Au pays des ennemis du cinéma: Pour une nouvelle histoire des débuts du cinéma au Québec ed. by André Gaudreault, Germaine Lacasse, et Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan (review)
- The Canadian Historical Review
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 79, Number 2, June 1998
- pp. 355-356
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Book Reviews 355 theatre a participe al'essor de la vie culturelle, economique et sociale de la ville. Facile alire, l'ouvrage de Beaucage est ecrit clans un style limpide et contient un precieux calendrier des spectacles mis al'affiche selon les salles et les annees ainsi que la liste des pieces frarn;:aises representees entre 1900 et l9lI. JULIE BOUDREAULT Universite Laval Au pays des ennemis du cinema: Pour une nouvelle histoire des de'buts du cinema au Que'bec. Edite par ANDRE GAUDREAULT, GERMAINE LACASSE, et JEAN-PIERRE SIROIS-TRAHAN. Quebec: Nuit Blanche Editeur 1996. Pp. 216, illus. $22.95 As a methodical analysis of the early showings and making of films in Quebec, this book is both useful and highly readable. Based on the premise that there is a dearth of scientifically presented historical material on Quebec cinema, this work - prepared by GRAFICS - seeks to fill that lacuna. It is meticulously documented and carefully outlined. Though each chapter can be approached as an entity, the book is most impressive in its entirety. The thrust ofAu pays is to demonstrate that, in Quebec, cinema was a very popular form of entertainment. The Quebec Church was therefore opposed to it from the start. In demonstrating such fierce reactions , conservative forces at the beginning of the century gave Quebec a reputation for being the enemy of film. From I9I3 on, the industry was subject to strict provincial censorship and a multitude of rules. Au pays is divided into four parts. Part One deals with the arrival of Lumieres's representatives on 27 June 1896, and with the impact of their work in Quebec. Part Two covers the making of motion pictures. Chapter 2 contains a fascinating account of the oldest moving picture that features Native people, the Danse indienne. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss showings of foreign films in Montreal and filmings by Ouimet, Giroux, and Mason, while chapter 5 concerns showings and filmings in Quebec City, the most photographed city of early cinema, one that in 1912 became a large open-air studio for six or seven fictional films, each lasting fifteen minutes. Though foreigners, especially Americans, liked to film in Quebec because of its exotic locale, the Quebecois did not recognize either their country or themselves in these foreign interpretations, such as Ouimet's 1908 Fetes du trecentenaire de la fondation de Que'bec. Chapter 6 deals with genres, and the analysis of 356 The Canadian Historical Review documentary versus fiction, a distinction not made well at the time, is riveting. It includes descriptions of staged documentaries, or vues arrangies or actualitis arrangies. Part Three treats the reception ofcinema in the province. Inevitably, chapter 7 details the censorship that brought about the label 'country of the enemies of cinema.' The role of L.-J. Lemieux as first president of the severe Bureau of Censorship of Motion Pictures of the Province of Quebec is carefully delineated. Chapter 8 tells what kind of welcome this new medium (always written nouveau media) received from journalists, and chapter 9 demonstrates that the audience attending these films was not made up entirely of common people. Part Four, the Exploitation of the New Medium, also containing five chapters, deals in chapter IO with the bonimenteur (or explicator), a figure needed when no sound and shifts ofthe narrative made the film difficult to understand. Chapters II and 12 explain the use of recorded sound and colour in very early silent cinema. This angle may come as a surprise to some, but it is certainly familiar to most film scholars. Finally, chapters 13 and 14 tell of the experiences of early exhibitors of moving pictures. Here the point is made that Georges Gauvreau and his rival Ouimet built the first really large cinema halls in the world, proof of the popularity of cinema in French Canada. Thus, the label earned by Quebec as the enemy of cinema (one given by Russia) was not a fair one, as is proved by all this activity, production, and attendance in the province. Sadly, it was censorship, particularly against foreign films, which was to blame, and some American studios and others refused to export their products to Quebec. In addition...