過去在康城影展揚名立萬的加拿大導演，也是以拍攝英語電影為主，例如，拍過《慾望號快車》（1996） 的大衞哥連堡，以及拍過《性感俱樂部》（1994） 的艾湯伊高揚等。不過，也有一些本來拍攝法語電影的魁北克導演，例如丹尼斯維爾諾夫 ，因為法語片成績驕人而被美國的大公司羅致，轉而拍攝荷里活大片，包括《毒裁者》（2015）、《天煞異降》（2016）和《銀翼殺手2049》（2017）等。
至於尚皮亞利費華導演的《藍波逝去的故鄕》（1977），也是魁北克和法國合作，女主角之一竟是法國女演員Myriam Boyer，而她是我當助導的法國片《禍水紅顏》（1979） 片中的女配角，而兩齣戲的角色都叫做Jeanne。至於監製之一的Hubert Niogret，也是我認識多年的法國著名影評人，近年專門拍攝亞洲電影的紀錄片，2012年就拍了一齣有關胡金銓的紀錄片。
今年在康城影展的「一種關注」單元，看到的A Brother's Love，也是非常法國口味的魁北克電影，愛情、親情、兄妹之情，不停的啜核對白，不停的進餐場面，充滿對哲學和人生的討論，裡面提到的包法利夫人、福柯等等法國文、史、哲元素，如果不是那些法語對白有着濃濃的加拿大口音，我真的以為是看了一齣法國電影呢！
When I was young, I had a relatively open-minded attitude towards the diverse variety of arts. Besides the mainstream fares in the theatres, sometimes I would watch experimental films and animated shorts at Studio One and Phoenix Cine Club, among other occasions. At the time, Canada’s Norman MacLaren was a prominent name.
I remember most of the Canadian films I’ve watched at that time were mostly French films from Quebec. Though both English and French are the official languages of Canada, English had a stronger presence. It was easy for Canadian directors who made English films to integrate into the Hollywood film industry. A lot of Canadian directors have been mistaken as American directors because they had been working in Hollywood for a long time. For example, Norman Jewison, who directed the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night (1967), was actually born in Toronto, Canada.
Among the Canadian directors who have made their names in Cannes, most of them are known for making English films, such as David Cronenberg (Crash, 1996) and Atom Egoyan (Exotica, 1994). However, there are Quebecois directors who began their careers in French. After a string of success with French films, Denis Villeneuve was recruited by big American studios to direct films including Sicario (2015), Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
Villeneuve’s black-and-white French film Polytechnique (2009) will be part of this Quebecois program. The monochrome images may have lessened the bloodiness, yet the film’s mass killing scenes remain shocking. Turns out school shooting does not only happen in the US, as there have been two serious mass shooting incidents in Canadian schools recently. This film’s achievement is no less than American director Gus Van Sant’s Palme d’Or winning Elephant (2003), which is based on a 1999 school shooting in Oregon.
Perhaps because of its closeness in language and cultural background, Quebec’s French cinema has a very close relationship with the cinema of France. Surely, Claude Jutra’s My Uncle Antoine (1971) is not Jacques Tati’s My Uncle (1958). Generally speaking, the relatively low-budget productions allow independent films to maintain their freedom of expression and personal styles. Jutra’s film lets viewers experience the joy and pain in life through the eyes of a teenager. His film language is mature and sublime in this subtle and melancholic feature, which cemented his place in the pantheon of Quebecois cinema.
Michel Brault is another Quebecois filmmaker who made his mark at Cannes. His black-and-white docufiction Les Ordres (1974) won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Because of the language and cultural differences, Quebec’s French Canadians have longed for secession from Canada. The film chronicles the kidnapping of political figures by a Quebecois separatist group. It was a time of great political turbulence, as the Canadian government arrested many innocent citizens and held them for a long time without a trial. Although they were eventually released, the authorities never made up for their pain and suffering. Even in a civilized country like Canada, such acts of blatant human rights violation could occur. I cannot fathom what Hong Kong citizens will have to face if the extradition bill is passed.
I can tell you from my experience the close relationship between Quebecois French cinema and cinema of France. In the late 1970s, I had worked as the assistant director for acclaimed French director Alain Corneau. Hence I found out that there were two French Canadian film workers of the same name. One of them was the sound man for JA Martin Photographer (1977) while the other was a still photographer. Also, Corneau directed Yves Montand in the crime thriller The Threat (1977), which was shot in Canada.
Jean Pierre Lefebvre’s The Old Country Where Rimbaud Died (1977) is a collaboration between Quebec and France. One of its lead actresses Myriam Boyer is also featured in Série Noire (1979), for which I served as assistant director. Coincidentally, her characters from both films are named Jeanne. As for its producer Hubert Niogret, he is a renowned French critic whom I have known for a long time. In recent years, he has specialised in making documentaries about Asian cinema. In 2012, he made a documentary about King Hu.
This year, I have just watched A Brother's Love at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section. It is a Quebecois film with a strong French flavour—romance, familial relationship, non-stop stinging dialogue and numerous dining scenes. The film is filled with discussions about philosophy and life, with mentions of Madame Bovary and Michel Foucault. If it wasn’t for their unmissable Canadian accent, I would have thought I was watching a French film!
All these musings are just my way to show the shared lineage between Quebecois French cinema and the cinema of France. It is up to you to discover a deeper level of understanding when you watch the films.
(English translated by: Francisco Lo)