Hi, Brian here. Just a quick introduction this time, without stopping to recommend another unrelated film or series...well, maybe just one, the Alain Robbe-Grillet series currently at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and recently discussed by Carl Martin and Matt Sussman. 'Tis the season for films spoken in French, with English subtitles here on Frisco Bay. The reliably Canada-attuned Adam Hartzell has more to say on another series just around the corner:
While we weren’t paying attention, our neighbors to the north were having their own election. And according to the CBC's wonderful culture program Q, hosted by former Moxy Früvous member Jian Ghomeshi, one of the issues concerning this year's election was culture and arts funding. Although actual funding had increased under Stephen Harper’s minority government, as Gemini-winning actress Wendy Crewson said on the September 24th edition of Q, "They have increased funding in bricks and mortar. That is where the money has gone. It has not gone to the artists." Although how much this was an issue of concern for the "Tim Horton’s Crowd" (the Canadian voter equivalent of Joe-Six-Pack and his estranged wife the Soccer Mom), people were out in the streets of Montreal and Québec City even before the election was called to put arts funding on the table.
And it makes sense that these two cities in the province of Québec would rally for arts funding, since Québec's French-language films thrive in Québec whereas English-language films can't seem to pull the same percentages in the English-speaking provinces. So those who talk about how Canadian films mostly don't perform will really need to addend themselves. It’s the Anglophonic films that don't perform well. The Francophonic films are doing just fine, merci beau coup.
We in the States rarely get the opportunity to see examples from the Québec film industry, which is why San Franciscans can be so grateful to the San Francisco Film Society, with the assistance of the Québec Government Office in Los Angeles, for putting together the Québec Film Week from December 10-14th (yes, it's not technically a 'week') at the Opera Plaza Cinemas.
SFFS has programmed an ocular octagon of films from Québec. From the child-like gazes of Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalatte's The Fight (2007) and Léa Pool's Mommy Is at the Hairdresser's (2008) to the dystopian adult skews of Stéphane Lafleur's Continental, a Film Without Guns (2007) and Director Denys Arcand's The Age of Ignorance (2006). Adding to the mix of fiction films is the documentary (narrated for us Anglophones by Canadian Donald Sutherland) The Last Continent (2007), Jean Lemire's adventurous nine-month stint witnessing the slow death of the dead of winter in Antarctica brought about by global warming. Rounding out the contemporary films is the personal demons-facing Borderline, directed by Lyne Chalabois (2007) and the devious documentation of doubt, Missing Victor Pellerin, directed by Sophie Deraspe (2006).
Thankfully, SFFS has seen to it that a classic is featured as well, director Claude Jutra's 1971 feature Mon Oncle Antoine. The opening sequence involves the slow development of a snowball fight that appears to involve the entire town. It sits in my mind as one of the most smile-inducing, simple pleasure moments in all of cinema. Lensed by a cinematographer featured at the PFA in 2006, Michel Brault, Mon Oncle Antoine is one of many films from the archives of the National Film Board of Canada that demonstrate what great cinema can result from public support of the arts.
As for the films I have yet to see, I am most anticipating Denys Arcand's The Age of Ignorance. I have seen four of Arcand's films, including the 2003 Academy Award winning The Barbarian Invasions, the "demonstrably operatic" (Peter Harcourt's words in his contribution to The Cinema of Canada) 1986 film The Decline of the American Empire, the less famous treatise on fame that is 2000's Stardom, and my favorite of Arcand's endeavors, Jesus of Montreal from 1989. (Is it just me, or does the downtown side of the Castro Street MUNI underground station remind you of the Montreal Metro scene near the end of Jesus of Montreal?) With a track record like those four films, I anxiously await The Age of Ignorance with studied reverence for a consistently demanding and intellectually fulfilling filmmaker.
In my impatience for San Francisco's Québec film 'week', I might try to distract myself by eating some poutine from Salt House, listening to the Karkwa CD I picked up in Montréal this summer, walking through San Francisco listening to CBC's C’est Le Vie or YouTube-ing Radio Radio video video. (Yes, the latter are not from Québec but Moncton, New Brunswick, but it's still Francophonic even if in their Chiac dialect.) All the more to prepare for what should be a satisfying five days in the intimate venue of Opera Plaza Cinemas.