AngryFrenchGuy

Pierre Falardeau: The Original Angry French Guy

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Pierre Falardeau

The best interview of Pierre Falardeau I ever saw was the only one I ever heard him give in English.   In English Falardeau couldn’t pull the rancid foul-mouthed chain-smoking schtick that had made him such a polarizing and familiar face on TV.  In English he was just a soft-spoken filmaker talking about his art.

To most people, however, the director of Elvis Gratton, Octobre, Le Party, Le Steak and 15 Février 1837  will always be the bitter and angry separatist ranting about the Molsons, Trudeau and Big Federalist Media, waving his cigarette menacingly.  Pierre Falardeau died yesterday.  Not from lung cancer, in case you were wondering.

Pierre Falardeau’s character served him well.  It made him a celebrity.  A media personality.  It didn’t matter if people liked him of not, he could deliver the ratings. Once it even got him a seat on Bouillon de Culture, the French TV show about Haute Culture where a dozen parisian luminaries with broom handles up their asses talk about Alain Finkelkraut’s latest essay for four and a half hours. Falardeau slouched on his chair, smoked on the set and cranked the joual to blasphemous.  The French loved him.

Falardeau constantly had to sell himself because he wouldn’t sell out.  He refused to shoot commercials to make a living.  Since it’s just about impossible to raise the money to make a movie anywhere outside Hollywood without governement financing Falardeau had to go on TV and put on a show every so often to remind his fans that he was waiting on a check from Telefilm Canada, the governement agency that funds canadian movies.

Without the public pressure from his fans the militant filmaker knew his scenarios would have been killed one after another until he would have broken down and agreed to make films about “the migration of Canadian geese and the existential angst of Outremont’s middle aged.”

He wasn’t faking.  He really was angry.  He had to fight for every foot of film he ever got.  Guerrilla warfare.  He had to set the original script of 15 Février 1837, his movie about the Patriot Rebellion, in Poland to get it past a first round of bureaucrats.

Ultimatly, though, it got old.  Falardeau got stuck in his character: a drooling separatist bogey man consumed by anger.  A defeated man who would never live his dream of an independent Québec.

That’s why it was so refreshing to discover the other Falardeau in that English interview.  The anthropologist.  The scholar of imperialism and colonisation.  The man who’s ultimate struggle was not about some administratively independent state for Québec but giving the Québécois the opportunity to make and watch their own stories on the big screen before they came to believe, like Elvis Gratton, that American stories are the only stories in the world.

But you keep bitting the hand that feeds you! said the reporter in the English interview. Why should canadian taxpayers give you any money at all?

-Because I’m the only filmmaker in Canada who’s movie have ever made a profit, quitely answered Falardeau. I don’t cost money, I make money.

Things have changed since that interview.  This summer Québec movies made 18% of the box office revenue in the province.  The top grossing film of the entire summer, beating Harry Potter, Tansformers and G.I. Joe, was De Père en Flic, a Québec movie.  There are very few countries in the Western world where domestic movies have that big a share of the market.  Canadian films count for less than 2% of tickets sold in English Canada.

But before they could start building a man had to come to claim the land.  He had to cut down the trees and scorch the earth.  He had to fight off the bears and squatters.   He had to make sure the bankers money would be used to build a railroad.  It was tough work.  Not for your average film school grad.

The only reason there is a Québec film industry at all is because Pierre Falardeau proved that moviegoers would come out and pay to see a Québec movie at the multiplex.  Slapstic comedies, documentaries and historical dramas.

Pierre Falardeau made Québec’s commercial film industry possible.   And he did it without selling out.   Respect.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 27, 2009 at 1:34 pm

73 Responses

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  1. With these weird senate nominations flying around, one might think he wanted to leave in a haste.

    Pure Laine

    September 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm

  2. Salut Pierre!

    Pure Laine

    September 27, 2009 at 3:32 pm

  3. « On va toujours trop loin pour ceux qui ne vont nulle part. »

    Falardeau

    James

    September 27, 2009 at 3:41 pm

  4. Regarding Falardeau’s politics :

    Many people (and probably every anglo) saw in him an angry, bitter, spiteful, intolerant, ultra-nationalist… character.
    But such depictions do nothing at all to explain what he was about. The fact is that all of his angry ranting was matched by a profound humaneness, both through his passionate surveys of the Human condition – particularly exploited and oppressed people’s –, as well as his unflinching stands for freedom.

    The only thing he can objectively be criticized for is clinging too tightly to a decolonization analytical grid.
    All analytical grids will enlighten some facets of a reality as much as they will obscure others. Falardeau’s grid made him extremely lucid about some aspects of French-Canadian exploitation, and emboldened him to denounce what others wouldn’t dare mention out of political correctness (such as Ottawa’s ethnic pork barreling within Quebec).
    But it also led him to depict politics in warlike rhetoric : “You’re with us or you’re a sold-out, a traitor”.
    Only rhetoric… But that sure gave ammunition to those who needed a flesh and bone boogeyman to dress up their fantasies on Quebec nationalism.

    We lost a great film maker.
    But what I mourn the most with his death is an era of bold politicians, intellectuals and artists, who dared denounce, claim and fight.
    With Falardeau gone, it seems to me we’ve sunk deeper in a world where everybody shuts up and tiptoes around uncomfortable truths, out of fears of nasty labels, out of fears of being unpopular.

    Salut Pierre.

    Raman

    September 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm

  5. > With these weird senate nominations flying around, one might think he
    > wanted to leave in a haste.

    Heh, that’s not quite as far-fetched as it seems. Apparently Brian Mulroney once offered Jacques Parizeau a Senate seat, back when the PQ was out of power with Pierre Marc Johnson as leader and Parizeau’s political career was in a hiatus.

    Obelix

    September 27, 2009 at 4:13 pm

  6. Meh.

    RoryBellows

    September 27, 2009 at 4:36 pm

  7. Un grand québécois qui part.

    jasmincormier

    September 27, 2009 at 7:21 pm

  8. “Things have changed since that interview. This summer Québec movies made 18% of the box office revenue in the province. The top grossing film of the entire summer, beating Harry Potter, Tansformers and G.I. Joe, was De Père en Flic, a Québec movie. There are very few countries in the Western world where domestic movies have that big a share of the market. Canadian films count for less than 2% of tickets sold in English Canada.”

    Actually, if you read the article it sounds like Quebec films might be included in the 2%. So it’s even lower than 2%. Generally, it is an accepted statistic that the market share for English Canadians films is around 0.1%.

    Acajack

    September 27, 2009 at 8:29 pm

  9. Actually, if you read the article it sounds like Quebec films might be included in the 2%. So it’s even lower than 2%.

    A good example would be Bon Cop Bad Cop. We read how it was something like the biggest grossing “Canadian film” ever, but in fact it was a Québec film and the lion’s share of the box office receipts were generated in Québec. Very few people in English Canada went to see it. Same with La Petite Vie on the tv side. Most viewed “Canadian teleseries” ever. Yeah, but viewed where and by whom?

    That’s why I’ve always found it ironic when angry english guys swagger on to this blog and elsewhere to editorialize about how “we” (English Canadians) fund “your” (Québécois) culture, without which “you” would be sunk. I don’t know who this is supposed to be kidding. If the rug of public funding was pulled out from under cultural product in Canada, it’s English Canada’s cultural industry which would go down the dumper in short order. It has much less viewer/reader/listener interest relative to its target population basin. Creators like Atwood and Egoyan get this, even if the angry english guy in Red Deer with an internet account never will.

    James

    September 27, 2009 at 9:02 pm

  10. Falardeau was a first rate buffoon, but he never was more of a buffoon then his political enemies were. Elvis Gratton will remain one of Quebec’s great comic characters, a sort of distorted mirror image of the Trudeau-Chrétien axis of his era. With the demise of his two main ideological rivals and the advent of an era of deceitful tranquility with Charest, he became increasingly out of sync with the popular mood. He will be missed as one of Quebec’s chief mythmakers, in the noblest sense of the term.

    Guillaume

    September 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm

  11. “Since it’s just about impossible to raise the money to make a movie anywhere outside Hollywood without governement financing”

    I’m not buying that one at all. I think on a worldwide basis, most movies are made with no government money at all.

    Anyhow, as for Falardeau goes, I have paid my share of tribute on my blog.

    http://tymmachine.blogspot.com/2009/09/pierre-falardeau-un-nationaleux-decede.html

    Tym Machine

    September 28, 2009 at 1:59 am

  12. It’s actually 15 fevrier 1839 rather than 1837.

    Éric

    September 28, 2009 at 8:52 am

  13. “I’m not buying that one at all. I think on a worldwide basis, most movies are made with no government money at all.”

    I think Tym Machine is probably right. The Indian film industry produces even more movies than Hollywood and neither of these industries gets government money. Between the two of them, you have the lion’s share of cinematic production in the world.

    But it is also true that governments in virtually every single western country (except for the U.S.) do provide financial support to their domestic film industries.

    Acajack

    September 28, 2009 at 8:55 am

  14. Combien de fois, n’ai-je pas entendu la même critique à l’égard de Falardeau, tout comme à l’égard de Michel Chartrand d’ailleurs. « S’il ne sacrait pas, son message passerait mieux. » Dans la plupart des cas, c’est le message qu’on n’aime pas, mais c’est plus facile de s’en prendre à la forme, aux sacres, alors que ceux-ci ne font qu’amplifier le message.

    Avec Falardeau dans les années 1970

    http://www.lautjournal.info/default.aspx?page=3&NewsId=1770

    James

    September 28, 2009 at 9:55 am

  15. “The Indian film industry produces even more movies than Hollywood and neither of these industries gets government money. Between the two of them, you have the lion’s share of cinematic production in the world.”

    Bollywood makes 1/30th of the revenue Hollywood makes but in 2002 Businessweek reported they sold 1 billion more tickets than the gringos worldwide. One billion.

    It might not get much government money but it is widely believed that the indian movie business is a major money laundering vehicle for organized crime.

    Of course, Falardeau would probably have argued the same thing about Canada’s Council for the Arts…

    angryfrenchguy

    September 28, 2009 at 1:24 pm

  16. “Bollywood makes 1/30th of the revenue Hollywood makes but in 2002 Businessweek reported they sold 1 billion more tickets than the gringos worldwide. One billion.”

    Yeah, that’s because their main target market is much poorer than the Americans’. Bollywood can’t price itself out of its own market by charging 10 bucks a ticket.

    Acajack

    September 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm

  17. I am always uncomfortable with any kind of funding for the arts. Why? Because a committee must decide who does and doesn’t get money. Ultimately, it is a subjective decision and government shouldn’t be doling out money based upon subjective artistic merit.

    This is not the same as government doling out money for, say, repairing roads or funding hospitals which can and is done without any form of discrimination. I don’t think there should be any Canada Council grants nor any other type of arts funding by government.

    Tony Kondaks

    September 28, 2009 at 2:45 pm

  18. Should the government fund scientific research? Here as well who gets the money is a subjective decision.

    Obelix

    September 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm

  19. Obelix: I feel equally uncomfortable with the government funding scientific research. Let the private sector do that…and if the government feels one particular area needs funding, let them put in place tax incentives. Such a “passive” incentive system I believe is fairer than grants in both the arts as well as the sciences fields because the decision who gets what is left to the marketplace instead of some government bureaucrat, committee, or politician.

    An aside: under Bush, many people were under the impression that stem-cell research was outlawed. But this was an incorrect assumption; it wasn’t. No one was prevented from doing any sort of stem-cell research they wanted; it was the funding by the federal government that was not available. Yet scientific research is so vested in government funding that the unavailability of federal grants in this area was to many tantamount to the actual research being outlawed.

    Tony Kondaks

    September 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm

  20. How is using tax expenditures (you call them incentives) any better than doing actual expenditures? It’s just a less efficient way of doing the same thing with the same budgetary impact. And who gets the tax credits will be up to politicians and bureaucrats.

    We know for a fact that left to its own devices the private sector will underinvest in scientific research. That’s because research produces positive externalities. Private companies will only invest for benefits that they can internalize and directly profit from. That’s Econ 101.

    Stem cell research is a perfect example. It’s such a nascent field that any advance that you make won’t be immediately marketable, so private industry doesn’t have much of an incentive to invest it in. It’s still a promising field though, so the government should support it.

    dstr

    September 28, 2009 at 6:05 pm

  21. To be fair, although there is the occasional blip (like the Conservatives’ now-dead Bill C-10, that would allowed for denial of funding to films deemed “offensive and not in the public interest”), Canada’s artistic grant system can hardly be accused of censorship.

    Even Falardeau himself admitted that most if not all of his movies were done with federal funding, though he did have to jump through hoops to some money from the feds and make a personal cash grab with a lucrative and not-too-intellectual sequel to Elvis Gratton in order to get 15 février 1837 done.

    I believe most Quebec recording artists, most of whom are sovereignists and many very outspokenly so, also receive federal funding, in addition to funding from the Quebec government’s SODEC.

    Acajack

    September 29, 2009 at 8:44 am

  22. @ Tony Kondaks :

    “I feel equally uncomfortable with the government funding scientific research. Let the private sector do that…and if the government feels one particular area needs funding, let them put in place tax incentives.”

    I’ll give you to solid example to show you how such a thing is NOT desirable.

    1- At the beginning of the end of the 70s – begining of the 80s, big biotech firms decided that it was not necessary to work on finding new antibiotics anymore. Penicillin was going to solve everything, and bacterial infection would soon belong in the past. Simply put : penicillin was good at the moment, so why waste money on proactive research? It took less than 10 years to realize that antibiotic resistance was spreading very fast, and that we were almost screwed.

    2- In similar fashion, it took almost a decade for a researcher from the University of Calgary to finally convince the microbiological world that bacteria do, in fact, live in complex communities called biofilm, and that these biofilms can be found in most infection model. He was not funded by private firms, that is for sure. Nowadays, biofilms are one of THE most popular research subjects in microbiology.

    Simply put : I have to respectfully disagree with your position. Governmental funded scientific research and culture is ESSENTIAL to ensure that these fields ARE NOT left to the market places, as you put it. Mainstream research and mainstream culture, although not entirely bad, do not fill every needs. In the world of science, governmental/institutional fundings allow researchers to come up with original and innovative ideas. These ideas are then patented, and new biotech firms are born. This is also how it works with culture. Governmental fundings allow artist to take some risks, and the public benefits from these risks by discovering new forms of music/art.

    Vinster171

    September 29, 2009 at 9:09 am

  23. “This is not the same as government doling out money for, say, repairing roads or funding hospitals which can and is done without any form of discrimination. ”

    Roads are, as far as I’m concerned, a direct subsidy to the auto industry. Hey, they get governement to build half their product; the roads without which the world’s trucks and cars would be useless.

    The governement does have a choice. It could build more and better traintracks, communities designed for pedestrians and get to work on our induvidual neutron powerd jetpacks.

    angryfrenchguy

    September 29, 2009 at 9:23 am

  24. Vinster171 writes:

    “In the world of science, governmental/institutional fundings allow researchers to come up with original and innovative ideas.”

    If the oppressive tax structure on corporations was removed and replaced by a more passive incentive system, scientists wouldn’t need much of a push in order to come up with great ideas. For those that don’t play the game right and don’t get the government grants, they are left with a tax system that goes against any innovations that they want to pursue. Let’s have a level playing field.

    Tony Kondaks

    September 29, 2009 at 3:48 pm

  25. Acajack: “I believe most Quebec recording artists, most of whom are sovereignists and many very outspokenly so, also receive federal funding…”

    It’s an investment. Ottawa knows that the QC singers/bands that are popular in the rest of the Francophonie pay taxes back home on their earnings from overseas record sales, tours, etc.

    littlerob

    September 29, 2009 at 5:57 pm

  26. @ Tony Kondaks

    Your view is theoretically correct, but still not applied in societies where tax structures are not as oppressive, as you put it. Where profit is involved, there is always a pressure to produce fast, and therefore sacrifice quality and innovation in order to get quick returns.

    If you want an example, look at the car industry : competition has been harsh for years, and alternative energy sources have existed for decades. While our cars are now able to connect to the internet, we’re still using oil to run them. You’ll have to go in University labs, funded mostly through governmental grants to find people working on new ways to safely store hydrogen, or to improve the percentage of sun rays that can be converted to usable energy.

    Vinster171

    September 29, 2009 at 10:42 pm

  27. Government funded R & D. A good example is NASA which a huge government funded project. A great deal of useful technology to both the US and the world has come from this excercise in taxpayer funded research.

    ABP

    September 30, 2009 at 7:36 am

  28. “Government funded R & D. A good example is NASA which a huge government funded project. A great deal of useful technology to both the US and the world has come from this excercise in taxpayer funded research.”

    taxpayer funded research that is then handed to the private sector once it’s profitable.

    deprenyl

    September 30, 2009 at 10:06 am

  29. “taxpayer funded research that is then handed to the private sector once it’s profitable”

    Yes, a good point but then again the private sector is usually more efficient at bringing to market new technologies. How many police or military personnel have been saved by Kevlar jackets. Are you suggesting that government should be involved in the manufacturing and marketing of everything??

    ABP

    September 30, 2009 at 11:01 am

  30. “Your view is theoretically correct, but still not applied in societies where tax structures are not as oppressive, as you put it.”

    His view is theoretically bunk.

    Unless you believe scientific research produces no positive externalities, which is absurd, there’s a rationale for government subsidization.

    Private companies can’t capture all the benefits that come from producing a new technology, so in order to maximize their profits they underinvest in technology relative to the socially optimal level.

    “Yes, a good point but then again the private sector is usually more efficient at bringing to market new technologies. How many police or military personnel have been saved by Kevlar jackets. Are you suggesting that government should be involved in the manufacturing and marketing of everything??”

    There are loads of synthetic materials like that which were invented by either the military during war efforts or by NASA.

    The private sector can and does invent new technologies. The problem is that it underinvests relative to the level that would leave society as a whole best off. That leaves the government to pick up the slack.

    dstr

    September 30, 2009 at 7:20 pm


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