Quebec Studies

Pierre Falardeau and Michel Brault, the FLQ and the Patriotes: Hollywood vs. Modernism

Quebec Studies (2004), 37, (1), 45–61.

Abstract

45 Pierre Falardeau and Michel Brault, the FLQ and the Patriotes: Hollywood vs. Modernism Jerry White University of Alberta "The modernist does not commit himself. He considers, and is critical." — Douwe Fokkema and Elrud Ibsch (3) "Critics who vehemently attack modernism for being ahistorical, on grounds of its preoccupation with formal order, often open the floodgates of history through their very characterization of modernism." — Àstrâ_ur Eysteinsson (14) When I teach Quebec cinema, I often find myself joking that Pierre Falar­ deau is like the evil twin of Michel Brault. I am of course being facetious, but I am not being misleading. The connection between these two film­ makers is positively eerie, but it is also striking how radically different their takes on the same historical periods are. It would be easy to reduce these differences to a simple case of Brault being the older, wiser artist and Falar­ deau being the younger, more passionate and more naïve upstart. It would also be easy to reduce this to a simple case of Brault being a compromised liberal, safely ensconced in the cocoon of the Quebec film community since his days at the 1950s Office National du Film (ONF), while Falardeau is a radical, independent, Third-Cinema style poUtical filmmaker. But both of these reductions are quite unsatisfying. Instead, I believe that the distinction between Brault and Falardeau is one of modernism vs. classicism, respectively. This is especially ironic not only because of Falardeau's roots in grassroots video (he spent time at Mon­ treal's Vidéographe) and fiery pamphlet films (such as Le Temps des bouffons [1985/1993], a denunciation of the Montreal Beaver Club) but also because of the way in which Falardeau tries to present himself. That he tries to pre­ sent himself as a dissident filmmaker is, of course, deeply deceptive; he is in fact much closer to Hollywood than to any tradition of international polit­ ical filmmaking. This is surely visible in Octobre or 15 février 1839, and a full discussion of that Hollywood influence will follow. But despite the Vidéographe connection or films like Le Temps de bouffons, this is not at all excep­ tional; other Falardeau films like Le Party or the Elvis Gratton series are very much influenced by Hollywood forms (melodrama and slapstick comedy, respectively). Using the work of Fokkema and Ibsch cited above, I would argue that Brault is always critical and often conflicted in terms of politics and ide­ ology; Falardeau, on the other hand, seems far more interested in creating Québec Studies, Volume 37, Spring/Summer 2004

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White, Jerry