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A bit of humour – See if you can figure this out (#195)

Here is a bit of humour for you.   I just saw these signs around the more Eastern areas of Montréal (the most Francophone areas of the city), however I have not seen them in more mixed areas of the city.  the likely reason is that the cultural significance of these signs would be easily recognized in the East End where people mostly grew up in French.  But they perhaps would not be so recognizable in areas of Montréal with larger anglophone or immigrant communities who have not necessarily grown up in French or perhaps have not lived in Québec for very long (this serves to highlight the demographics and cultural decisions which go into marketing, but which also contributes to the notion of the Two Solitudes).

The cultural reference behind the sign, and how it has been used in this context is hilarious!  I laughed out loud the moment I saw the first sign.  People around me must have thought I was a “few screws short” when they heard me laugh to myself.

Here is the sign.  See if you can understand the cultural subtext (if you have regularly been reading this blog, you may have clued into it).

Click the picture to expand it, because you’ll need to read the two larger words at the very bottom of the sign to understand the goal of the sign.

DD

Did you get it?

I’ll give you a hint:   Several days ago, in another post, I made a reference to the same pop-cultural sub-context contained in this sign.    Here is a second hint:  A few months ago, I presented you with a link to video advertisement from the same charitable organization.

Still stumped?  I’ll give you the answer in tomorrow’s post.

Here’s the next post with the answer (click here):  https://quebeccultureblog.com/2015/03/02/ding-et-dong-196/


And on unrelated language notes… Above I used a couple of slang expressions in English.

1.  If you’re wondering how someone might say “a few screws short” in Québec and Canadian French (the expression I used above), you can say a few things:

  • Il lui manque un bardeau
  • Il lui manque un bardeau dans le pignon
  • Il lui manque un bardeau sur sa couverture
  • (In Europe, people might say “Il a une araignée dans le plafond”)

2.  If you’re wondering how to say “stumped” in French (a word I used above), you can say a couple of things.

  • In international French, people say “Ça m’échappe” or “Ça me dépasse”.
  • But in very local French in Québec, you’ll also hear “Ça m’embête”.
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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

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

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.

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.

“L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté”; Mofatt – Tremblay discussion summary, post 3 of 3 (#152)

This post will tie the last two posts together, and you can use the audio track to as an opportunity to work on improving your French (if you’re at an elementary or intermediary level), or to help you develop an ear for French (if you’re at a more basic level).

In the audio track of this episode of radio program “L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté” (The Other Afternoon, at the Next Table…”), Ariane Moffatt and Guylaine Tremblay sit down for a one-on-one meal together.  I get the impression they have never met before, but they spend the hour learning about each other, and focusing on what they have in common.

Both are mothers, but both did not carry their own children (in Moffatt’s case, it was her spouse who carried their children, and in Tremblay’s case, her children were adopted).   They also speak about a number of other topics regarding children (such as Christmas and childhood memories).

I think you’ll hear both of their personalities shine (the intimacy and one-on-one nature of the conversation greatly facilitates the conversation).

The dialogue summary (below) is written in chronological order with the audio track, highlighting various discussion points and the dialogue continues.   You can use the summary as a crutch when listening and improving your French listening skills.

The official link-page for this episode of L’Autre midi à la table d’à côté can be opened by clicking HERE.  (Click “Audio fil” half way down the page… that will open an audio window with the sound track).

Dialogue summary;

  • Both spoke of Christmas as children and their Christmas experiences with their own children, what they like about Christmas, and how it fits in with their own experiences.
  • Guylaine talks about how Christmas in Québec used to be celebrated different than how it is celebrated now (mass traditions on Dec 24th have been moved to 7pm now from midnight decades ago). She says Christmas today seem to be all about gifts, whereas when Guylaine was a child, she could hardly remember receiving any gifts.
  • Ariane talks of her family’s Christmas traditions.
  • Ariane talks of how she slowly starting to fall into music as a child, and her family’s role in influencing her artistic talents. Guylaine also shares her childhood development stories and relates them to her family.
  • They talk about their different styles of communication and how they perceive their respective styles.
  • Guylaine took her two daughters to the 2012 protests, “le Printemps érable” to protest university tuition hikes
    • (Comment: “Le Printemps érable” (the “Maple Spring”) was a period of mass student protests in Québec in the spring of 2012, which greatly divided Québec society as a whole.  Students refused to accept government tuition hikes – and (in a very very general sense) it pitted right-against-left, and opposition parties against the government at the time.  Many believe it had a direct impact in the defeat of the Charest government, but it left much bitterness in Québec’s society – involving accusations flying everywhere;  against the government, the opposition, school bodies, and even the media.  It also greatly divided student bodies).
  • Guylaine talks about having being an angry child, and how she still becomes vexed and involved if she believes there’s an action she judges to be unjust.
    • (Comment:  This actually surprised me when she said this – she seems like such a calm, cool headed person whenever I have seen her in interviews, the type of person with measured and empathetic emotions.  It seems like this is a part of her character which she doesn’t regularly show in interviews – but she also seems very self-aware, which in itself is a very good thing – regardless if you do or do not agree with her politics or the battles she chooses to fight, and how she chooses to fight them.  Something also quite interesting is that she states she took her children to the protests.  I also found this surprising because many people were criticized for taking their minor children to events which (a) involved much emotion which minor perhaps could not have conscious control over, and (b) periodically turned quite violent, resulting in many arrest and police action.  However, I do not know the context in which she involved her own children.  All-in-all, I find what Tremblay says to be extremely interesting.  I will probably pay much more attention to her public appearances in the future.  Like I said in the earlier post about her, she has a personality I really like and greatly identify with, even if I don’t agree with her politics.  And I have learned many other things about her in the last couple of years, which makes her a very intriguing figure.  I don’t have to agree with her views on various issues to have to like her – and I still very much like her.  She’s the type of person who is difficult not to like – and as you listen to the audio track, I venture to say you’ll agree with me).
  • Both spoke about how they act upon what they feel is right (Ariane speaks about her own coming out, and both talk about how society has changed to be accepting of the new normal).
  • Both speak about their choices to have children which they didn’t carry themselves, and what their children signify to them in this context, and in general. Guylaine said people often ask her “Do you love your children as much as if you had carried them yourself?”
  • They speak of their worries as mothers.
  • At 44:00 minutes, they sing a Capella songs which bring back Christmas memories for both. For the remaining 15 minutes of their meal, they just sing Christmas carols.   You may be interested in this part, because they sing certain carols which do not exist in English – and even for me, they brought back memories from my childhood when much of that period of my life was in French.

I hope you enjoyed this 3-part mini blog series, and found it insightful on a few fronts.

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MINI “EAVESDROPPING” SERIES

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

Few television actresses are as recognizable as Guylaine Tremblay.  She has played central rolls in some of Montréwood’s most successful TV drama and comedy series, which have included La Petite vie, Omerta, Unité 9, and Les Rescapés.

I recently listened to an on-air radio interview in which Marina Orsini interviewed Guylaine Tremblay.  In the interview, I think Orsini hit the nail on the head when she told Tremblay she believes Tremblay’s public appeal lies in her being someone the public can identify with – the person who could be anyone’s sister, mother, or daughter – and that it is not only reflected through her acting rolls, but how she leads her life in general.

Tremblay is the mother of adopted daughters (the theme of not carrying one’s own children is a theme which Tremblay and Ariane Moffatt discuss in detail – which I present in the next post), and lives with her husband.

I will say, one thing which caught my eye (actually quite surprisingly) was when Tremblay politicised herself (at least in the sense of giving herself a public political label in the mind of people who have followed her career).  I say this because, over the course of her 30 year career, she’s someone I, and others, grew up watching in Western Canada (she is very well respected by Francophones, Francophiles, and French speaking Anglophones all across Canada) – and she was someone I always considered to be part of my own cultural sphere. She unexpectedly appeared (at least for me it was unexpected) on stage at the Parti Québécois’Rassemblement national” prior to last-year’s election.   That doesn’t bother me in-and-of-itself (I think political engagement is important and a necessary part of our democracy – and a society must have to have opposing political views to make keep the democratic process healthy and make it work).  But it has always felt like a case of “innocence lost” when actors and actresses take on a high-profile political stance (regardless of the political party or ideology) — and when they do, it always seems to feel like they jumped off the pedestal on which you purposely wanted to place them.   When I saw Tremblay get on stage that night, I can distinctly remember thinking to myself “Oh man! Guylaine, of all the things you could have done, why did you have to go and choose to do ‘this thing’?”.   It’s a bit disconcerting, because as the public, we tend to think that our actors and actresses belong to all of us, regardless of political stripes.  In that sense, they are so often a point of commonality and unity in a world often filled with petty divisions and differences.  That’s one of the beautiful things of the acting profession which should be cherished.  But then some go and take that feeling away by placing themselves in a political camp – basically saying, there’s “us” and then there’s “you”.  It’s just not a nice feeling.

But I suppose at the end of the day, there is still a human behind every acting role, and everyone has the right to express their political beliefs – and we should respect everyone’s right to make such choices.  It’s maybe not a pleasant reality, but we live in a very real world, not in utiopia.

Regardless, she’s still an amazingly talented actor, one of the best Québec & Canada has – and all the drama series in which she appears would not have nearly the same degree of a human element without her (she is a very human person – and anytime I see her true personality in interviews, I really get the impression she could so easily have been any of the bubbly, kind, caring, and empathetic people I grew up with in Alberta, or anywhere, really – be it friends or family… that’s why I really like her).

In the next post, we’ll take a brief look at a summary of the conversation Guylaine Tremblay and Ariane Moffatt had when they met and shared a one-on-one meal on L’Autre côté à la table d’à côté.

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MINI “EAVESDROPPING” SERIES