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Without a doubt, the most exciting thing about the 2001 Rendez-vous du cinema quebecois was the arrival of Segolene Roederer at its helm. After a decade under the wing of Michel Coulombe, this annual retrospective of Quebecois cinema was in great need of a breath of fresh air. A film lover and a purist, Coulombe did a terrific job for many years in promoting Quebec film auteurs, trying to change the long-held cliche in the public psyche that our cinema was boring. His somewhat restricted view of what Quebec cinema was or should be, however, was problematic in the late 1990s in face of the change in Quebec society, which is becoming more and more multi-everything - ethnic, linguistic, cultural et al.

The difference between the old and the bold, new and improved version of the Rendez-vous was instantly evident in the joyful and ebullient creative atmosphere that permeated the entire 10-day event. A funky and relaxing cafe was temporarily set tip in one of the Cinematheque quebecoise's exhibition rooms so that people could have a cool place to chill out between films, perhaps even run into the filmmakers or attend one of the daily panels held on various subjects. Another marked change was how Ms. Roederer opened up programming to include more underground material as well as film artists often not considered as such by the public. One such artist was Out; Fortin, the late and beloved frontman of the Quebec band Les Colocs, who wrote and directed every single music video produced by the band as if they were low-budget short films instead of flashy MTV-style musical extravaganzas. The special evening dedicated to Fortin and his work, which included a documentary about him made by his friends as well as a one-n ight-only concert by Les Colcos, was one of the highlights of the festival.

Another highlight was the special Quebec City programming, which included a program of short films produced for the Festival Vitesse Lumiere, a unique science fiction, fantasy and genre film festival hosted in the capital and dedicated entirely to short films produced on shoestring budgets by young Quebec filmmakers. Amazing pieces of inventive craftsmanship and dark humour, such as Patrick Boivin's hilariously vicious sci-fi films L'Instinct grete and Gracien Tremblay Ap-26 329 (co-directed by Francis Lauzon) and Mathieu Fontaine's completely wacked out Tomate Tomato, proved that this kind of filmmaking has its place in the Quebec cinematic landscape just as much as Denis Villeneuve's Maelstrdoi. Other special events included a tribute to veteran filmmaker Gilles Carle, who was being awarded a special Jutra Award for his career, as well as a cultural exchange with Thecif, an independent film organization from France.

As for the film and video selection itself, considering the festival is primarily a retrospective with very few premieres, one cannot expect too many surprises. In the feature-film selection, in addition to the star vehicles of last year such as Maelstrom, Denys Arcand's Stardom, Robert Lepages Possible Worlds, and the critical favourites La Moitid gauche do frigo directed by Philippe Falardeau and Full Blast directed by Rodrigue Jean, there was Michel Jette's Hochcelaga, a dramatic, well-executed, if somewhat longish, film about Quebec's biker wars, The Rendez-vous' closing film, Lauzon/Lauzone by Louis Belanger and Isabelle Hebert (see Toke One's review on page 44), was also a very pleasant surprise in that it managed to present a portrait of late filmmaker Jean-Claude Lauzon, which was at once engaging, revealing, unapologetic and moving, through interviews with some of his closest friends and collaborators, as well as through never-before-seen private video footage of Lauzon's famous hunting expeditions i n Northern Quebec.

However, I must say that my favourite discoveries were in the short and documentary sections. Among them was former actor Robin Aubert's Lila, a gripping, well-written and beautifully acted love story set in the rough world of street punks; Quebec City-based Jeremy Peter Allen's Requiem contre un plafond, a very funny comedy about suicide and bad cellists starring Yves Jacques at his manic best; Jean-Francois Monette's sensible exploration of a young man's coming to terms with his emerging homosexuality in Take-Out; former rock musician Michel Gatignol's brilliantly whimsical La Venus de Milo ne peutpas se faire plaisir, a very funny explanation as to why the Venus de Milo statue lost its arms; and animator's Claude Cloutier's extraordinary Do Big Bang a mardi mat-in, an engaging and imaginative account of man's evolution, from protozoa to stuck-in-traffic businessman.

Some experimental films also caught my attention, such as Dorion Berg's ASCII Alphabet, a very interesting collage of sounds and images based on antique children's alphabets, edited in such a way to illustrate international computer binary language; Chantal DuPont's Dufront tout le tour de la tate, a stirring and minimalist account of the artist's struggle with cancer; and Pascal Grandmaison's brilliantly absurd Guide d'utilisation, which proposes a new "embracing" approach to working with heavy machinery and tools.

Among the great documentaries featured in the event, my three favourites were Ezra Soiferman's Man of Grease, a hilarious and surprisingly touching portrait of Montreal original Tony Koulakis, who owns and operates a very popular but tiny greasy spoon in the city; Richard Jean-Baptiste and Yann Langevin's beautiful and moving Guntanamera Boxe, which follows two Cuban teenage boxers training while examining their dreams and aspirations for themselves and Cuba; and Carole Poliquin's powerful L'Emploi du temps, a vibrant and intelligent look at the effects of globalization on our culture and our society.

Unquestionably, Segolene Roederer won her first challenge. By bringing her fiery spirit, insatiable curiosity and open- mindedness to the event, and by working closely with industry insiders as well as with her team of programmers and collaborators, she managed to update the Rendez-vous' mandate while keeping its essence intact. She also wisely decided to push forward with some transformations that had already been put in motion (such as implementing a selection process for the submitted films, instead of accepting just about everything as it had been done for a long time). Roederer literally breathed new life into the Rendez-vous and gave it a new exciting direction. Simply put, she gave it a vision.
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Publication:Take One
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:May 1, 2001
Previous Article:Spirits of Havana.

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