#%” (female genetalia) in English, but it certainly is harsher than saying “Pussy”.   It’s sort of half way between.   In Europe they say “chatte” (a female cat) – which can sometimes also be heard on this side of the Atlantic.

The funny thing is that there is even a well-known, comical song parody using this word (it has gone viral in Québec).  You can listen to it by going to its YouTube link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYcq4nGeYu0

Ostensoir – Shit!, Damn it!, Crap!, God damn it!, Piss!

Ostensoir à pédale – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!

Patente à gosse! – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!

Sacré – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!

Sacre bleu – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!

Sacréfisse – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!

Sacrement – F***!, Jesus f***ing Christ!  Quite Strong.

Generally do not use this unless you are on familiar territory with the person you are speaking.  However, this word has lost much of its punch over the last couple of decades (it was considered much stronger when I was a child than what it is now).

  • Sacrement de fesses!
  • Sacarment
  • Sace
  • Sacidoux
  • Sacramère
  • Sacripant

Sacrifice – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!

The funny thing is that I used to say this one quite a bit in my teens, but I don’t anymore.  I suppose the older I got, the more I realized it sounds fairly uncouth.   But I do sometimes say the softer “Saint-Sacrifice!”.

—– —– —– —– —– —– —–

The list will continue in the next post.  Hold your tongue until then !!

————————————————————

SERIES:  QUÉBEC AND CANADIAN FRENCH SWEAR WORDS (6 POSTS)

Ding et Dong (#196)

Did you happen to guess the answer and cultural context for the last post?

If you missed the last post, click here to see the hilarious advertisement with half of “Dong”:

DD

The answer to the last post is “Ding et Dong”.

Perhaps you recall I mentioned in the post on Elvis Gratton that Québec had a couple of close equivalents to Anglophone culture’s Cheech & Chong, with Elvis Gratton being one of them (the on-screen component), and Ding et Dong being the other (the stage comedy component).

Ding et Dong were a very popular comedy duo from the 1980s.  But as you can see from the last post, people are still talking about Ding et Dong — to the point that we still see very regular pop-cultural references to them, such as in the advertisement which was the subject of the last post.

With time, Ding & Dong have become pillars in Québec’s cultural psyche.  In this sense, they mean much more to Québécois culture than mere comedians.

Ding et Dong was a stand-up comedy duo, played by Serge Thériault and Claude Meunier.   They came as an inseparable pair.

This inseparability was also the metaphor for the punchline of the jokes in the advertisement in the last post.  The advertisement in the last post was from the Testicular Cancer Society, warning men to be vigilant and have regular health checks, otherwise, you may lose half of the “pair”.  (In Anglophone North American culture, it could be as if the Breast Cancer Society made an advertisement stating “Thelma and ________” in order to entice women to seek regular check-ups).

As a pair, they (Thériault & Meunier, that is) spun off acts which later created some of the greatest successes in Québécois comedic and pop-culture history – most notably, the sitcom series La Petite Vie (the most successful sitcom in the history of Canadian and Québec television) and the “Les Boys” movies (again among the most successful movies in history of Canadian and Québec cinema).

I was quite young when Ding et Dong were in their hayday, but I still recall bits & pieces of their acts from when I was a child.  As I grew older, many of their punch lines became part of everyday vocabulary and jokes between friends.

Claude Meunier and Serge Thériault have reunied on the odd occasion over the years, and have brought Ding et Dong back to life for special one-off shows.  We may see some more of these rare stage-reunions in the coming years — and I guarantee you they will be the hottest tickets in all of Canada the moment any such show is announced!

Anyway, I’ll leave it there for now — I have to drive right now from Toronto up to Témiscamingue on the Québec-Ontario border for some work-related business (that might make for interesting post in itself).   But I can already see some potential posts on the horizon relating to Les Boys, Claude Meunier, and Serge Thériault.

Have a great start to your week !

Denys Arcand: His place in Québec’s history — Post 2 of 2 (#190)

This is the second post in a two-post series on Denys Arcard (you’ll need to refer to the first post for the context of what follows.  Click here for the first post:  Denys Arcand: A quick Québec film industry backgrounder — Post 1 of 2 

Arcand is quite significant on four fronts:

  • He is the most important, “still-surviving” influential “second-era” filmmaker to have made the transition into a third-era filmmaker,
  • Like other former second-era filmmakers, he has for the most part abandoned the ideals of the second-era when making third-era films (of which his third-era films have been his most successful),
  • Both his second and third-era films are extremely well-known, influential, and have marked Québec’s and Montréwood’s film industry forever.
    • [Note: when I refer to the expression Montréwood, it denotes a much more “Montréal” specific phenomena related to Québec’s pop-culture, rather than a province-wide activity]
  • He is probably Québec’s greatest filmmaker of all time.

Québec’s film industry really didn’t take off until the beginning of the second era, and Arcand was born at the right moment to be of the right age when he became fully engaged as a filmmaker (from a nationalist and age-bracket point-of-view).  His first films came out in the early 1960s, and he created, or participated in the creation of 10 major films from the 1960’s until the first referendum in 1980.

Of these second-era ultra-nationalistic films, a few have marked Arcand’s place in history (they were films kept the ball of nationalist momentum rolling, or at least they gave the ball a few good, hard spins).  “On est au coton” from 1970 is one of the best known.

“On est au coton” was actually censored by the National Film Board based because it did not meet Board policy standards (The NFB had the authority to censor it because it was a private matter owing to the fact that they produced it – not because of government censorship [we’re not that kind of country, after all]).    I think uncensored versions of it only began to be sold on the open market during the last 10 or 15 years.  The film’s theme was about francophone labourers of the 1950’s, working under appalling conditions in Québec’s Anglophone-managed textile industry (I’m sure you can infer the spin Arcand took with this film).  The film also included two members of the FLQ (a Québec terrorist organization from the late 60’s / early 70’s) calling for armed revolution.   On one hand, it was held up as a lightning rod for those calling for sovereignty.   On the other hand, others decried that it twisted reality by sensationalizing issues which were not reflective of the reality for the majority.  Regardless, it was a long time ago (45 years ago), and I believe  it’s good for everyone to be fully aware of film and the context of the time.  But it was a matter for another generation and now for the history books – I think most people recognize that.   The film has been made available for free online viewing on National Film Board’s website at the following address:  https://www.onf.ca/film/on_est_au_coton/.

It’s interesting to note that On est au coton gave rise to an expression commonly used in modern Québec French:  Être au coton means “to be at one’s wits end”

Other well-known Arcand films, from Québec second film era, were Québec: Duplessis et après (regarding the politics of the Quiet Revolution), and Le Confort de l’indifférencewhich mourned the loss of the “nationalist dream” following the 1980 referendum.   For many, this latter film signalled the end of Québec’s secondera of films.

From the 1980s onwards, Denys Arcand, like most other major filmmakers, abandoned the themes of second-era films and concentrated on populist, modern and all-inclusive films with global appeal.

After the 1980 referendum and after his film Le Confort de l’indifférence, I think Arcand felt there was no more point in creating films which created ideological divisions in society, or which had nationalist aspirations — and he laid that aspect of his filmmaking to rest.  Even if one wanted to make a point, one could still do it in an inclusive manner — just as any family dispute can be discussed without making individual family members feel isolated or rejected.  In passing, this is also why I do not ascribe to the notion that nationalistic debates are “tribalistic” in nature (at least in our context in Canada), because tribalism denotes a “them and us” connotation – whereas I’m of the mindset that we’re all in this together, that it’s a family affair, and that it is to be discussed in this latter context.

In an interesting comparison, just as Denys Arcand chose to make Le Confort de l’indifférence to signify the end of second-era films, Pierre Falardeau chose to make Elvis Gratton to signify the end of second-era films, and to then move on with life (see the post on Elvis Gratton).

It was the mid 1980s transition towards third-era films which really saw Arcand’s artistic genius and abilities take flight.  I think it is owing to the fact that he liberated himself (and his movies) from second-era constraints that he was able to finally produce works which found universal appeal.  His subsequent success was phenomenal.

I’ll briefly mention some of his most successful third-era films.  But I’ll provide you with Wikipedia links if you want more information.

Le Déclin de l’empire américain (1986) was an Oscar nominee.   Its sequel, Les Invasions barbares (2003) won an Oscar.

Jésus de Montréal (1989) won the Jury award at Cannes and an Oscar.

Subsequent successful films included Idole Instantanée (2005), L’Âge des ténèbres (2007), and Le Règne de la beauté (2014).

Other notable information:  Denys Arcand also has made many short films.  He has been decorated with Canada’s, Québec’s and even France’s highest awards.  He is highly sought after for interviews, and been the invitee on many of Montréwood’s most high profile talk shows.   His works and life are also the subject of intense study at university and in academic circles.   In essence, he incarnates Québec cinema on many levels, and has set the bar for generations to come.

If you’re learning French, I’d recommend taking in some of the above-mentioned films.  Not only will they provide you with an interesting way to practice your French, but they will provide you invaluable cultural context.

Related post:  Montréwood Movies