Volume 14, Issue 2 / February 2010

Classic Quebec Cinema

In this issue

In this issue Offscreen casts a glance back at two of the most venerable fiction classics of Québécois cinema, Les Bons debarras, 1980 (essay by Stephen Rife) Mon oncle Antoine, 1971 (essay by Donato Totaro). These two films have continually been linked together because of their hallowed status in the Québécois film canon, but they are two different kinds of beasts, with interesting parallels nonetheless. Both films feature young protagonists, twelve year-old Benoît in Mon oncle Antoine and thirteen (going on thirty) year-old Manon in Les Bons debarras, but their respective narrative impact distinguishes them once again. Where Benoît is a passive character, watching, learning, and growing, reacting rather than acting, Manon (the darker of the two by far) is forever active, plotting, conniving, and doing whatever is necessary to maintain autonomy over her mother’s affections. Although Antoine is set in the past, and Debarras in its present, they were both made at important political moments in Quebec’s history, with Antoine‘s production overlapping with the 1970 October Crisis and Debarras coming out in the same year as Quebec’s first (1980) referendum for independence. A final note of correspondence is the equal importance of the rural (or non-city) setting. This latter aspect —the country setting— provides a link to the next featured essay, the remarkable, contemplative Austrian thriller Revanche (2008). Directed by Götz Spielman, Revanche makes great use of the contrast between city-country to play out a fascinating class-based character study which begins as a revenge thriller but slowly transforms into a meditation on loss and redemption. Spielman’s better known Austrian counterpart Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon (2009) is one of four films Mike Archibald closely analyzes in his report on the 2009 Vancouver International Film Festival. One of the other four films is the latest from Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang, Face (2009), which forms a thread to the last piece of this issue, Edwin Maks’ Marxist-inspired reading of Taiwanese Lee Kang-Sheng’s Help Me, Eros (2007). Kang-Sheng has appeared in almost every Tsai ming-liang film, to the point where he is sometimes thought of as his on-screen alter-ego. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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