Legendary cinéma vérité filmmakers Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault were attracted to Île-aux-Coudres for two reasons: the language of the people who lived on this small island in the St. Lawrence and the whales. For centuries the fishermen of Île-aux-Coudres had caught belugas. The souls of the dead were invoked for a successful catch, and a unique technique was used: the men sank a trap of saplings into offshore mud at low tide to capture the white whale, a tradition that was abandoned in 1920. This feature-length film made in 1962 is the unrehearsed story of what happened when old-timers of the island were persuaded to revive the practice. And through the magic of words and the mystery of the catch, the film uncovers a spirituality rooted in the moon and the rhythm of the tides. Of Whales, the Moon and Men is more than documentary; it is a fresco of the myths and legends among the traditional fishing communities of Quebec. —National Film Board of Canada
An influential cinematographer, director and writer, Michel Brault worked as a professional photographer before finding himself in the field of cinema, thanks to the encouragement of his friend and colleague Claude Jutra. Brault collaborated with Jacques Giraldeau on Petites médisances (1953–1954, 39 episodes), a series made using the innovative new principles of the "Candid Eye movement.” In 1956, he joined the National Film Board, where he worked as a cameraperson on a number of Candid Eye series films, most notably The Days Before Christmas (1958, directed by Terence Macartney-Filgate).
That same year, Brault co-directed Les raquetteurs (1958) with Gilles Groulx, a work that was heralded as a sort of manifesto for the NFB’s francophone filmmakers. Defending a different approach to cinema, from then on Brault was part of a new documentary process that was equally technically innovative and artistically innovative. He worked on several films that have become classics; for instance… read more
Pierre Perrault had initially intended to be a lawyer. After classical studies, he enrolled in the law faculty of the University of Montreal in 1948 and continued at the University of Paris. He then studied international private law at the University of Toronto. He practised law in Montreal from 1954 to 1956, when he was hired as a writer for the French-language network of CBC Radio. Over the years, he would also write television dramas.
In his films, Perrault concentrated on men who reveal themselves through their language, and through their acts primarily having to do with daily life, work and survival. He often uncovered the myths underlying their activities, including hunting: The Shimmering Beast (La Bête lumineuse) (1982) takes us into a fantastic world, giving us a glimpse of the fear that underlies the boasting of hunters. More than a hunting trip, this film is a voyage into the heart of men and of self, a voyage beyond life too, a confrontation with death. There followed… read more