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of the Grand Noirceur (1937–1961)

Antitube is proud to present two special evenings of mainly independent and rare films from the period of Quebec history known as the Grande Noirceur (1930–1960).

Our program shines light on this little-known corner of Quebec film history. The work of celebrated independent filmmakers like Claude Jutra, Michel Brault, Gilles Groulx, and René Bail is featured along with other films that force us to reconsider our preconceptions of the history of Quebec film. Guy Borremans and Michel Brault, iconic photographers and filmmakers of the era, will be in attendance to introduce their films and discuss with audiences.

Join us for a Launch Party for the new issue of Contre-jour, cahiers littéraires #23 at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 18, 2011.

The magazine includes an article on Omer Parent’s La vie d’Emile Lazo, showing April 18, 2011, at 7:30 p.m.

Event program

April 18, 2011, 7:30 p.m.

Images from La vie d'Émile Lazo, by Omer Parent

La vie d’Émile Lazo

Omer Parent, Quebec, 1937–38, 12 min., silent.

 

This screening of La vie d’Émile Lazo by Quebec, painter, artist, filmmaker, and photographer Omer Parent, is a momentous occasion. A comedy produced in Quebec City in 1937–38, the film chronicles the disappointment of a modernist painter disgusted by the mediocrity and venality of his contemporaries. The film is significant not only for the challenge it poses to the accepted view that the era’s filmmakers toed the Catholic Church/Duplessis line, but also because it is the oldest surviving narrative film from Quebec. (We have no extant copies of earlier efforts by Homier or Ouimet.) The film stars two important cultural figures of the time: Robert LaPalme, political cartoonist and painter—who wrote the screenplay—and painter Jean-Paul Lemieux.

 

Printemps

René Bail, Quebec, 1958, 12 min.

 

This poetic documentary, ostensibly about making maple syrup, is marked by the freshness and vitality of youth and a strong experimental bent. A minor masterpiece in the history of Quebec documentary and independent film.

 

Gross-Stadt Zigeuner

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Hungary, 1932, 11 min., 16 mm.

 

Prior to the experimental formalist work of his Chicago period, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, a key figure of the Bauhaus school, made films that are precursors of Direct Cinema, characterized by agile camera work and a strong predilection for portraiture and street scenes. This, Moholy-Nagy’s first film, is a gem of documentary filmmaking: an up-close portrait of a Hungarian Romany community. The free camera movement imbues the work with a musicality new to film.

 

 

Berliner Stilleben

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Germany, 1931, 9 min., 16 mm.

 

Shot in the early 1930s when Moholy-Nagy’s association with Bauhaus placed him at the vanguard of the emerging twentieth-century urbanist esthetic. An impassioned, gorgeous, fast-paced portrait of Berlin as it had never been seen before, throbbing with the energy that would soon lead down the path to fascism, war, and successive waves of destruction.

 

La femme image

Guy Borremans, Quebec, 1960, 30 min., 16 mm.

 

This long-blacklisted independent film is unquestionably among the most ambitious of its era. With breathtaking images and an opaque poetic discourse—it is fittingly dedicated to Claude Gauvreau—La femme image is a cinematic manifesto where the freedom to create involves breaking free of the confines of narration. This rarely-seen film was never distributed, despite being one of few to include long pans of street life in Montreal, a city of walkers par excellence as writers from Gaston Miron to Robert Marteau have shown. The film’s score brings together a crack team of jazzmen including the Belgians Bobby Jaspar (tenor sax and flute) and René Thomas (guitar), habitués of Montreal clubs Lutèce and Little Vienna, flanked by Freddy McHugh (bass) and George Braxton (drums)—years before Gilles Groulx’s Le chat dans le sac featured a John Coltrane score.

 

 

Ballet mécanique

Fernand Léger, France, 1924, 12 min., 16 mm.

Hourra Léger !

Omer Parent, Quebec, May 1943, 3 min.

 

Léger’s work was a huge influence on artists like Alfred Pellan and Omer Parent, who had the good fortune of meeting the master while studying in Paris in the 1920s. In 1943 Léger, on a trip to Montreal to endorse Pellan’s appointment to the École des beaux arts, passed through Quebec City. Hourra Léger ! records Léger’s ecstatic welcome in pre–Refus global Quebec City, all scrupulously captured by Omer Parent’s camera. Art school students mob Léger with banners, one of which reads “À mort l’académisme.” The film was discovered during research for this program; this is the first time it has been shown in public.

 

Guy Borremans will be in attendance.

April 28, 2011, 7:30 p.m.

Images from Very Nice Very Nice, by Arthur Lipsett

Mouvement perpétuel

Claude Jutra and Michel Brault, Quebec, 1949, 15 min.

 

This unforgettable film is among the most audacious its authors made. When a barely twenty-year-old Jutra showed the film in France he swiftly earned a reputation as one of Quebec’s leading independent filmmakers. The film’s clearsightedness, inventive storytelling, and masterful deployment of cinematic techniques lend it the freshness typical of the best youthful work of major artists.

 

Croquis

Omer Parent, Quebec, 1952, 8 min.

 

Croquis—French for “sketches”—is Omer Parent’s film diary, begun at his home in the 1950s. It is characterized by startling attention to composition, particularly in sequences where Parent brings the objects on his desk to life, one by one.

 

Begone Dull Care

Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart, Quebec, 1948, 8 min.

 

This delightful abstract film is a seminal work. McLaren and Lambart follow closely on the heels of Len Lye as inventors of the animated musical, replete with scratched film and unforgettable musical score from pianist Oscar Peterson.

 

 

Very Nice Very Nice

Arthur Lipsett, Quebec, 1961, 7 min.

 

An experimental work and nice example of editing technique that closely resembles photo-collage. Lipsett takes film editing to new heights to transform a visual patchwork largely inspired by mass media into a timeless, virtuosic, and acerbic visual symphony.

 

Marseille vieux-port

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, France, 1931, 9 min.

 

A singular tableau that renders the atmosphere of Marseille’s old port in the early 1930s. Working at the same time as Cartier Bresson, Moholy-Nagy found a new way to capture the beauty of his subjects in moving images that display both the rawness of documentary and the deliberate composition of carefully edited work. Moholy-Nagy is consistently, and unjustly, thought of as a highly cerebral filmmaker; Marseille vieux-Port sheds new light on his oeuvre, reminding us that his way of looking at and seeing urban life from multiple perspectives came out of a long apprenticeship of close observation of the varieties of human life to be found in the heart of the modern city.

 

Les héritiers

Gilles Groulx, Quebec, 1955, 12 min., silent.

 

Les héritiers is unquestionably Groulx’s least known and most underrated work, a must-see for those who don’t know it—and well worth a second look for those who do. Two decades after Moholy-Nagy, Groulx took his Bolex to the streets of Old Montreal, training his lens on passersby and street people who present a stark contrast to the immaculately turned out haute bourgeoisie. A labor of love filmed in Groulx’s free time, the result is true film poetry, Groulx’s simplest work but also arguably his most moving.

 

 

Kronos

Denys Saint-Denis, Quebec, 1961, 14 min., 16 mm.

 

Rarely if ever shown publicly over the past four decades, this forgotten gem is a lovely example of nascent independent Quebec filmmaking from the early 1960s. Denys Arcand championed Kronos, comparing it to Borremans’ La femme image. Jean-Claude Labrecque’s camera work and René Bail’s editing are impressive.

 

Le pantin

Luc Chartier, Quebec, 1961, 10 min.

 

Like Kronos, Le pantin was made in 1961 with support from Société du jeune cinéma, again with Labrecque behind the camera and Bail in the editing booth. One of a select few independent films produced in Quebec City in the 1960s, Le Pantin shows children playing with a puppet in the historic city center.

 

Les actualités filmées

Omer Parent, Quebec, 1965, 3 min.

 

Filmed at Quebec City’s École de beaux arts in the mid-1960s, this film is a fine example of the playful, mischievous style that always shines though in Parent’s forays into filmmaking. An unsung pioneer of early independent Quebec film.

 

Michel Brault will be in attendance.

Coming soon

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