Michel Brault – Les Ordres AKA Orders (1974)

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Les ordres has been rated by critics as one of the best Canadian films ever made. It subtly blends fiction and documentary realism in a chilling portrait of what can happen to a liberal democracy when the state imposes its power.

In October 1970, when FLQ terrorists kidnapped a British diplomat and threatened to (and later did) murder a Quebec cabinet minister, Prime Minister Trudeau sanctioned the War Measures Act and sent the Canadian army into Montreal. Close to 500 ordinary citizens who had no connection to the terrorists were summarily arrested and held without charge. Continue reading

Jim Shedden – Brakhage (1998)

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Jim Sledden’s 1998 documentary Brakhage is an interesting, well-constructed portrait of avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who made almost 400 film in the 50 years up to his death in 2003. Along with fellow artists Jonas Mekas and Maya Deren, he’s regarded as one of the most important of American experimental filmmakers, and his influence can be seen in everything from music videos to title sequences from such films as Se7en. Starting with the psychodramas so typical of young filmmakers, he eventually moved into more abstract films, even physically manipulating the celluloid itself by gluing things to it or scratching it with a variety of implements. Continue reading

Philippe Lesage – Les démons AKA The Demons (2015)

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A young boy begins to experience the adult world as he enters adolescence.

A daring, exquisite study of agitated child psychology that marks Quebecois filmmaker Philippe Lesage as a name to watch.

Fevered imagination and nightmarish reality brush shoulders to disconcerting effect in “The Demons,” Quebecois filmmaker Philippe Lesage’s extraordinary examination of childhood fears festering in broad suburban daylight. Putting his documentary training to disciplined use as he teases out the largely internalized insecurities — sexual, social and practical — of his 10-year-old protagonist. Continue reading

Xavier Dolan – J’ai tué ma mère AKA I Killed My Mother (2009)

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With I Killed My Mother, writer-director Xavier Dolan makes a grandiose show of his pain and narcissism. The 20-year-old Canadian filmmaker appears in his own film as Hubert Minel, a 16-year-old cutie whose endless spats with his mother are like volleying razorblades; their volcanic fights are so richly and sensitively attuned to how insecurity informs his character’s rage that you don’t doubt the material was based on personal experience. Dolan has Jenny Lumet’s rare talent for cannily transplanting to paper how people use language as ammunition—how words ricochet during squabbles in unpredictable ways and reveal the best and worst in us all. But I Killed My Mother is a film best heard than seen, as the earnest, nimble scrubbiness of Dolan’s screenplay is ill-served by his conceited visuals, an aesthetic mode that feels insecurely borrowed from perfume commercials and the work of Jean-Luc Godard and Wong Kar-wai. Continue reading

Will Pascoe – Noam Chomsky on the World: The Chomsky Sessions (2008)

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One of the most respected intellectuals of the 20th century, Noam Chomsky has had a long and prolific career as a linguist, philosopher, and political activist. Undoubtedly, though, he is best known as the quintessential American dissident. Chomsky’s criticism of U.S. foreign policy began with the Vietnam War and continued over the span of the next 40 years. Continue reading

François Girard – Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993)

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As the title suggests, this dramatised documentary about the eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould is broken up into thirty-two short films (mirroring the thirty-two part structure of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’, the recording that Gould made famous), each giving us an insight into some aspect of Gould’s life and career. Out of respect for the music lead actor Colm Feore is never seen playing the piano, merely reacting to Gould’s own recordings, which are extensively featured Continue reading

Anne Émond – Les êtres chers AKA Our Loved Ones (2015)

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Guy’s tragic death is a shock for the Leblanc family. For many years, the real cause of his death is kept hidden from some members of the family, including his son David. The latter in turn starts his own family with his wife Marie. He lovingly raises his children Laurence and Frédéric, but deep within him harbours a persistent melancholy. Continue reading