In Suburbia: A cinematic chronicle of the suburbs

In suburbia is a programme of films that puts forth aspects of Quebec and North America’s history and visual culture in the post-war period (from the 1940s to the 1960s). In doing so, they investigate the phenomenon of immoderate urban sprawling using contemporary cinematic methods. Rarity, as well as the quality of the concerned artists and the unique perspective that these productions bring to the history of both Quebecois cinema and international contemporary cinema, have been taken into consideration in selecting the films. We will be offering several premieres and discoveries: a film that was written by Arcade Fire’s Butler brothers, that was selected at Berlinale in 2011 and that was directed by filmmaker Spike Jonze; the scathing work of one American cinema’s enfant terribles (Harmony Korine’s “Mac and Plac”), and a rare and forgotten film which is not only one of Quebecois’ cinemas most colourful and fantastic, but which was also selected for Berlinale in 1965 (René Bonnière’s “Amanita Pestilens”)!

Invited programmer: Sébastien Hudon

Event program

January 24th, 2012, 7:30pm The Pleasures and Miseries of the Void
La chasse aux logis

La chasse aux logis

Graham McInnes, Canada, 1943, 18 min, DVD

A short documentary film on the growing populations of certain industrialized cities during the Second World War and their problems with housing shortages. In certain regions of Canada, new factories appear overnight, bringing in a considerable number of new specialized workers. To solve the problems of housing accessibility, the government had to build series of little houses for the workers and their families. 

Fire of Waters

Fire of Waters

Stan Brakhage, United States, 1965, 10 min. 16 mm

Inspired by a letter that the poet Robert Kelly wrote to this exceptional American filmmaker, the film is a take on the relationship between water and fire. It introduces elements of magic and mythology using images that were filmed on the outskirts of urban centers. By playing with contrasting images and sounds, Brakhage invents incomparable cinematic poetry. 

23 Ski-Doo

23 Ski-Doo

Julian Biggs, Canada, 1968, 8min, DVD

A short fiction film that captures everyday scenes of a life that nobody leads. The camera follows familiar urban scenes void of human presence: the streets, as well as the buildings, have all been abandoned. However, many things indicate that life did at one time exist here… All of a sudden, the camera fixates a teleprinter. An interrupted message can be read. Everything becomes clear.

Suburbs of the Void

Thomas Köner, France, 2004, 13 min, MiniDv.

“Suburbs of the Void” was created with images from surveillance cameras from different places in Finland and reworked with a morphing effect. The viewer travels on empty snow-covered roads with nothing but an audio arrangement to guide him. 

In Order Not To Be Here

%u201CIn Order Not To Bo Here%u201D is both awkward and powerful. It was created with images that resemble those of surveillance cameras. Empty places, disconnected spaces, aggressive silences and other paradoxes haunt this film as it uncompromisingly unveils the acculturation that is accelerated by places of transit and their purely functional urbanization. Despite everything, sprits, ghosts and faceless stares seem to haunt these spaces%u2026 Best Experimental Film, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2003

Scenes from the Suburbs

Scenes from the Suburbs

Spike Jonze, Canada-United States, 2011, 28 min., s-t French, DVD

This centerpiece of the event's first evening was written by brothers Win and Will Butler of the Montreal group Arcade Fire, in collaboration with Spike Jones, director of Being John Malkovitch and Adaptation. It is a fictional story in which a civil war breaks out in a suburban area where young adolescents are going through the decisive passage between childhood and puberty. The now-famous songs of the group's latest album, The Suburbs, inspired the film. It plunges viewers into Arcade Fire's universe and their multifaceted creative genius, building new bridges between cinema and contemporary rock culture. The suburbs once again reveal themselves to be a uniquely strange place: paranoid and safe, friendly and hostile, full of silent and inexpressible moments, yet paradoxically invaded by the music and narration of the Butler brothers.

January 31st 2012, 7:30pmA Caustic Look at the Neighbourhood


Norman McLaren, Canada, 1952, 8 min. 6 sec. Digibeta

This is the most famous short animation film by Norman McLaren and it earned him an Oscar. The film tells the story of two neighbours who are friendly and respectful to one another until a flower grows on the border of their two properties. A quarrel ensues that will bring the two neighbours to their graves. 

Amanita Pestilens

Amanita Pestilens

René Bonnière, Québec, 1963, 1h19 min. Digibeta

The highlight of In Suburbia’s second night is a very rare and forgotten film of Quebecois film history: Amanita Pestilens. Not only is it one of the first independent feature films in our history, it is also one of the first to have been filmed both in colour and simultaneously in English and in French. It was selected at the Festival de Berlin, it stars Geneviève Bujold in her first major role and it is directed by one of Pierre Perreault’s earliest accomplices, René Bonnière, an ex-assistant of Henri Colpi (who worked with the filmmaker Alain Resnais). The film’s plot is rather off-the-wall: a suburban man (Jacques Labrecque) who is full of pride for his award-winning lawn, gradually goes mad when he learns that his property is infested with mushrooms. Also to be noted is the presence of the famous Huguette Oligny in one of the leading roles.

While the film has been widely shown in both East and West Germany since the 1960’s, it has remained unrecognized in Quebec. A must-see!

Mac and Plac

Mac and Plac

Harmony Korine, États-Unis, 2009, 20 min, DVD

This film is both the illegitimate child of the Trash Humpers and an inflammatory and condescending charge against North American suburbia brought to us by contemporary American cinema’s enfant terrible, the creator Gummo, Julien, Donkey Boy and Mister Lonely. Mac and Plac are two Trash Humpers, suburban mutants who copulate with garbage and who are adept in the ways of domestic violence. They are libidinous monsters who get excited at the sight of a dead branch. The film was entirely filmed with a VHS camera and the director presents it as a video that was recuperated from the municipal dump. A Quebecois premiere.  

Coming soon


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