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Real-life documentary: Le Garage, “Bienvenue chez Normand” (#215)

This documentary, “Le Garage”, caught my eye the moment I first saw a short 20 second clip, and now I’m hooked!

I’ll provide you with trailers, and an official link for online viewing a little further below.

This is one of the most “real” documentaries I think I have ever seen.  I have never seen a documentary quite like this one before; one which has surprisingly left me with a feeling of having a strange bond with the people featured in it, despite never having met them.

At the very bottom, I’ll provide you with links to official sites where you can watch the full hour-long documentary, officially approved for internet viewing.

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The Trailer:  Here’s how the film maker, Michel Demers, describes his film (translation) : “It is along the banks of the North Coast where we find The Garage.  Between forest and sea, adults, children, and grand-parents all gather in the garage to tell their stories and to gossip.  In an atmosphere in which everyone has each other’s back, you can sample the moose meat, trout, and mussels that everyone has pitched in to bring home together.  Norman and his sons are mechanics, and are under the ever-so-watchful eyes of those who drop in and who watch from the side-lines”.

C’est à Longue-Rive sur La Côte-Nord que nous retrouvons LE GARAGE. Entre mer et forêt, adultes, enfants et grands-parents s’y rencontrent pour raconter histoires et menteries. Dans une atmosphère de solidarité et d’entraide, on déguste orignal, truites et moules que l’on a capturé ensemble. Normand et ses fils y font de la mécanique sous les yeux des gens qui “veillent” dans le côté salon.

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THE STORY LINE:

The film maker’s brother, Norm, lives in a very small village, Longue-Rive, in the relatively remote region known as Québec’s North Shore.    Norm is a mechanic in the village, and works out of his garage set up on his property.   In small towns and villages across Canada, particularly those which are quite remote, neighbours have grown up together and/or know each other very well.   In such places, people often do not lock their doors at night, and villages take on a family atmosphere of sorts (you can walk into your neighbour’s homes without knocking, everyone knows where everyone’s chilren are at all times, and adults spend a lot of time with each other.

Map1

Map2

In Longue-Rive, there is no bar or cafe.  But the blue-collar nature of the small town makes it so everyone has a garage where they work (either professionally or as a hobby), and everyday life revolves around the garage (much like everyday life may have revolved around kitchens 50, 70 or 100 years ago).

I’ve personally driven through Long-Rive a while back, as well as many other communities like it along the North Shore, and all across Canada.  In villages like these, it tends to be more cultural the norm, rather than the exception, to see homes with detached garages, in which residents work or whittle away their time (even in my own family, we I have a number of relatives whose lives semi-revolve around their garage).

Culturally, it is very Canadian to see this phenomenon in remote, rural settings, in all provinces.   It’s something I have never really thought of before, but I think it’s an aspect of our rural culture.    It’s a part of our culture which the film maker, Michel Demers, has captured beautifully.

In the absence of a bar or café in town, Norm’s garage doubles as the local hang-out for family and friends.  People drop by in their free time, pull up a chair (or a “living room recliner”) and meet for a beer, to chat, to eat, organize group activities and just pass away the time.  And it’s not only the village men who have turned Norm’s garage into their local “hang-out”.  Women and children also gather to gossip, joke, and play.

Because everyone shares the same lifestyle (a love of the outdoors, catching up on community news, bonding as a community, hunting, trapping, fishing, clam digging, ski-dooing, etc.), there are more than enough topics for everyone to talk and laugh about.  There is rarely a dull moment.  People bond, and the entire village becomes one big family.

WHAT I TOOK AWAY FROM WATCHING THIS DOCUMENTARY:

What I love about the film is its simple and genuine nature, its innocence, and how life is uncomplicated for those we see on the screen.  If one member of the community falls on hard times, there will be a whole network of others around to help pick him/her up by their bootstraps and step in until that individual is back on their feet.

Although I now living in our largest city (with Toronto at the heart of the “Golden Horseshoe” which counts over 10 million people), and even though I have lived in a few cities overseas which have ranged from 8 million, to 17 million, to 25 million people people, a film like this still resonates so strongly with me because I see so many echoes of my own early childhood in it;  be it clam-digging close to home with my family, ski-dooing with my dad and his buddies, spending time with my dad as he did odd things around his own garage, or simply growing up in a small, isolated community in which neighbours spent the bulk of their time together.  I talked about many of these things in a couple of earlier posts:

It find it quite interesting that so many aspects of life on the North Coast of Québec (where the St. Lawrence meets the Atlantic) are almost identical to many aspects of life on the North Coast of British Columbia (where the Skeena meets the Pacific), and a good number of other places.  Fascinating stuff!

INTERNATIONAL SCREENINGS:

Apart from the various Canadian cities in which this documentary has or will be screened (both inside and outside of Québec), it is also set to be screened or has been screened in cities as far away as Moscow, Marseilles, Brussels, Chicago and Mexico.

A NOTE ON THE STYLE OF FRENCH USED :

The French accents and expressions spoken are those commonly heard in Québec’s North Coast region.   This style of French has more in common with French spoken in Québec’s Gaspé region, the Atlantic Province’s Acadian regions, and the older generations of Prairie French speakers than it does Western Québec (which includes Montréal) or Ontario.   (You can click the above links for more information on these various accent styles).

However, if your French is at an upper advanced level, and if you’re used to hearing a couple of different Canadian French accents to a fluent level, you should not have much difficulty understanding what is being said.   Just be aware that even if your French is perfectly fluent, or even if French is your first language (such as for those from Montréal or Québec City), but if you are not used to hearing a North Coast accent, the super-strong accents of a couple of Normand’s buddies may throw you off here and there (there were a couple of times when I had to rewind to catch the words in a couple of different phrases).

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SOME ADDITIONAL OUT-TAKES:

Here are some clips of people in the documentary talking about their lives and their”Garage” culture:

Here are some clips of reactions from local residents in Long-Rive when they first viewed a showing of “Bienvenue chez Normand”.

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The documentary’s official website: http://www.micheldemers.com/?cat=67

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HOW TO VIEW THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY ONLINE, FOR APPROVED VIEWING:

The documentary will be available on Radio-Canada’s “Tou.tv” website for free viewing until approximately September 2015.

The direct link is as follows:    http://ici.tou.tv/les-grands-reportages/S2015E189

Subtitles (in French) are available in the video if you need them (click the subtitle button at the the bottom of the screen).

Happy viewing !!

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Patrick Huard (#212)

Two nights ago, Xavier Dolan’s film Mommy cleaned house, yet again.  This time it was an arm-full of trophes at Montréwood’s Jutra awards.

The 2nd most important back-up actor in the film was Patrick Huard.

Regarding Montréwood cinéma, we often say if you want to know what film is worth watching (ie: what constitutes a “good” film), then follow the “director”.  Conversely, in Hollywood, more often than not it tends to be the reverse; people in Hollywood say you should follow the “actor” to find the “good” movies.

One major exception to the Québéc/Montréwood rule of following the “director” is in the case of the superstar actor, Patrick Huard.   In Huard’s case, if you follow the actor (just as you would in Hollywood), you are bound to find the best films.

With a few exceptions, if you look at the biggest of the big Montréwood films from the mid 1990s to present, Patrick Huard has held either a leading acting role, or a major back-up role.

I’ve never personally seen Huard walk down the streets in Québec, but I can only imagine he would be pounced upon from all directions by adoring fans looking for autographs.

Some of the more notable, very successful Montréwood films he has appeared in were:

  • Les Boys (1, 2 & 3) – all of which were among the highest grossing, and most viewed films in Canadian history
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop – (Patrick Huard was the main actor)… the highest or second highest grossing film in Canadian history when it came out in 2006
  • Starbuck
  • Mommy
  • Omerta

The above films have gone down in the Montréwood, Québec and Canadian history books.  I think it’s fair to say that so has Patrick Huard.

If you want to hear a half-hour conversation between Patrick Huard and his co-star in Mommy, Anne Dorval, you can hear it on Radio-Canada’s radio program, L’autre jour à la table d’à côté” (“The Other Day at the Table Beside Us…”).  Click HERE for the program on Radio-Canada’s official website.

Check out some of his work… I think you’ll be impressed.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop – ENGLISH TRAILER (the film was 50/50 French-English)

Starbuck – SUBTITLED English Trailer

Omertà – (Also starring Céline Dion’s husband, René Angélil)

Mommy Trailer:

A very funny, well made movie: “Henri Henri” (#210)

Flights are amazing for getting things done – be it work, reading, or movies.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time I need to see many of our movies in French here in Toronto.  But I’ve been fortunate in the sense that I could rely on numerous flights the last couple of years to catch up on movies.  Air Canada usually has a very good selection of the top box-office Montréwood movies.

On a flight a few days ago I watched ‘’Henri Henri”.   It was the first time I had seen a Montréwood film like this.  The entire movie had the feel of “Forest Gump” meets “Amélie” meets the quirkier, innocent feel of the small town setting in “Edward Scissor Hands”.   It was quite different for a Montréwood film to have this sort of atmosphere.

henri-henri

Best yet, it was funny – in an adult / mature kind of way (I don’t think kids would find it funny – so that should say it’s perfectly suited to adults).   I had my big earphones on, so I couldn’t really hear myself laugh, but I must have laughed loud enough a few times because people across the aisle looked at me more than a couple of times (but they just smiled, so all is good!).

Here is the trailer:

Montréwood can pull things off amazingly well… and here is yet another prime example.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for you, but I’d don’t mind leaking a little bit of the storyline.  Henri was an orphan, who took a job as the convent’s “lightbulb screwer” (he screwed in burned out lightbulbs… let’s be clear about that).  Once he grew up and had to leave the orphanage, he kept his pleasant nativity from an isolated childhood, and subsequently took a job doing the only thing he knew, screwing in light bulbs.  With the encouragement of his older co-worker and a customer who he befriended (who both doubled new friends and & life coaches), he met a girl.  What happened after came with a twist (both due to his background and hers).   The rest I’ll leave for you to find out when you watch the film.

If you’re learning French, this movie contain NO Joual (which is great for learners whose  French is closer to entry level).  Everything is in international French, and the Québecois accent is toned down to a minimum (it could not be toned down any futher).  Thus this would be a perfect film for anyone learning French, even at an elementary level.   Much of the movie is carried by the actors’ actions anyway.

Hats off to the writer/director Martin Talbot, and the producers Christian Larouche and Caroline Héroux for a job well done.  And the acting by Victor Trelles Turgeon, Sophie Desmarais, Michel Perron and Marcel Sabourin was excellent.  It had the feel of a big-budget movie, right from the beginning.  Great job!!

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

Yesterday I wrote this post in a different format.  But after sleeping on it for a few hours, I realized the way I originally wrote it was not fair to Toronto, or its people as a whole.  The comments the post received were in agreement with what I initially wrote, but that doesn’t mean that how I wrote it was the right.   If anything, the way I initially wrote the post shows how emotional an issue this subject can be (if I became emotional about it sitting here in Toronto, that can give you an idea of how it might be going over with many people in Québec).

I’m backtracking and I’m re-writing a good chunk of the post.  Here is the re-written format…

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This post is going touch upon a sensitive subject which occurs often enough… so I’m going to raise the issue again.  It’s something more people should be aware of (especially in media circles).

Yesterday were the Canadian Screen Awards organized by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.  (Website: http://www.academy.ca/About-the-Academy).

In a nutshell, these awards could be considered the Canadian equivalent of the U.S.A.’s Oscars.

It’s a huge event.  It is wider in scope than the Oscars/Academy awards because it grants awards to both Canada’s movie and television industries in one fell swoop.   It is not a Francophone award ceremony, nor is it an Anglophone award ceremony.   The Canadian Screen Awards simply awards the best of the best in Canada, regardless of whether or not the recipients are Francophone or Anglophone.

The awards are held here in Toronto every year, and thus they are presented in English, in an English dominant environment (that of Toronto).   They are supposed to be an all-inclusive ceremony.

But what happened yesterday really drives home the notion of the Two Solitudes.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing – and it has garnered a lot of attention today in Québec.

Here is what happened.

Mommy is one of the most successful Canadian movies of the past 20 years, and one of the most successful movies in Canadian history – full stop.   After winning countless awards abroad over the past 10 months, Mommy finally had the opportunity yesterday to receive Canadian awards on home turf (apart from the Jutras which were held not long ago).   In Québec, over the last several days, there was much excitement, suspense and publicity in the run-up to yesterday’s awards in Toronto.

The movie, Mommy, is the creation of Xavier Dolan.  It is considered a Québec film (abroad it is often held up as a Canadian film), it was created in French, and was released in May, 2014.  Between May and now, Mommy basically won the prize for the “best film in the world” (for lack of a better term) at the Cannes Film Festival (the world’s most prestigious and well-known international film festival).  It also won many of the world’s other most prestigious film awards.

But here’s the crunch:  Yesterday Xavier Dolan and the film’s actors – who have been cheered and treated like super stars around the globe – showed up at the festival in Toronto, and guess what happened:    Unless they were wearing name tags, many people at the event didn’t know who they were, including those who were there to cover the event as media.

Because the event was broadcast live in Québec, the awkward treatment the film’s creator and cast received at the gala did not go over very well with influential individuals in Québec or members of the public.  A good number of people were hurt, angry, disappointed, and left confused.

Just to give you the context of how embarrassing this is, earlier this year, at the Cannes Festival  (attended by all of Hollywood and the who’s who of international film), Dolan and those who worked on Mommy were given an 8-minute standing ovation – yes… applause and cheers for a whole 8 minutes – by the biggest names in world of film.  Even the elite of the American media industry attended, stood and applauded for 8 minutes straight (Oprah, Spielberg, Brad Pitt, you name it, the list goes on).  This sort of accolade has never been given to a Canadian (or almost any other) film.

What happened last night when they won here in Toronto?  Polite, timid (and awkward) applause from the seated audience who generally did not know who they were.

I’m dumbfounded.

I’m still trying to make sense of it all.

Last fall, I watched Mommy in the theatres here in Toronto, and it was packed (it was playing in regular theatres).  Thus, what happened last night also took me off guard, as much as it did people in Québec.

I don’t want to bash the gala event, and I don’t want to bash Toronto either (after all, I love Toronto, its people, the vibe, its immigrants, immigrant communities and cosmopolitan nature.  I love its freshness).   But I am so embarrassed today by what happened at the awards ceremony.

I’m also quite embarrassed for the guests of the gala, because something like this could have been avoided.  What happened yesterday occurred at one event (it was not a city-wide occurrence – and I’m not sure the expectation should have been that it was a city-wide event).  Therefore, it could have been better contained with preventative management, and a bit of event-specific “education”.

It’s a sort of ignorance that is seen often enough at events like this, or though Toronto’s “national” media when covering matters which cross the linguistic lines   Yes, I see it in Toronto, but I have also seen it elsewhere in the country, AND I see also see it in reverse, in Francophone media, Francophone events and Francophone society.  It’s a two-way street.

However, the burden falls much heavier on Toronto’s media shoulder, more so than any other media in the country – precisely because Toronto’s media is Canada’s national English-language media epicentre. That’s a heavy burden for any city to have to carry.  But because Toronto’s media has this burden, they need to step up to the plate more so than elsewhere.  That does not only pertain to presenters on the screen, but also to local behind-the-screen support staff such as camera operators, researchers, and those who decide what to cover and how to cover it.  These people tend to be important in deciding who and what makes it on the screen, and how those subjects are portrayed to the public (ie: if a camera operator walks by the biggest star of an event because they don’t know who that person is, then that simple action has huge implications, as we saw last night).   It should be recognized that the support and technical staff are more apt to be hired from the general public in Toronto, and may not have had much interaction with Canada’s Francophone culture (or other aspects of Canadian culture outside Toronto).  Therefore there needs to be more education within those circles, or we’ll see more things occur like what happened at the gala awards.

The implications of this type of ignorance can be significant when such ignorance is broadcast into people’s homes, and when common people feel they have been slighted (the awards yesterday in Toronto were being followed live in Québec by a good deal of influential people – and thus the ignorance shown at the gala event spread like wildfire – the point that it made headline news in Québec).

I suppose it not only shows a that a much better effort could have been made on the part of the awards’ organizers to ensure that the event’s audience, staff and media were better informed regarding who was being invited (simple things like “promoting” the contents of the evening’s program and nominees), but it also serves to highlight that segments of society (and hence the media) need to be better informed about culturally significant matters across our French/English linguistic lines.

But every cloud has its silver lining – and here is this story’s silver lining:  Canada’s Anglophone media is very heavily concentrated in Toronto (that’s why we often hear the expression “Toronto-centric media”)   Because there is a very wide range of people working in Toronto’s media industry with very diverse personal backgrounds, it cannot be expected that everyone will be aware of culturally significant matters in Québec, matters across the linguistic divide, or elsewhere in Ontario or Canada (not everyone in Toronto’s media industry speaks French, or went through immersion, or has travelled, or has lived in Canada long enough to understand all of Canada’s cultural nuances – and that’s ok and normal — because people are people).   But this poses an amazing opportunity on a “national” level.  Because Canada’s “national” Anglophone media is so concentrated in one city – Toronto — it should not be very difficult to educate those who work in Canada’s national media – at least much more efficiently and effectively, than say, if our “national” media were spread across several cities (like it is in the US, with NY being one hub, LA another, and Atlanta another with CNN).

Therefore, if by chance, there are people working in the media who are not sensitive to what is going on beyond a 100km radius (even within Ontario), it is a situation which can, in theory, be addressed and corrected.

Here are a few of the dangers if things do not change:  (especially on the media front or regarding highly mediatized events):  Anglophone Canada’s media is watched and criticised in Québec (I would venture to say that Anglophone media is more visible in Québec than what Francophone’s media is outside Québec).  If the sort of ignorance we saw at the awards ceremony is not addressed, and that sort of ignorance is consistently conveyed by Anglophone Canada’s media, then there is a risk that all of Anglophone Canada will be labelled as being just as ignorant — and that’s precisely what happened yesterday evening at the awards ceremony, and it is continuing to play itself out today.  There are political implications to it.  People in the sovereignist camp in Québec has been tossing this one around like a hot-potato all day – they’re really running to town with it — and it is in their interest to see that the issue remains front-and-centre.  These types of things make an emotional impact, and emotions translate into how people vote.  It’s an issue.

This morning, the Radio-Canada (CBC French) headline in Québec was “Xavier Dolan feels the Two Solitudes at the Canadian Screen Awards”.  (The headlines should have been about the awards Mommy won at the gala).

Last night in Montréal, Xavier Dolan was interviewed on television on 24/60 byAnne-Marie Dussealt.   The interview devoted a significant segment to his reaction of what just happened in Toronto.  Dussealt is the Québec equivalent of Larry King (and 24/60 would be the equivalent of Larry King Live).   However, she’s probably a bit more like Piers Morgan because her own social & political views come across much more than what Larry King’s did.

She asked him what it was like to receive an award in Toronto.   Click HERE for the link to Radio-Canada’s article and the interview video on their official website.

Below, at the end of this post, I’m providing you with a translation of Dolan’s response to Dussault’s questions (it begins at 2:40 minutes, and ends at 7:50 minutes).

I have to admit, when Radio-Canada first published the article, they did not post the video, and they only quoted sound-bites.  The initial article was less-than-flattering (it left far too much to innuendo – and it went viral).   Comments flooded in over the course of the day, and now people are talking about this on the streets in Québec.   It’s not good.

Fortunately, Radio-Canada posted the video clip later in the day, and what Dolan actually said was much more nuanced than what the article first lead people to believe.   But unfortunately, damage has been done, and we’re now all painted as being completely ignorant in English Canada, and out of touch with reality or anything in Québec for that matter.

Likewise, I’m not sure that many people in Québec have the nuanced context to be able to distinguish sectors of Toronto’s media industry from the rest of ordinary people in English Canada (Toronto’s media industry is far too often is held up as being “representative” of Canada).

In this case, I truly believe it boils down to a question of Two Solitudes between “Québec & Toronto’s media industry” rather than “Québec and English Canada”.

Big sigh – truly.   Hopefully our mayor (of Toronto), John Tory, will jump in to say that what happened last night is not representative of most people in our city or of our country.   At least I hope he will.

TRANSLATION OF RELEVANT QUOTES FROM THE 24/60 INTERVIEW.

Question — Anne-Marie Dusseault:  What does it represent to you for your film to have had this sort of presence in Toronto?  What does this sort of recognition represent?  The Jutra awards are around the corner, I’m not sure if there is a hierarchy it.  There were the Caesars.  But what does your presence in Toronto represent?  Especially since I would say that it’s in a very particular universe for you.  

Answer — Dolan:  It’s a universe which is quite specific.  It’s one of English Canadian stardom.  Thus it has more to do with stars from English Canadian television.   I would venture to say that it’s owing more to this than the Gala groups together for both television and movies.

It’s rather strange because we arrived there on the red carpet.  And we were standing there on the red carpet.  And you know, despite all the euphoria going on around us – after all it was a ceremony like any other and we were happy that our work was noticed, appreciated by peers, highlighted… even if we didn’t win and were just nominated, regardless if it’s here, in France, or elsewhere… the effect is the same – we are always honoured that our work is recognized.

But in Toronto, we arrived on the red carpet, and without our name tags, the cards which actually had our names and who we were… the photographers were completely… you know…

Dusseault:  …lost !

Dolan:  … completely lost.  They had absolutely no idea who we were – which, without being pretentious, is rather peculiar.  You know, if you think about it, the film garnered a fair amount of good international success.  And… you know, one would like to think that Mommy is considered part of the…  … I consider that Mommy is part of Canadian films, as much as it Québécois.  In that sense, it represented Québec and Canada in all those foreign festivals, ceremonies, gala award events where it was nominated – that sort of thing.

But it’s still rather particular that we were presenting it in a universe where all the stars of English Canadian television …

Dusseault:  … don’t know who you are.  You’re a complete unknown to them.

Dolan:  It’s to say that the industry… those in the artistic community who sawMommy, they came up to us and they were proud of Mommy.   But apart from that, we could see we were in a world surrounded by a very specific English Canadian journalistic and photography corps which is… well, it’s now a cliché to say it, but it’s still an expression which aptly describes the situation – theTWO SOLITUDES.

I find it rather baffling and curious.  If you think about it, it’s really quite strange, because the gala started with a sort of “ode” to Canadian cinematography, in all its splendour and richness.  But we felt the estrangement… well, no, not estrangement, but rather… hmmm… perhaps “ignorance” towards Québec cinema in the overall picture of things.

Question — Dusseault:  I was kind of wondering this.  Right up to the last minute, we were not sure if you were going to be in Toronto, if you had the time to get there.   Did this make you ask yourself “What am I even doing here? What’s the point of being here?”… Right?

Answer — Dolan:  No, I didn’t ask myself “What am I doing here?” becauseMommy was a film financed by Telefilm Canada.  Factually speaking, let’s be honest;  it’s a film which was made in Canada and it’s a Canadian film.  Let’s not deviate from that, regardless of people’s political allegiances.  It was made within a certain artistic context – political also.   And I’m happy that theCanadian Industry Awards have recognized our work.  After all, it’s our peers who vote for who wins.   So in that sense, I don’t ask myself what’s the point of being there.  I’m happy we were there.   I’m of course happy that Anne was there, and that all the actors were there.

But the atmosphere, all-in-all, reveals… I have to say, a gulf between the two cultures, which would otherwise stand to gain if they were to learn from each other.

You know, I read the newspapers this morning.  English Canadian journalists, who were covering the ceremonies, made the point of saying that each year it is the same thing for them – that there will always be “one” Québécois film, without ever knowing what it will be, which will always triumph above the rest.  Then it will simply sweep all the prizes, and it will always irritate them.   But they still acknowledge it, and they write it.

So in that sense, the whole thing is just so interesting to watch itself play out, and to see the journalists talk about this.

Dusseault:  It is rather interesting to watch itself play out.  Yesterday I was following it on Twitter, and then I’d switch back-and-forth to CBC, and the awards were always making way for “English Canadian Television”.

Dolan:  In that sense, I’m not going to criticize them, because I understand their logic.  I get the impression that if they group together movies and television, it’s because in English Canada, what English Canadians know better than anything else in their own world are the stars of their television – those on CBC, CTV, on their national TV shows.   In a sense, it’s by formatting it this way that the gala event would make English Canadians want to tune in to it.   If they were to only celebrate English Canadian cinema (versus television), I’m not sure the gala event would attract many viewers.   Movies and television were separated in the past, and from what I understand, it didn’t work very well in that format.

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 !