Volume 16, Issue 8 / August 2012

Tribute to Louis Goyette

Part-time professor of Film Studies Louis Goyette died unexpectedly on April 5, 2012, after a brief struggle with lymphoma. Louis was the type of person not easily forgotten, such was his passion for life, joy and good humour. His death touched everyone who knew him, including his many students and colleagues from Concordia University, which is where I had the good fortune to meet him. I wanted to do something to mark his life, and this special issue in his name is the result. As the highlight of the issue, I am especially proud to be able to present Louis’ unpublished essay on Gilles Groulx’s Où êtes-vous donc, in English, as a small way of commemorating a life that shone brightly but alas far too brief to make any sense of earthly justice (we here at the Concordia University Cinema department are still wondering, “why Louis?”). Louis’ lasting legacy will no doubt be his teaching, and the thousands (?) of students who were touched in some way by his vocation. Louis may not have been a world famous academic –he didn’t have a stream of books and articles next to his name, nor a slew of degrees– but from the first-hand talks I’ve had with his students, and comments I have heard from some of his former students since his passing, he certainly made a lasting impact on the many people who had the good fortune to take his classes. Louis loved to teach. He was what I call a ‘foot soldier’ to the cause of custodial teaching: transmitting your subject in a way that incites interest and continued learning. Louis was an erudite cinephile, and it showed in his approach to teaching. The story behind the essay I am presenting in this issue goes back a way, and reflects Louis’ generosity. After translating (from French) and publishing a few essays by Louis on Offscreen (linked at the end of the essay) I had queried him one day about whether he had another essay to submit to me for Offscreen. A few days later he emailed me this essay, telling me that he had written it with the intention of submitting it for publication but never got around to it. He then said, and I paraphrase, “If you like it, you can have it and do what you want with it.” I read the essay and loved it: a wonderful 6000+ word essay, political, social, and aesthetically committed….like Louis was. I saw it as a beautiful blend of two of Louis’ favorite things: Québec cinema and music (Louis sang for a very long time in a choir and had a lovely singing voice). The essay lived on my hard drive for years, waiting for the right moment to be shared. With Louis’ untimely death I deeply regret not publishing it earlier. But life works in mysterious ways and, as they say, everything has its time. Which is why I proudly offer this posthumous presentation of Louis Goyette’s fine essay, “La chanson comme prétexte: Où êtes-vous donc, by Gilles Groulx” [“The Song as Pretext: Gilles Groulx’s Où êtes-vous donc?”]. A special thanks goes to the translator, David George Menard. I worked closely with David throughout this translation, helping him, prodding him on, giving him feedback and encouragement. David knew Louis and was particularly affected by Louis’s death. I know how hard David labored with this translation, struggling emotionally with how best to do justice to Louis’ labor, while transmitting some of his own soul into the words as well. Thank you again David for taking on this difficult project and pouring all your heart into it. Following Louis’ essay is a brief example of the loving testimonies that surfaced after his tragic passing. Anyone who knew Louis well knew of his love for the great Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi. Indeed, Louis’ Master’s Thesis was on the painterly qualities of Kenji Mizoguchi. With this in mind I include as part of this tribute issue David Hanley’s exploration of the theatrical qualities of Mizoguchi’s films, “Theatrical Elements in Mizoguchi’s Cinema.” Concluding the tribute part of this issue is David George Menard’s impressionistic, personal, and political exploration of “Living” in a “Dying” world, vis-a-vis an appreciation of the Susan Hayward vehicle, I Want to Live!, “The Performatist, The Hand That Writes, Writes Me.” Menard wrote this piece a mere 11 days after the passing of Louis, and, although I haven’t spoken to the author about this, it somehow feels as if it would never have been written had Louis not died. Thanks again David for bearing more of your soul. End of the Louis tribute. So long pal. Concluding the issue is Elaine Lennon’s book review of Mandy Merck’s American Tragedies: Dreiser Eisenstein Sternberg Stevens. This review follows from the several fascinating essays on the screenwriting side of things that Lennon has already written for Offscreen (click on her name at the end of her review for a linked listing of these essays). (Donato Totaro, ed.)

PS: Header photo comes from one of Louis’ favorite films, Bruce Baillie’s Castro Street.

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