Hope your eyes won’t bleed too much; while I can understand, read and speak english pretty good, I don,t write it well at all. I also introduced the « country » more than the director, since it’s a world cup and not a director’s cup.These are reflections of pretty much everything that came to my mind and there isn’t any spoiler.
Quebec is a province of eastern Canda with French as the only official language unlike most of Canada. It has a particular history, both politically and culturally, and this is why I introduce it separately from the rest of the country (I hope my fellow canadian won’t be mad). Nation for some, distinct society for others, pain in the ass for most, Quebec leaves no one indifferent.
It is initially very important to understand that the notion of identity is very important in quebec society and cinema and it is the major reason why I introduced Quebec on its own. Because they historically had to affirm themselves on their own, quebec identity has been a key subject since the early 60s, pivotal moment in the history of Quebec better known as the Quiet Revolution. From For Those who will follow in 1963 by Pierre Perrault to the Saleman in 2011 by Sebastien Pilote, movies in Quebec speak their native land in all directions.
During the 1960s, Quebec experienced a great movement of emancipation from the rest of Canada that is easily perceptible in it’s film through the NFB directors. This is the Quiet Revolution, the nationalization of electricity, the creation of the Ministry of Education and a wind of change is blowing across Quebec. They overwhelmingly rejects the Catholic Church and throws theirselves into the future. This emancipation movement comes to art in the form of what is called cinema-verite ; it’s the golden age of cinema with Michel Brault, Pierre Perrault, Claude Jutra, Gilles Groulx or Gilles Carle who gets great success, both in Quebec and abroad, and discusses the notion of identity movie after movie.
The movement sees its peak in the late 1970s with the election of an independantist government and the hope that an independent Quebec will soon be, but these hopes were dashed when the referendum for Quebec independence was rejected by 60% of Quebecers. The films during the 80s remarkably reflect this gloom and depression; this state of mind is very well represented in the film by Denys Arcand, especially with his film The Comfort and indifference which, in two words , describes Quebec at the turn of the 1980s. He would made another mastepiece in 1986, The Decline of the American Empire, that deal with the same subject and will latter be widely acclaimed with the oscar-winner The Barbarian Invasion.
After a gloom in the 1980s, a new generation emerge during the 1990s, with an aesthetic quite different from their predecessors. Turned to the future, flamboyant, flashy, directors of the 1990s (including Denis Villeneuve, the acclaimed director of Incendies) had a style and an aesthetic that, while often criticized in academic Quebec today, were their own. Resolutely individualistic, marked by a second failure of collective affirmation with a second referendum for independence rejected at 50.5% in 1995, the films of this generation processes over individual identity as a collective identity.
Today, while at the international film by Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother) and Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) crops honors, a new movement seems to have born in Quebec cinema and quietly begins to emerge more and more . Denis Côté, with his film the Drifting State in 2005, launched what would soon be called the quebec new wave. He will be followed by Stéphane Lafleur (Continental, a Film without Guns), Rafael Ouellet (Behind Me), and Maxime Giroux (Demain). Movies made by cinephile who openly refered to the pioneers of Quebec and world cinema and that have more in common with Lav Diaz or Lisandro Alonso than Spielberg or Scorsese. Their films deal with local issues, but with a global resonance, which leads the filmmakers to visit more frequently major film festivals such as Berlin, Cannes or Locarno. In the last two years, Canada via Quebec was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011 for Incendies and in 2012 for Mr. Lazhar.
Outside of this brief timeline, some major directors left their mark outside of all classifiation. We can mentionned André Forcier, Robert Morin, Rodrigue Jean, or Robin Aubert to name a few.
Denis Coté is a Quebec director in his late thirties and a key member of contemporary Quebec cinema and probably the head of what some would call the new Quebec cinema. Film critic at first, avid fan of RW Fassbinder, Maurice Pialat and Jia Zhangke, he directed a dozen short films before working on his first feature film in 2005 : Drifting State. The film won the golden leopard at the Locarno film festival and he’s been a regular of the famous Swiss festival ever since and he won numerous other awards there (Best Director for All That She Wants, best actor and best director for Curling). He is also more and more on the map in the major festivals such as Cannes (Carcasses) and Berlin (Bestiaires). All that she wants has also been selected as one of the 10 best films of 2008 by Cahiers du cinema.
He is interested in the boundary between fiction and documentary in the classic minimalist style of a certain type of contemporary auteur cinema. He wrote and directed to this day six feature films (Drifting States, Our Private Lives, All That She wants, Carcasses, Curling and Bestaires) and has been involved in Jeonju Digital Project in 2010 along with James Benning and Matias Pineiro.
Christian has committed a crime, a crime of compassion. A troubled soul, he must now flee not only the law, but the deep ethical consequences of his act. The path he sets upon leads him to where all roads end: a small community by the name of Radisson, 1500km north of Montreal. Slowly, he starts his life anew, among his new neighbors, a new job, a new interest in life. His story drifts along between fiction and reality…
First film by Denis Coté, Drifting State is a pivot film in contemporary quebec cinema. The escape early in the film by Christian is not a coincidence. Quebec cinema who was a prisoner of Montreal in the 1990s suddenly opens to the world and is interested in what happens outside of the big city. The place is also not a coincidence; hydroelectric plants are the symbols of the 1960s, the success of the nationalization of hydroelectricity. In wanting to visit these places, Côté shows a desire to return to the roots of contemporary Quebec in this atmosphere of gloom. However, he does not in any way put a nostalgic look, but rather wishes to return to the past to move into the future. The little glimpse at the catholic religion are also very important and symptomatic of the importance of the 1960s in Côté’s style.
The huge impact of cinema-verite is also symptomatic of the huge respect the director have for the generation of the NFB directors. The interesting thing here is that, while his influences are easy to remark, he’s not copying any style but instead making his own from those who were 40 years ago. There’s a bit of Orderes in Drifting States, a bit of For Those who Will Follow, but a lot of Denis Côté.
It is also important to note thatImprovisation is omnipresent; there were only two pages of script and often, the scenes to film were determined the ame morning and the film crew (8 people) went knocking on doors asking people to participate in shooting. For example, the two party scenes are totally improvised. The director has invited citizens to a drinking party at the bar not knowing at all who would decide to come. They then filmed at random in the evening to have the most natural possible scene. All the people of the city of Radisson (the priest, the trucker ,etc.) played their real-life job in the film and the teenagers that we see are real teenagers from the city that spoke about what they wanted to.
We then find ourselves lost in a docu-drama left to the formal skills of Côté, which delivers a disconcerting work of originality. Assumed formalism, Côté directed a feature that shows the typical imperfections of a first work. The film is nonetheless essential ; in wanting to return to the source of Quebec cinema, he threw it’s cinema into the future and by reminding Quebecers of their history he increase their understanding of what can possibly be their future.
this is lovely and perfectly comprehensible. thanks for this; looking forward to the film
Bump for the match upcoming.
Just saw this. Ari predicated that I would say that “I don’t have a good grasp of Cote’s films”—and he was right about this film. Was the situation with Christian and his mother just an excuse to feature the town and people of Radisson? That’s sort of what I started feeling like, as I couldn’t figure out the point of some of the scenes (Christian hanging out the bar; riding on the boat; the students sharing their thoughts on their relationships; etc.) Christian’s time in Radisson is where I’m most confused, so if anyone can shed some insight on those parts—as well as well as the film overall—I’d appreciate it. (I’ll go back and read the thread.)