Robert Lepage – Le Confessionnal (1995)

In 1995 a then well known Québec theatre director named Robert Lepage made his first feature film, Le Confessional which, to my mind, remains one of the most impressive debut Canadian films ever. An intellectual and polyglot, Lepage carried his theatrical self-assurance over to the sphere of cinema without compromising cinematic language, and in fact expresses his ideas through formal means in the manner of an assured auteur. Thematically the film is not much of a stretch for a Québec film, centering on one of the constant themes in Québec cinema: sibling-parent tension. In this case, as in many other important Québec films, the tension revolves around an estranged father-son relationship [to name just a few Québec films dealing with troubled mother/father and daughter/son relationships, Les Bons Débarras (Francis Mankiewicz, 1980), Un Zoo la Nuit (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1987), Les Invasions Barbares (Denys Arcand, 2003), and La Vie avec mon Père (Sébastien Rose, 2005)]. What makes the film impressive is not the story but its formal treatment across two time frames, weaving the past and the present and the personal and the historical.

The film’s narrative spans two eras of Québec, the Québec city of the Duplessis era (the early 1950s) and the Québec city of the post-Quiet Revolution period (1989). Using camera movement, hidden cuts, and music cues, Lepage weaves a seamless bridge between the two time frames. The film begins when the central character, Pierre Lamontagne (Lothaire Bluteau), returns to his native home in Québec city in 1989, after several years studying art in China, for the funeral of his father Paul-Émile Lamontagne (Francois Papineau), who died after years of neglecting his diabetes. Bluteau tries to connect with his estranged half-brother Marc Lamontagne (Patrick Goyette), a male hustler troubled by the mystery surrounding his father’s identity. Also on board in the 1989 portion of the film is a stripper who Marc fathered a boy with, Manon (Anne-Marie Cadieux), the boy, who suffers from the film’s ‘symbolic’ disease, diabetes, and Pierre’s conservative cousin André (Richard Fréchette), who gets Pierre a job as bellhop at the Château Frontenac Hotel, where he works as a service manager. In the 1952/53 Québec city scenes we follow the lives of Pierre and Marc’s lower working class family –Pierre’s soon-to-be father Paul-Émile Lamontagne, a cab driver, Paul-Émile’s sister Jeanne d’Arc (Lynda Lepage-Beaulieu), his wife Françoise Lamontagne (Marie Gignac), and her 16-year old sister Rachel (Suzanne Clément). Another important character is the young priest who will hear Rachel’s troublesome confession conerning her illicit pregancy, Raymond Massicotte (Normand Daneau). All their lives are partly affected by the presence of Alfred Hitchcock, who is in Québec city shooting his latest thriller I Confess.

700MB | 1h 36m | 640×480 | avi

Subtitles:English hardcoded

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One comment

  1. Thanks for this!

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