Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,741,889 articles and books

Fantomes des Trois Madeleine: in search of the lost father.



Les Fantomes des trois Madeleine, young Quebec director Guylaine Dionne's debut feature, is one of those films that subtly, seductively seeps into the consciousness. Much like the waves of the Gaspe sea that serve as the film's backdrop, Les Fantomes swirls and twirls elegantly and dramatically around its subject matter of roots, freedom and love. Its sensous black-and-white close ups of sun-kissed female faces warm the heart through their intimacy, perfectly reflecting the haunting soundtrack of multi-layered whispering bird song and wind. The film's fluid voyage through time and space flows effortlessly, with lyrical, surreal nonchalance, from past to present, city to seashore, interior to exterior. This could be termed a road movie, or a chick flick n. 1. A sentimental motion picture that appeals particularly to women. See flick,

n. os>, movie.

chick flick n (col) → filmetto rosa 
, were it not for its oneiric oneiric /onei·ric/ (o-ni´rik) pertaining to or characterized by dreaming or oneirism.

o·nei·ric
adj.
1. Of, relating to, or suggestive of dreams.

2.
, enigmatic artistry; what it is, indisputably, is poetry onscreen on·screen or on-screen  
adj. & adv.
1. As shown on a movie, television, or display screen.

2. Within public view; in public.
.

Guylaine Dionne, much like her film, is charismatically indecipherable. I sat down with her one Saturday morning, in a techno cafe on Montreal's Main--on Saint Mary Magdalene's Day, ironically enough--after the most hectic of weeks. Instead of the intensely supercharged su·per·charge  
tr.v. su·per·charged, su·per·charg·ing, su·per·charg·es
1. To increase the power of (an engine, for example), as by fitting with a supercharger.

2.
 work experience I was expecting, I was invited to relax, sit back, let the weekend take hold and just be. We ordered food and chilled coffees and watched life pass by through the cafe's open facade--the passersby seemed framed like on a TV screen, we remarked. What started as a recorded interview quickly morphed into a free-flow conversation as I realized that all that would be audible on the tape was the backbeat overlaid with clinking clink 1  
intr. & tr.v. clinked, clink·ing, clinks
To make or cause to make a light, sharp ringing sound: clinked their wineglasses together in a toast.

n.
 porcelain. So we talked about camping vacations, her son, friends in common (Montreal: incest city) and--oh yes--filmmaking. Sort of. An hour later, I came away happy and entertained, but with only the most impressionistic im·pres·sion·is·tic  
adj.
1. Of, relating to, or practicing impressionism.

2. Of, relating to, or predicated on impression as opposed to reason or fact: impressionistic memories of early childhood.
 idea of how the wheels in Dionne's creative mind turn. Our conversation had done little to untangle Les Fantomes's enigmatic web, but it also made me realize that this, in itself, wasn't the point.

Les Fantomes des trois Madeleine follows three intergenerational in·ter·gen·er·a·tion·al  
adj.
Being or occurring between generations: "These social-insurance programs are intergenerational and all
 Quebecoises, all named Madeleine, on a journey to the vast seashore land of the Gaspe, in northeastern Quebec, and into themselves. They are a peculiar trio of characters, not quite a clan, not quite a family either, but brought together by the shared desire to slowly peel away and recreate the layers of their fragmented memories. The narrative revolves around adoption: Mado, (France Arbour) about 60, is Marie-Madeleine's (Sylvie Drapeau) long-lost birth mother; Madeleine (Isadore Galwey) is Marie-Madeleine's twelve-year-old fatherless daughter.

Contrary to the interpretation offered by most critics, Dionne's use of the name Madeleine had less to do with biblical history than with a tradition existing in Quebec up to the 1960s by which women forced to abandon an infant named the child after themselves as a sort of remembrance. The Madeleines' summertime, open-road, white convertible pilgrimage serves as a much-craved revisiting of a barely known past; primarily for Marie-Madeleine (Marie, the narrator NARRATOR. A pleader who draws narrs serviens narrator, a sergeant at law. Fleta, 1. 2, c. 37. Obsolete.  of the film), who desperately needs Mado to supply her with an explanation for her existence, but also for the little Madeleine, who, though showered with love since her birth, craves more completely binding ties nearly as much as her mother. Through Marie-Madeleine's eyes we visit a newly discovered heritage, we witness her conception and the passionate love story behind it, we see Mado in her youth, we are transported in time and place, as is Marie, by Mado's illustrated stories of scratchy bebop bebop
 or bop

Jazz characterized by harmonic complexity, convoluted melodic lines, and frequent shifting of rhythmic accent. In the mid-1940s, a group of musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker, rejected the conventions of
 and vintage cars. For both of them this trip is empowering: for Mado it is the discovery of responsibility, repercussion and a chance to return to a time of passion; for Marie it is the opening of a door onto a world of self-understanding, emotional awakening and freedom of choice--the choice to love and to trust. For all three, it is a rite of passage rite of passage
n.
A ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person's life indicative of a transition from one stage to another, as from adolescence to adulthood.
.

Not given to excessive self-analysis, Dionne is a tireless watcher and listener. She studied political science before entering Concordia University's film production program in 1987, and after graduation (with honours) moved quickly towards documentary making. She credits her broad cultural and geographic knowledge for this (on top of the fact that she can speak four languages fluently) rather than any particular penchant, since the film she shot in her final year of college was in short fiction: a film titled Les Frissons d'Agathe, which won both a Panavision Canada Award and an award from Le Festival des Premiere Oeuvre de la ville Sainte-Therese for Best Fiction Film. Dionne entered the NFB NFB National Federation of the Blind
NFB National Film Board of Canada
NFB Negative Feedback
NFB No Fuse Breaker
NFB Normal for Bridgewater (music album) 
 in 1989 as a camera operator, where for two years she honed her skills, refined her style and her aesthetic as well as her capacity to adapt to the most unexpected situations. It was the perfect preparation for her subsequent work as director and producer on independent projects.

In 1991, she took on the challenging roles of researcher, location scout and production supervisor for the CBC (1) (Cell Broadcast Center) See cell broadcast.

(2) (Cipher Block Chaining) In cryptography, a mode of operation that combines the ciphertext of one block with the plaintext of the next block.
 television series Amerique 500. For the following three years, as she travelled throughout both American continents, she discovered she was just as comfortable meeting the Yanomami tribe in the Amazonian jungle of Venezuela as she was interviewing music greats Milton Nascimento Milton Nascimento (born 26 October 1942) is a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter who is considered an icon of Brazilian music.

Nascimento was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His mother was the maid Maria do Carmo Nascimento.
 and Gilberto Gil in Brazil, or Luis Bunuel's legendary cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa Gabriel Figueroa Mateos (*April 24 1907 Mexico City – April 27 1997 Mexico City) was a Mexican cinematographer who worked both in Mexican cinema and Hollywood.  in Mexico City. In 1994, while still in Mexico, she wrote and directed the documentary Les Reves secrets des Tarahumaras, which was nominated for Best Documentary Series at the Gemeaux Awards.

Her encounter with so many different cultures and the women who are part of them, says Dionne, is what inspired her to look deeper into her own foremothers' history. As she worked on the Les Fantomes screenplay, Dionne's knowledge of Quebec history was enhanced by her direction of three documentaries: two episodes for the series Iles d'Inspiration (1999)--one dedicated to legendary Quebec poet and singer / songwriter Felix Leclerc, the other to historian and author Louis Caron--and, more recently, an episode of the new series Les Histoires oubliees entitled "La Memoire des lieux," to be broadcast on Radio-Canada and RDI RDI - Receiver Data Interface . Interestingly, in the last year Dionne has also directed an hour-long documentary road movie entitled "Jess Goes West" for the WTN WTN Watertown (Wisconsin)
WTN Working Telephone Number
WTN World Television Network
WTN Wright Technology Network
WTN World Timber Network
WTN Womens' Television Network (Canada) 
 series Through Her Eyes, about a young Quebecoise on a trip through Western Canada.

Dionne's decision to make Les Fantomes was sparked by her interest in how the lives of Quebec women are shaped by society's expectations. She was inspired more specifically by some astounding a·stound  
tr.v. a·stound·ed, a·stound·ing, a·stounds
To astonish and bewilder. See Synonyms at surprise.



[From Middle English astoned, past participle of astonen,
 figures she unearthed Unearthed is the name of a Triple J project to find and "dig up" (hence the name) hidden talent in regional Australia.

Unearthed has had three incarnations - they first visited each region of Australia where Triple J had a transmitter - 41 regions in all.
 concerning adoption: between 1949 and 1956, 20,876 illegitimate children were born in Quebec, two-thirds of whom were put up for adoption--that's about 2,500 children a year.(*) In the ultra-Catholic environment of Quebec during the Duplessis years, there was virtually no question of a respectable girl bearing and keeping a child out of wedlock wed·lock  
n.
The state of being married; matrimony.

Idiom:
out of wedlock
Of parents not legally married to each other: born out of wedlock.
. The unavailability of birth control and the religious zeal that forbade it in any form was evidently a large part of problem (so the double standard always goes), and hordes of children were conceived on the spur of the moment Adv. 1. on the spur of the moment - on impulse; without premeditation; "he decided to go to Chicago on the spur of the moment"; "he made up his mind suddenly"
suddenly
, the fruit of brief sexual escapades or one-night stands.

The construction of Les Fantomes des trois Madeleine was "like a puzzle," says Dionne. "I started with this idea of adoption and then kept adding and adding to it, for six years." So the theme of belonging and self-discovery was the starting point of this labour of love, but the development of her characters and the unfolding of the narrative required many research trips and much introspection. Dionne returned again and again to the Gaspe, repeatedly tracing the path her characters would take. She chose the site not only for personal reasons, but also because of its dramatic power: filmed in black and white, it is an environment that forcefully opposes "nature's harsh contrasts to the soft whiteness of the breathtaking seashore skies." The compassion and extraordinarily delicate insight of the film pushed me to ask Dionne if she herself or someone close to her had been adopted. Her treatment of the subject seemed too emotionally precise to be that of an outsider, but as I learned during our conversation, it was simply an example of great human empathy and imagination. "We all know one," she said of adopted people, but she didn't go into detail. The adept sociologist's touch.

Typical of life's always amazing circular waltz, just days before I saw the film for the first time I received news from the "one" I know, a close friend who had just finally, after 10 years of searching, learned about her biological father. What she had discovered through her newly found grandfather was that her father was, in fact, dead, murdered in the early 1980s. In complete contrast with her adoptive family, this unknown father had more than a rebel's streak in him: not long before he met her biological mother for their single-night encounter, he had gotten into a car accident and, though not under the influence, had killed three people. This tragedy apparently transformed him gradually over the years from a straight-A student to a troubled, unhappy man. He became a drug addict and an alcoholic, dabbled dab·ble  
v. dab·bled, dab·bling, dab·bles

v.tr.
To splash or spatter with or as if with a liquid: "The moon hung over the harbor dabbling the waves with gold" 
 in crime (petty thieving, disturbing the peace) and ended up murdered at 27. The police department sent my friend her father's unclaimed personal belongings and his mug shot; she discovered that she has his eyes.

However sad, tragic and unbearably romantically astonishing a·ston·ish  
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise.
 this story is to my friend and those close to her, what I was most struck by is the transformation I witnessed in her as the result of being finally able to explain her existence in its entirety and close the page on her past. An aura of peace has descended upon her, forever dispelling that slight tinge of insecurity I'd never known her to be without. The awe with which she told her story--the wideness of her eyes, the exalted nature of her speech--and the knowledge that somewhere, sometime, someone existed who looked like her and with whom she would have truly belonged has given her life new meaning.

And this is the energy Dionne has knowingly and artfully succeeded in tapping into. Marie's moody, moved and emotional meanderings throughout the voyage end with an almighty and genuine release. Mado, never quite as troubled by the event, never the rootless one, enjoys the reunion's high emotion; and the little Madeleine, released at the end by her mother for a summer vacation with her soon-to-be-met German father, emerges with a fuller life ahead of her. Redemption, enlightenment or just plain climax--whatever you call it--is achieved and relished.

Dionne has ignored the medium's pesky conventions and indulged in a stream-of-consciousness, bi-tonal filmic film·ic  
adj.
Of, relating to, or characteristic of movies; cinematic.



filmi·cal·ly adv.
 musing on things of universal concern. Not preaching, not exposing, just saying, showing, letting her characters be. Like Mado, Marie and Madeleine we draw strength from the freedom of the salty seaside winds, chirping chirp  
n.
A short, high-pitched sound, such as that made by a small bird or an insect.

intr.v. chirped, chirp·ing, chirps
To make a short, high-pitched sound.
 birds and imaged reminiscing, leaving the experience with a sense of closure, a new-found taste for adventure and emotional daring. The Madeleines forge a world of their own where legends and memories hold the key to the future, and for a few moments, in this ode to the beauty of the unsaid, we are offered the privilege of joining them. Dionne has given us the gift of roots.

(*) Adoptionet redefinition contemporaine de l'enfant, de la famille et de la filiation fil·i·a·tion  
n.
1.
a. The condition or fact of being the child of a certain parent.

b. Law Judicial determination of paternity.

2. A line of descent; derivation.

3.
a.
 by Francoise-Romaine Ouelette and Johanne Seguin, Institut quebecois de recherche re·cher·ché  
adj.
1. Uncommon; rare.

2. Exquisite; choice.

3. Overrefined; forced.

4. Pretentious; overblown.
 sur la culture, Quebec City, 1994.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Canadian Independent Film & Television Publishing Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion

Title:

Comment:



 

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Tousignant, Isa
Publication:Take One
Date:Sep 22, 2000
Words:1883
Previous Article:Devil you know: inside the mind of Todd McFarlane (NFB feature documentary).
Next Article:From sea to sea: East coast.
Topics:



Related Articles
New president.
Montreal update.
A Wrinkle in Time.
Do students really learn a foreign language through role-playing? (Language Teaching & Learning).
New CFDC logo unveiled. (Fednor Update).
Madeleine Is... worth a second look.
Kenyan women lose on East African Community Assembly. (News in Brief).
African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET). (About Femnet).
Trois Riviere transition house sets program for male parents. (Children & Families).

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters