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. Vinster171 wrote:

    “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.”

    If there was currently a viable alternative energy source for cars, the car manufacturers would be the first ones in through the door to make them. But that animal still does not exist.

    In my opinion, the best concept around is the plug-in hybrid (not to be confused with the “hybrid” which is an entirely different kettle of fish). But its success will be dependent upon a workable battery, the likes of which hasn’t been developed yet. The Volt promises the benefits of a plug-in hybrid but even its manufacturer has kept extending and extending its release date mainly because of the battery question.

    So its not that alternative energy sources are available and the car manufacturers have refused to adapt, it’s that these new technologies haven’t been perfected yet. And I believe that the profit motive should be enough to get them to develope them without interference by government. The best government can do if they want to help is not to give grant money but give tax incentives.

    Tony Kondaks

    September 30, 2009 at 7:35 pm

  2. “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.”

    So then, its a collaborative effort between goverernment tax incentives and grants and the private sector to make the technologies available to better the state of the people.

    ABP

    September 30, 2009 at 9:03 pm

  3. Does anyone remember what John McCain said during the election campaign? He suggested that the government should offer a prize of $300 million for anyone who invented and developed a workable car battery. That’s how important it is to have one for the future.

    Now, do I approve of such an incentive scheme? Well, it’s not an out and out giveaway such as a grant and it is available to anyone, so at least that’s something.

    Tony Kondaks

    September 30, 2009 at 9:19 pm

  4. So, nobody liked my “Meh” comment. I thought it was pretty diplomatic.

    Look, the guy hated me and my family for no reason other than the language we spoke, yet I can still watch and appreciate his films, I can still find his style facinating and I can still applaud him for standing up for his beliefs no matter how much heat he took.

    I won’t break out the kleenex box for the man any more than he did when one of his opponent’s kicked it, but I don’t think he’d expect his enemies to do so.

    RoryBellows

    September 30, 2009 at 10:46 pm

  5. @ Tony Kondaks

    “If there was currently a viable alternative energy source for cars, the car manufacturers would be the first ones in through the door to make them. But that animal still does not exist.”

    But then again, car companies have not spent much on research in that area in the last thirty years, right? All the efforts that were done came from University Labs funded through government grants, hence proving my point. Maybe we would have already found that animal IF more money would have been invested in that area by car companies. But like I mentioned earlier, the private sector does not do much proactive research, government funded labs do.

    Vinster171

    October 1, 2009 at 7:51 am

  6. @ Rory Bellows :

    It’s not that nobody liked it. It’s more that nobody cared much, and the conversation was highjacked towards private vs public funded research and culture. Gotta plead guilty, I guess…

    Back on topic : I personally don’t have a problem with your way of looking at this situation. I pretty much feel the same way.

    Vinster171

    October 1, 2009 at 7:55 am

  7. I think that all of the governments in free market countries (including that of the good old U.S. of A.) intervene in areas where market forces alone can’t ensure the desired outcomes for society.

    Personally, I don’t have any problem with my taxes going to fund research of the kind that Vinster and others have alluded to.

    And I am not convinced that tax breaks or incentives for corporations would necessarily yield better (or even equal) results for society than the set-up we have now.

    Acajack

    October 1, 2009 at 8:03 am

  8. “So, nobody liked my “Meh” comment. I thought it was pretty diplomatic.
    Look, the guy hated me and my family for no reason other than the language we spoke, yet I can still watch and appreciate his films, I can still find his style facinating and I can still applaud him for standing up for his beliefs no matter how much heat he took.
    I won’t break out the kleenex box for the man any more than he did when one of his opponent’s kicked it, but I don’t think he’d expect his enemies to do so.”

    I don’t think it’s because we are all Falardeau worshippers that no one responded. It’s because it was very predictable and understandable that you’d react that way.

    I think your assessment of the personnage is not that far off, BTW.

    Acajack

    October 1, 2009 at 8:05 am

  9. intéressant… Un Homme libre… brimé de sa liberté d’exercer son art par contre. Il peut toutefois mourir la tête haute. Il aurait pu changer son discours pour faire plaisir ou même son vocabulaire, mais l’essentiel était le message et en le répétant de façon identique, il en prouvait son authenticité. aucune parole vide mais sa voix va faire écho.

    Eric Ramirez

    October 1, 2009 at 9:04 am

  10. Anglo-saxons culturally view government as bad, thanks to the magna carta.

    They will always rant against government involvement, and think that the private sector is the cure-all for all the ills.

    We see how well this works for the US health-insurance, and it’s auto-industry…

    Government has a perspective that is not blinded by profits, so it will see what the private sector will be blind to.

    * * *

    Back to the subject. Falardeau’s existence has been a long cry for justice.

    His deriders are shooting the medium, and they never said anything about the message.

    Johan Neymaard

    October 1, 2009 at 10:06 am

  11. Take all the above comments, substitute anglo for franco and Richler for Falardeau, and everything reads exactly the same. Two artists who crafted their art , one novels, the other films, both of whom meddled in politics and managed to do more harm to their own teams than to the opposing teams.

    Dave

    October 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm

  12. I can’t help but think that Falardeau would have been a little bit dismayed by the folk hero status enjoyed by his most famous character, Elvis Gratton. I mean, he was supposed to be a grotesque caricature and a shining example of what not to be, yet millions of people admired him and even identified with him in a weird sort of way. Including many young people.

    Sort of like how the Archie Bunker character partly backfired in the U.S., as some people actually saw a bit of themselves in Archie and were vindicated by the fact that a popular TV show featured someone who resembled them.

    Acajack

    October 1, 2009 at 1:26 pm

  13. @ Eric Ramirez :

    “brimé de sa liberté d’exercer son art par contre”

    This is probably the reason why Téléfilm Canada provided most of the money that allowed him to produce his movies, most of which were biased towards the separatist option. Don’t get me wrong : I’m okay with the fact that he got those funds. But to say that he was “brimé de sa liberté d’exercer son art”… give me a f*cking break!

    Vinster171

    October 1, 2009 at 2:13 pm

  14. “So, nobody liked my “Meh” comment. I thought it was pretty diplomatic.

    Look, the guy hated me and my family for no reason other than the language we spoke. ”

    I doubt Falardeau would have had any opinion about your last name unless it is Molson, Bromfman or Desmarais. And I would like to see some evidence that he hated English-speaking people.

    Like Dave very astutely pointed it out, Falardeau could have been Mordecai Richler’s evil twin. Sure, his way of portraying Anglos offended some, but did you ever see the way her portrayed Francos? Same for Richler who was much harder on Jews than he ever was on Francos.

    Falardeau had a problem with a certain Anglo elite and the enduring legacy of British colonialism in Canada. Richler blamed our problems on Franco tribalism inherited from the Catholic Church and a century of “survivance”.

    Both points of view are not incompatible, you know.

    But hey, even though we disagreed with their politics, you still enjoyed Falrdeau’s films and I absolutely am a fan of Richler, so all’s good.

    Now wouldn’t you want to be be a fly on the wall when those two get together for a beer at Hell’s Tavern?

    angryfrenchguy

    October 1, 2009 at 2:33 pm

  15. Richler created a literary character, Jake Hersh, who was clearly his “on paper” alter ego. I wonder if the profane, vulgar Bob Gratton wasn’t Falardeau’s alter ego, too, disguised as a “fédéraleux.”

    littlerob

    October 1, 2009 at 5:54 pm

  16. Falardeau was far too educated and had too broad a culture for Bob Gratton to be his celluloïd alter-ego.

    Johan Neymaard

    October 1, 2009 at 7:56 pm

  17. Eric/Johan,

    100% d’accord avec vos commentaires.

    Actually anyone familiar with Falardeau’s recounting of his relations with the ONF and Téléfilm over the years knows that he met many roadblocks in the realization of his scenaria. In the case of 15 fév 1839 the battle literally took years and involved a public campaign launched by Falardeau himself without which the TF would never have given ground. But there were roadblocks with virtually all his other scenaria as well. Falardeau himself clearly asserted that his oeuvre would have included more films were it not for these politically-motivated roadblocks. See his interviews here:

    http://archives.radio-canada.ca/arts_culture/cinema/clips/17102/

    http://archives.radio-canada.ca/arts_culture/cinema/clips/17103/

    Yes, that’s right. Radio-Cadenas devoted a grand f*g total of *2* interviews from their archives to Québec’s most popular filmmaker and a key founder of its fictional long métrage en guise d’hommage upon his death. Including the one with Pierre Maisonneuve filled with typical Radio-Cadenas style “backhanded” compliments and loaded questions. If one of their game show hosts was snuffed tomorrow in a car accident it would occasion more hommage than that.

    These passages here from this young man give a good résumé of my appreciation of Falardeau:

    Falardeau, c’était de l’érudition enveloppée dans du papier d’émeri, de la tendresse qui s’indigne devant la médiocrité de ceux qu’on aime. Ses pourfendeurs ont raison de dire qu’il était désagréable ; personne n’aime se faire rappeler ses faiblesses, ses erreurs, ni même les iniquités dont il est victime, surtout s’il les accepte sans broncher. En ce sens, Falardeau était insupportable, parce qu’il savait dénoncer notre mollesse. Mais au-delà de nos faiblesses, rien ne le faisait sortir de ses gonds plus que la trahison. Falardeau ne méprisait pas les anglophones, les fédéralistes sincères ou ignorants, les nationalistes canadiens ; il stigmatisait plutôt les traîtres, ceux qui acceptent de servir le colonialisme canadien par intérêt personnel, parce qu’ils en retirent de l’argent, de la notoriété, du renom, parce qu’ils échangent leur support au fédéralisme contre des contrats, du trafic d’influence, un poste au sénat ou au conseil d’administration de Radio-Canada, de Gesca, de Power Corporation. Ceux-là s’attiraient ses foudres et son mépris.

    Jamais Falardeau ne piloriait les pauvres, les ignorants, les simples impuissants qui courbent l’échine sous la pression de la classe dirigeante. Au contraire, c’est pour eux qu’il voulait que le peuple se redresse et se batte.

    http://www.vigile.net/Et-pour-la-suite

    En tout cas, on pleure la perte d’un grand artiste et militant. Un vrai.

    James

    October 2, 2009 at 10:09 pm

  18. Vinster171 wrote:

    “But then again, car companies have not spent much on research in that area in the last thirty years, right? All the efforts that were done came from University Labs funded through government grants, hence proving my point. ”

    Not correct.

    GM spent $1 billion on the EV1, a 100% electric car in the early ’90s. This was largely due to a California law — later repealed — that required that a certain percentage of cars sold in that state be alternative energy cars. Indeed, the EV1 was the subject of the movie “Who killed the electric car?”

    Tony Kondaks

    October 3, 2009 at 12:19 am

  19. Merci Pierre Falardeau

    midnightjack

    October 3, 2009 at 9:57 pm

  20. STOP THE PRESSES … THIS JUST IN …

    As of October 5, 2009, Alexa.com, the web-traffic ranking site compiled the following statistics:

    http://www.angryfrenchguy.com ranked 7,459,654 in internet visits; and

    http://www.galganov.com ranked 1,519,001 in internet visits.

    The winner?

    Howard Galganov!

    Tony Kondaks

    October 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm

  21. Why are all his editorials about the States? Did he flee Ontario too after he couldn’t get anyone there to take him seriously?

    RoryBellows

    October 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm

  22. Check this out.

    http://www.thecanadianpress.com/english/online/OnlineFullStory.aspx?filename=n1005115A&newsitemid=53245224&languageid=1

    Unbelievable rudeness and disregarde for common decency.

    Of course, what else would one expect from some in Quebec.

    ABP

    October 5, 2009 at 10:34 pm

  23. Oh come on ABP!!
    Don’t cry for Charlie and the monarchy now. I have no respect for Patrick Bourgeois, but enough of London and its sad puppets. “We are the people!”

    Kriss

    October 6, 2009 at 12:05 am

  24. I don’t understand why some of these radical nationalists have such a deep aversion for the monarchy. I think even Pierre Falardeau (to link this hijack back to the thread’s main subject) had something to say about it. I guess that for some it’s a symbol of oppression, but even at the time of the Conquest, the British monarch was already relatively weak, left much of the governing to the Cabinet and had to deal with a sometimes uncooperative Parliament. And today, what is the British Crown a symbol of? Nothing, I’d say.

    On the other hand, maybe it’s not so different from Americans who learn about King George III as some kind of tyrant who wanted to bleed them dry, when their taxes were actually not all that high just before the Revolution, and as said the King wasn’t really the one responsible for his government’s policies.

    This said, I can’t believe that ABP actually cares about Prince Charles. Nobody in Canada except a handful of monarchists still value the Royal Family today, and even among them fans of Charles are few and far between. So protesting Prince Charles’ visit is shooting something that shouldn’t even be a target, but really, who cares?

    Obelix

    October 6, 2009 at 12:58 am

  25. Obélix and I usually agree on most points but on this one I beg to differ with him.

    I think there is a lot of latent support for the monarchy among English-speaking Canadians.

    Not saying this is Obélix’s case but a lot of people are either ignorant of this fact (because of little exposure to the ROC) or downplay it for political purposes (in order to show that Quebecers and other Canadians have indifference to the monarchy in common), but you just hint at abolishing it and see what happens.

    Remember what happened in Australia in 1999, where a referendum on becoming a republic was widely expected to pass (and almost all of the polls supported this) yet was defeated. And God knows the Aussies have more of love-hate relationship with Britain (similar to Quebec’s with France in fact) than English-speaking Canadians do.

    People would be surprised at how many younger English-speaking Canadians of all origins will defend the monarchy. Granted, in many cases it may be because they are starved for something that distinguishes them from the U.S., but the sentiment is still there in a lot of them, trust me.

    I’d say a national referendum on abolishing the monarchy in favour of a republic would lose by a 55-45 margin in the ROC, and would pass with 75 to 80% support in Quebec.

    Which is a recipe for socio-political chaos. Which is why no Canadian government in its right mind would ever attempt this.

    Acajack

    October 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

  26. re the monarchy, does anyone really think that Prince Charles will be king of Canada someday ? The Queen is a well re4spected figure and when she dies so will the monarchy in Canada.

    Dave

    October 6, 2009 at 12:29 pm

  27. Only time will tell Dave. Only time will tell.

    Everything changes as you know if one of his popular sons becomes king instead of him. Which of course only goes to show how farcical and People-magazinish the whole thing really is.

    Acajack

    October 6, 2009 at 12:50 pm

  28. > I think there is a lot of latent support for the monarchy among
    > English-speaking Canadians.

    If there is, it’s probably because Queen Elizabeth is, by most accounts, a very intelligent and charming lady. She’s single-handedly keeping support for the monarchy alive despite all the scandals that have smeared her family. This in contrast to her husband, who is apparently aloof and arrogant and has some odd views on a few subjects, and especially her son, the future King, who has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth and is disliked, sometimes irrationally, by some for this whole thing with Diana and Camilla. My mother would say that the reason why Elizabeth doesn’t die is that she doesn’t want him to become King.

    There are people, even in Britain, who wonder if the monarchy will survive Elizabeth’s death. Canada probably won’t get rid of the Crown if Britain doesn’t, but if Britain does there’s not much choice.

    > Remember what happened in Australia in 1999, where a referendum on
    > becoming a republic was widely expected to pass (and almost all of the
    > polls supported this) yet was defeated.

    The main reason why it was defeated was that the republican side wasn’t able to give a convincing explanation of why exactly Australia should switch to a republican government. They were divided among radical republicans, who wanted a wide overhaul of the constitution and presumably a switch to a presidential or semi-presidential system, and minimal change republicans who just wanted to replace the Queen and Governor-General with a President with symbolic powers. The minimal change option was the one put on the ballot, since it was considered less “scary”, but at the end there was no obvious reason to vote for “minimal change” and even some radical republicans ended up voting No. In the end, the Yes side still got 45% of the vote for what was basically a cosmetic change.

    > People would be surprised at how many younger English-speaking Canadians
    > of all origins will defend the monarchy. Granted, in many cases it may be
    > because they are starved for something that distinguishes them from the
    > U.S., but the sentiment is still there in a lot of them, trust me.

    Is it so much the monarchy that these people want to defend, or rather the Westminster system of government? Yes, many English Canadians strongly believe in the superiority of Westminster-style parliamentary systems, especially when compared to American-style presidential systems that are perceived as producing “Bushes” who can do what they want and aren’t even expected to come defend their policies in any sort of question period. (The current debate over “Obamacare” should dispel any belief that the American President can do whatever he wants.) In contrast, may Quebec nationalists (but not Parizeau) favour a presidential system of government, perhaps as a means of distinguishing themselves from more federalist people.

    Now, perhaps English Canadians who would defend the Westminster system would not know enough about politics to call it by its name and instead defend the “monarchy”, but those are still two completely different concepts.

    Also, I believe that English Canadians, even if they may not see the monarchy as relevant to their lives, still have a sweet spot for the Governor General. The institution is seen as quintessentially Canadian, and the appointee, as long as she or he fulfills their role as cheerleader for Canadian identity, will be liked by English Canadians. Not necessarily by francophone Quebecers, who as said are more likely to support a presidential system and may not find a “cheerleader for Canadian identity” appealing. They tend to call the Governor General a waste of money, which basically means “it doesn’t do anything for me” (see ABP and official bilingualism).

    The current Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, is playing her cards right. After the controversy surrounding her nomination, when it was revealed that she might have been friends with some “separatists”, she jumped straight into her role of cheerleader. She even called on Quebecers to “open themselves” to Canadian culture (but not vice-versa) because she knew it’d be well-received in English Canada, while what Quebecers think about it is irrelevant: they’re not her audience. Personally, I’d like her to actually try to make a real change, raise awareness to some actual issues, but I know that’s not her role. If she is to be popular, she must cheerlead for English Canada and refrain from criticizing them too much.

    > Which is a recipe for socio-political chaos. Which is why no Canadian
    > government in its right mind would ever attempt this.

    No Canadian government is going to attempt to change the constitution in any way in the foreseeable future.

    Obelix

    October 6, 2009 at 12:54 pm

  29. didn’t the 1982 constitution include a provincial veto on disposing of the monarchy, ie PEI with 200 000 people could theoretically block Canada from abolishing the monarchy ?

    Dave

    October 6, 2009 at 1:10 pm

  30. Pretty good assessment as usual Obélix. Still, for a lot of people it’s not just about the constitutional monarchy. I have heard and still do hear a lot of comments about the inherent “goodness” of the current monarch and of her predecessors as well, almost to the point that many people seem comforted that the House of Windsor is “reigning” over them.

    Like everyone I don’t hear many positives about Charles, but one must consider that in the modern media era he has been subjected to an almost inhuman amount of scrutiny, particularly with respect to his private life. Many previous monarchs and royal family members got away with antics much, much worse than anything Charles ever did, simply because of the eras in which they lived.

    But the fact that I constantly hear people wishing that the line of succession “skip” over Charles to his sons’ generation probably suggests that it is more the public antipathy towards the designated successor Charles that is the exception, rather than the fact that an exceptionally good queen like Elizabeth has allowed an anachronistic institution to live longer than it would have without her.

    The monarchy is alive and well in the ROC and will likely remain so for some time.

    Acajack

    October 6, 2009 at 1:25 pm


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