The San Francisco Film Society, SODEC, the Quebec Government agency that supports the production, distribution and export of Quebec cultural products and the Quebec Government Office, Los Angeles present Québec Film Week, December 10–14 at Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Avenue. As Quebec celebrates its quadricentennial, there could be no better time to draw attention to its singular cinematic tradition. With its own awards ceremony (the Jutras) and a vital history of regionally specific films portraying universal concerns, the cinema of Quebec offers moviegoers a plethora of riches. Along with seven recent works—many of which have won awards at festivals and showcases—the Film Society pays tribute to this history with a retrospective screening of Claude Jutra’s Mon Oncle Antoine. Included are films by brilliant established filmmakers such as Denys Arcand (Jesus of Montreal, SFIFF 1990) and Léa Pool (Set Me Free, SFIFF 2000) alongside particularly strong debut works and provocative nonfiction features about Antarctica and the art world. This special program highlights the best of contemporary cinema and provides Bay Area audiences with unique opportunities to view exciting new films from Quebec and engage with bold filmmakers whose voices and visions will reward the adventurous.
Film Society Director of Programming Linda Blackaby said, “Just north of the 49th parallel and closer to our border than Russia is to Alaska, Quebec has, since the 1940s become known for a francophone cinema which is engaged at the same time with the evolution of international film aesthetics and its own domestic culture. We are proud to present a selection of eight contemporary films that demonstrate just some of the quality and range (from documentaries and realistic narratives to high artifice and pop culture) of the cinema from Quebec and what it has to offer to our appreciation of world cinema.”
Wednesday, December 10
6:15 pm Missing Victor Pellerin (Rechercher Victor Pellerin) Actor in Person
Sophie Deraspe, 2006
Victor Pellerin has been missing for 15 years. After a short burst of fame in the Quebec art scene, he reclaimed all of his paintings, set them aflame and disappeared. Or did he? Sophie Deraspe’s sprightly genre-busting hybrid follows a group of aging bohemian Montreal artists as they prepare for an anniversary show centered around Pellerin’s absent work. Like Orson Welles in his film F for Fake—also a multilayered look at the international art world—Deraspe calls our willingness to trust the documentary form into question and does so with a cutting sense of humor. Michael Atkinson, in a recent issue of Film Comment, writes that the film’s “evasive zigzag around ‘reality’ serves as a deft backhand slap at the whimsical, emperor’s-new-clothes absurdity of the international art world.” Written and photographed by Sophie Deraspe. With Sylvain Bouthilette. In French with English subtitles. 102 min. Distributed by Atopia Distribution. Bouthilette is expected to attend.
8:00 pm Opening Night Party
Complimentary wine and appetizers at Shima Sushi next door to the Opera Plaza Cinema.
9:00 pm Mommy Is at the Hairdresser’s (Maman est chez le coiffeur)
Léa Pool, 2008
A vivid film about familial dysfunction in suburban Montreal, Léa Pool’s latest charmer delves deeply into family life in the late 1960s. Elise (Marianne Fortier) is a teenager coping with adolescence amid two younger brothers off in their own worlds, a father who hides a secret and an ambitious mother named Simone (Céline Bonnier). When Simone suddenly leaves home, Elise and her siblings find creative ways to deal with their altered household. The film’s serious dramatic elements—depression, sexuality, divorce—are contrasted with the resilience of kids and the desultory activities that comprise their days. Pool is well known for the beautiful way she has told stories of female adolescence in films like Set Me Free (SFIFF 2000); here she once again brings compassion and insight to this memorable story. Written by Isabelle Hébert. Photographed by Daniel Jobin. With Gabriel Arcand, Céline Bonnier, Benjamin Chouinard, Antoine Desrochers. In French with English subtitles. 97 min. Distributed by Seville Pictures.
Thursday, December 11
6:15 pm Continental, a Film Without Guns (Continental, un film sans fusil) Director in Person
San Francisco Bay Area Premiere
Stéphane Lafleur, 2007
A businessman falls asleep on a city bus, wakes to find it stopped on the highway and walks off into the dark woods. So begins Stéphane Lafleur’s debut feature, a meditation on modern loneliness and loss. The film contemplates various characters, each only tangentially connected to the others, and depicts their aimless attempts at connection. Lafleur imbues the Quebec locations with a suburban homogeneity, framing the protagonists in beautifully composed images that suggest they are as much a part of the landscape as the concrete apartment buildings and hotels where they live. Though the film partakes of a recent movement toward intersecting, multiple narratives, it has a sense of humor unusual to other such fare. Most unexpectedly of all, by its end, Continental manages to leave us with a sense of hope for its tragic characters. Written by Stéphane Lafleur. Photographed by Sara Mishara. With Marie-Ginette Guay, Gilbert Sicotte, Fanny Mallette, Réal Bossé. In French with English subtitles. 103 min. Distributed by Christal Films Distribution.
9:00 pm The Fight (Le Ring) Director in Person West Coast Premiere
Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, 2007
This debut film marks the discovery of a filmmaker with a new and unique vision. Director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette and scriptwriter Renée Beaulieu plunge deep into the heart of one of Montreal’s most beleaguered neighborhoods. With a drug-addicted mother, a criminal father and siblings who have turned to drug dealing and promiscuity, an alert and willful 12-year-old lives in an environment of misery and abandonment. Only his adoration of a costumed wrestler named Firestorm and his friendship with a good-natured, but mysterious homeless guy give his life some semblance of joy. The remarkable energy and humanity in The Fight is due to the audacious directing—reminiscent of Ken Loach—that stays glued to the character, looking deep into his eyes to see the reflection of his surrounding world. Written by Renée Beaulieu. Photographed by Philippe Lavalette. With Maxime Desjardins-Tremblay, Julianne Côte, Maxime Dumontier, Jason Roy-Léveillée. In French with English subtitles. 87 min. Distributed by Christal Films Distribution.
Friday, December 12
4:00 pm The Age of Ignorance (L’âge des ténèbres)
Denys Arcand, 2006
Living in a dystopian, near-future Montreal, Jean-Marc (Marc Labréche) lives in thrall to fantasies in which he cavorts with a variety of sexy muses and elevates himself into an award-winning author, a chivalrous knight or a beloved star of stage and screen. But in real life, as a caseworker for a byzantine government bureaucracy, he listens with ineffectual detachment to stories of catastrophe by a succession of downtrodden people. With the dissolution of his marriage and the passing of his elderly mother, Jean-Marc begins to carve out a new life based on integrity and reality. Drawing on politically astute themes introduced in films like The Barbarian Invasions (2003) and The Decline of the American Empire (1986), Denys Arcand has created a tender evocation of a melancholy future and one man’s endeavor to find his true self. Written by Denys Arcand. Photographed by Guy Dufaux. With Marc Labrèche, Diane Kruger, Sylvie Léonard, Caroline Néron. In French with English subtitles. 108 min. Distributed by StudioCanal.
6:15 pm The Last Continent Director in Person San Francisco Bay Area Premiere
Jean Lemire, 2007
Filmmaker and marine biologist Jean Lemire leads an intense 430-day expedition to Antarctica in this resonant documentary about a group of scientists investigating the effects of climate change. When the team arrives they discover that warmer temperatures causing upheavals in the ecosystem also threaten the safety of the crew members themselves. Awaiting the arrival of a desperately needed winter, they struggle to keep food supplies cold and the boat anchored against gale-force winds. Cinematographers Martin Leclerc and Mario Cyr capture glorious shots of Antarctica’s sublime landscapes while Donald Sutherland’s deft voiceover narration creates a richly textured profile of the continent. With compassion and urgency, the film makes a compelling case for action, suggesting that the effects of global warming on our fragile world run far deeper than we can see. Written by Jean Lemire, Caroline Underwood. Photographed by Mario Cyr, Martin Leclerc, Stéphan Menghi. In English and French with English subtitles. 105 min. Distributed by Seville Pictures.
9:00 pm Borderline U.S. Premiere
Lyne Charlebois, 2007
“I have no boundaries . . . my skin is inside out,” says Kiki (Isabelle Blais in a fearless performance) at the beginning of Lyne Charlebois’s harrowing debut feature. This pained protagonist is trying to write her master’s thesis while dealing with a history of various addictions, self-abuse and childhood trauma. Kiki’s life unfolds in three separate timeframes that overlap daringly in the scenario, as past selves brush past the present one and sometimes overwhelm it. As words, family and the ghosts of her past threaten to overwhelm her, she valiantly endeavors to confront her demons honestly without losing her sanity. Blais’s commitment to the role is palpable—she utters Charlebois’s daring and difficult words (based on Marie-Sissi Labrèche’s well-known, semiautobiographical novels) as if they were imprinted on her very skin. Written by Lyne Charlebois, Marie-Sissi Labrèche. Photographed by Steve Asselin. With Isabelle Blais, Angèle Coutu, Sylvie Drapeau, Laurence Carbonneau. In French with English subtitles. 109 min. Distributed by Max Films.
Saturday, December 13
1:30 pm Missing Victor Pellerin see December 10
4:15 pm Mommy Is at the Hairdresser’s see December 10
6:30 pm The Fight see December 11
9:00 pm Continental, a Film Without Guns see December 11
Sunday, December 14
1:15 pm Mon Oncle Antoine
Claude Jutra, 1971
Long heralded as a stellar example of Quebecois cinema, this 1971 gem looks at various denizens of a small northern town in the 1940s. As Christmas approaches, workers from the local asbestos mine grumble about their boss and consider other employment. Much of the rest of the village’s preholiday activity takes place at the general store run by Antoine (Jean Duceppe) and his wife Cecile (Olivette Thibault). A childless couple, they look after a young girl named Carmen (Lyne Champagne) and their nephew Benoit (Jacques Gagnon), a slightly mischievous boy who is just beginning to understand the subtle undercurrents flowing among the store’s various patrons. Splendidly evocative of its time and place, with a finely tuned naturalism and assured cinematography, Mon Oncle Antoine has rightfully cemented its place as one of Canada’s most beloved films. Written by Clément Perron, Claude Jutra. Photographed by Michel Brault. With Jean Duceppe, Olivette Thibault, Claude Jutra, Jacques Gagnon. In French with English subtitles. 104 min. Distributed by National Film Board of Canada.
3:30 pm The Last Continent see December 12
6:15 pm Borderline see December 12
9:00 pm The Age of Ignorance see December 12
Film tickets $10 year-round SFFS members, $12.50 general, $11 seniors, students and persons with disabilities; CineVoucher Québec 8-Packs $72 SFFS members, $92 general; one opening night film and reception $15 SFFS members, $20 general; both opening night films and reception $25 SFFS members, $32.50 general. Tickets available online at www.sffs.org, by calling 925.866.9559 or by faxing 925.866.9597. Open November 11 for SFFS members and November 18 for the general public.
Full schedule and information: www.sffs.org.
Official Website: http://www.sffs.org/events/index_series_quebec.html
Added by cinesoul on December 3, 2008