Quebec Studies

Explorations of Suburban Non-space in Stéphane Lafleur's Continental

Quebec Studies (2009), 48, (1), 25–34.

Abstract

25 Explorations of Suburban Non-space in Stéphane Lafleur's Continental Robert Schwartzwald Université de Montréal A n u m b e r of recent Q u é b e c films h a v e trained their gaze on the suburban landscsape. To n a m e but four: Robert M o r i n ' s Que Dieu bénisse l'Amérique (2006), Stéphane Lafleur's Continental: un film sans fusil (2007), L é a Pool's Maman est chez le coiffeur (2008), a n d Philippe Falardeau's C'est pas moi, je le jure (2008). T h e s e films are quite conspicuously not set in outlying neighb o r h o o d s of Montreal that h a v e b e e n b r a n d e d in local m e d i a as notorious sites of gang violence, racial tension, a n d lethal confrontations with the police; neighborhoods like Saint-Michel or Montréal-nord that, toutes proportions gardées, h a v e e v e n b e e n cast as analogues to Clichy-sous-bois in Paris or Vaux-en-Velin in Marseille. N o n e is concerned with stories of recent immigration, nor does any focus on ethnic or racialized populations w h o live in suburbs. In other words, n o n e is a film de banlieue in the sense the term has acquired in France (think, for example, of M a t h i e u Kassovitz's La Haine, 1 9 9 5 ) . Instead, these films depict the suburbs as w e are used to seeing t h e m in Hollywood, or e v e n A m e r i c a n independent cinema, in the late twentieth century. For the m o s t part, these A m e r i c a n films apply their "censorious critique" (Archer 3 1 9 ) to a normatively white, middle-class suburbia. 1 2 In Québec, suburban films h a v e b e e n largely concerned with the historic c o m m u n i t y of French descent, k n o w n m o r e colloquially as les Québécois de souche. B y its very title, Stéphane Lafleur's Continental references the shared North-American suburban landscape, even as the film's subtitle offers a wry, self-mocking reference to w h a t the film's Québécois "distinctiveness" might be: it is, w e are told, un film sans fusil — a film without guns. This is presumably h o w w e k n o w (aside from language, bien sûr!) that the film could not b e set in the United States, where mediatized suburban dramas e n d in trauma units. N e v e r m i n d that a bon père de famille in suburban Brossard w a s recently acquitted after shooting a policeman w h o burst into his h o m e in the middle of the night on a mistaken drug raid, or that K i m v e e r Gill, the killer at Montreal's D a w s o n College, accumulated w e a p o n s and announced his intended exploits over the internet from the b a s e m e n t of his suburban Laval h o m e . In Continental, such suburban eruptions are out of sight and out of mind. O f the four Q u é b e c films I m e n t i o n e d at the outset, Continental is the most filmic, b y which I m e a n the least dependent on plot, and the most interested in the spatial and sonorous elements of the suburban landscape. In the first part of this essay, w e shall consider Continental's unconventional formal treatment of w h a t J o h n Archer calls "the material apparatus in which suburbia h a d b e e n realized [...] from dwelling type to subdivision plan to 3 4 Québec Studies, Volume 48, Fall 2009/Winter 2010

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Schwartzwald, Robert