Self Portrait Essays On The Canadian And Quebec Cinemas

This entry presents an overview of Québec cinema, from its beginnings in the silent film era to the burgeoning of a distinctly Québec cinema in the 1960s and 1970s, from the explosion that followed Denys Arcand’s Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986) to the setback that followed 10 years later and the new wave of filmmaking emerging at the beginning of the 21st century.

This entry presents an overview of Québec cinema, from its beginnings in the silent film era to the burgeoning of a distinctly Québec cinema in the 1960s and 1970s, from the explosion that followed Denys Arcand’s Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986) to the setback that followed 10 years later and the new wave of filmmaking emerging at the beginning of the 21st century. It highlights the most important films, whether in terms of box office success or international acclaim, and covers both narrative features and documentaries. It also draws attention to an aspect of filmmaking that still has difficulty finding its place: women's cinema.

Early Years

The first public film projection in Canada took place on 28 June 1896 in Montréal. The Lumière operators presented their Cinématographe and created great excitement in Québec and Ontario. Some Québecers decided to show films in different parks and venues. Among them, Léo-Ernest Ouimet occupies an important place. In 1906 he opened Montréal’s first permanent movie theatre, the Ouimetoscope, and soon began shooting local films such as L’Incendie de Trois-Rivières (1908) and Le Congrès eucharistique de Montréal (1910). A director, producer, distributor and exhibitor, Ouimet founded Specialty Film Import and in the late 1920s launched a newsreel series, the British Canadian Pathé News.

Ouimet, like other filmmakers, wanted to set himself apart from foreign productions by focusing on local subjects and national history. This is why in 1912 Frank Beresford, the founder of British American Film Manufacturing, would film The Battle of the Long Sault and would participate in Kenean Buel’s filming of Wolfe; Or, the Conquest of Québec (1914). For his part, Joseph-Arthur Homier directed two works of fiction, Madeleine de Verchères (1922) and La drogue fatale (1924). His production company would be defunct by the mid-1920s due to a lack of production means and access to the facilities controlled by the Americans or the Canadian companies affiliated with them.

Another company would adopt a completely different strategy. With the intent of producing films of national interest that supported its commercial activities, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), which had already commissioned the series Living Canada (1902), founded Associated Screen News (ASN) in 1921. With Bernard E. Norrish at the helm, ASN would make itself known through its Canadian Cameo series (1932–53), directed for the most part by this country's first great director, Gordon Sparling, who began working for ASN in 1931. Among his most popular films were Rhapsody in Two Languages (1934), House in Order (1936) and Ballet of the Mermaids (1938). ASN also had studios and laboratories, making production easier and allowing it to offer services to other producers and distributors.

Early Ethnographic Filmmaking

Starting in the 1930s, another type of production saw the light of day. These non-professional filmmakers, often priests, made 16mm films that served educational or promotional purposes. One of the first of these filmmakers was Albert Tessier, whose work is considered a precursor of direct cinema. His goal was to promote the beauty of nature, traditional rural life and nationalism. His name was given to the lifetime achievement award in cinema bestowed by the Québec government since 1980. Maurice Proulx is more famous because he filmed, in the 1930s, the settlement of the Abitibi area (En pays neufs, 1937) and in the Gaspé Peninsula (En pays pittoresque, 1939). Being an agronomy professor, many of his films dealt with agriculture and more generally, rural life. He shot many films for the Service de ciné-photographie of Québec, since he was close to Liberal Premier Joseph-Adélard Godbout and Union nationale Premier Maurice Duplessis.

The third important figure from this period is Herménégilde Lavoie, who began making films such as Les beautés de mon pays (1943) for the provincial Tourism Office. After being fired in 1947, he produced industrial and historic films, and shot many feature length documentaries in the late 1940s and early 1950s depicting the activities of convent communities. The last name worth mentioning is Louis-Roger Lafleur, an Oblate who shot many important ethnographic documentaries on the Algonquin of Northern Québec. He paved the way for all filmmakers who turned their camera towards Aboriginal peoples in Canada from the 1960s until today.

Formation of the NFB

By the time the federal government founded the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in 1939, Québec films consisted of the work of these few enthusiastic amateurs. Their films, in addition to their undeniable cinematic qualities, contribute valuable ethnographic documentation. The early filmmakers found a natural outlet in the Service de ciné-photographie, founded in 1942 by the Québec government. Its mandate was to meet certain propaganda and educational needs, but it was ill-equipped to do so with a minimum of staff while working only in 16mm. The NFB did not have these constraints, but in the early years it was primarily an anglophone organization.

Dubbed versions of English-language films were made for Québec, and little thought was given to French-language production. Under the circumstances, Vincent Paquette, Jean Palardy and a few others did heroic work. After the war they were joined by Roger Blais, Raymond Garçeau and Bernard Devlin. A francophone team took shape and encouraged the emergence of Québec filmmaking within the NFB, but in its infancy it was not always differentiated from anglophone production, and sometimes it even produced in English. It achieved its best results when reacting to some specific event; Les Reportages was a noteworthy series that began offering biweekly newsreels in French in September 1941.

Carnival in Quebec by Jean Palardy , National Film Board of Canada

Feature Film Boom Post-Second World War

After the Second World War there was a period of active feature film production in Québec. The war caused a scarcity of French-language films and sent some French filmmakers into exile in Québec. As a result, feature filmmaking blossomed in 1944 with Le Père Chopin. This film helped create a new, vertically-integrated industry, with international contacts and religious support (both financial and ideological). Other Québecois were eager to produce films, hoping to recoup their expenses on the local market and find distribution abroad. In 1947, Québec-Productions (QP) released Fédor Ozep’s Whispering City/La Forteresse in English and French versions. This psychological thriller did not achieve the commercial success the producers had hoped for. The US film industry at the time was in poor shape, and QP had to modify its aspirations and be content with local markets. The company therefore drew on the highly popular subject matter of radio dramas for its next three films (1949–50). Another company, Renaissance, wanted to make Catholic films and finally released Le Gros Bill, directed by René Delacroix and Jean-Yves Bigras in 1949.

Both companies tried to break out of the strictly domestic market by arranging co-productions with French companies, but these efforts failed, and they reverted to Québec themes. Their relative success did inspire several other smaller outfits to produce a total of seven feature films, two of them in English and most of them adapted from theatrical dramas. Paradoxically, two of these became the most famous of the era: La Petite Aurore l'enfant martyre (1951) by Jean-Yves Bigras, the story of a child tortured to death by a stepmother destined to be hanged; and Tit-Coq (1953) by Gratien Gélinas, the drama of an illegitimate orphan, Tit-Coq, whose fiancée is persuaded to marry another man while Tit-Coq is overseas during the war.

In 1954, after 19 films, the feature film industry in Québec collapsed. Television dealt a fatal blow to an industry made vulnerable by its mediocrity. Today, these films have great value as social documents. In the 1940s and 1950s, Québec transformed from a traditional, agricultural society to an urban one. Its films seem to defend the traditional social order, especially the role of the clergy, but a closer look reveals the contrary. The characters and themes of these films, despite the negative impressions of Québec society that they evoke, depict a society in transition, a society in which the traditional Catholic values were being questioned, and thus contradict the surface message of the plot.

NFB French Unit and the Quiet Revolution

Throughout the next decade, feature films and private production were virtually nonexistent, although a few semi-professionals produced work for the Québec government. Thus, the only place where Québec film survived was within the NFB. A number of brilliant filmmakers joined the NFB during the 1950s: Louis Portugais, Michel Brault, Gilles Groulx, Claude Jutra and others. They and the NFB "old-timers" finally had opportunities worthy of their talents.

This explosion was the result of three developments. First, the NFB moved from Ottawa to Montréal in 1956, which meant that Québec filmmakers could live and work in Québec. Second, in 1957, public attention focused on francophone filmmakers who were not being given the same opportunities as their anglophone colleagues. The result was that French and English productions were separated administratively and financially, leading ultimately to the creation of a distinct francophone studio. Third, TV demanded large amounts of material, which meant that both popular entertainment and artistic innovation received as much support as films for government departments and educational institutions (e.g., 39 films in the Passe-Partout series, 1955–57; 26 dramatic episodes of Panoramique, 1957–59, a landmark for Québec fictional cinema; and the Temps present series of the late 1950s and early 1960s).

Filmmakers were also pushing the technological limitations, trying to improve their equipment and its capacity to capture natural sound and images while on location. In 1958, Brault and Groulx produced Les Raquetteurs, which was important socially as a statement of Québec's awakening and technologically as a key step in the development of direct cinema. A documentary genre that merged technological achievements (e.g., lightweight cameras and sync sound) with ideological and social aspects, direct cinema was spearheaded by Québec filmmakers such as Brault, and concurrently by the NFB’s Candid Eye series.

This period was one of profound social change. Duplessis died in 1959; the Liberals came to power in 1960 and the Quiet Revolution began. French Canadians became Québecois, and film helped to express that change. Les Raquetteurs went beyond picturesque scenes to stress membership in a national community. The early 1960s accelerated the development of Québec cinema, both within and outside the NFB. People such as Brault, Pierre Perrault, Jutra, Pierre Patry and Fernand Dansereau were eager to try new directions.

In 1963, a new era began inside and outside the NFB with two categories (documentary and fiction) and two films: Pour la suite du monde (1963), by Perrault and Brault; and À tout prendre (1963), by Jutra. The former, through its technique and the importance it gave to the spoken word, marked another major step in the development of direct cinema. The latter was an example of films being produced by nationalistic filmmakers throughout the world and was a personal statement by Jutra. Groulx's Le Chat dans le sac (1964) was one of the best films to that time about petit-bourgeois youth. The prolific Jean Pierre Lefebvre directed Le Révolutionnaire (1965), a fable/commentary on society. Gilles Carle, who had been with the NFB since 1961, was working on his first feature, a comedy, La Vie heureuse de Léopold Z (1965).

Coopératio, a private company, tried to get the industry moving again. Its director, Pierre Patry, made Trouble-fête in 1964 and then, in the space of just over a year, three more films. Others also tried feature films, working privately or for the NFB, or the Québec government (e.g., Arthur Lamothe, Denys Arcand, Richard Lavoie, Anne Claire Poirier, Jacques Godbout, Bernard Gosselin, Georges Dufaux, Clément Perron, Jean-Claude Labrecque and others). Ferment and change were occurring in all aspects of the arts, and film forms evolved to meet the needs of the filmmakers. Direct cinema in all its variations, auteur films (documentary or docudrama) and every genre of commercial film were attempted.

Perrault dominated direct filmmaking of this period with his saga of the people of Île-aux-Coudres. With his cameramen, Brault and Gosselin, he wanted not only to observe and record the awakening of the Québec nation but to also play a part in that awakening. Yet direct cinema was not limited to nationalistic subjects. Some producers wanted to use the techniques for social action films. A number of these efforts took place within the framework of the NFB program Société nouvelle (the francophone equivalent of Challenge for Change), which involved the filming of those in marginalized communities, often with the participation of the subjects themselves. The program made its debut in 1968 with St-Jérôme by Fernand Dansereau and lasted more than a decade. Others at the NFB concentrated on the rights of workers; Denys Arcand’s extraordinary On est au coton (1970) was the victim of political censorship for six years. Others (including Dansereau and, most notably, Lamothe) left the NFB in order to work more freely. Lamothe's Le Mépris n'aura qu'un temps (1970), an account of workers’ exploitation, provided an unprecedented economic, social and political analysis.

Between Perrault's approach and that of the activist films arose many other forms of direct cinema, united only by their technique and their methods. This kind of film moved steadily to the forefront. Another significant figure in the late 1960s and early 1970s was director-cameraman Labrecque, who had a talent for grasping the mood and significance of an event, and to convey the feeling of having been there. This can be seen particularly in La Visite du général de Gaulle au Québec (1967) and La Nuit de la poésie (1970).

During the 1960s, the film community in Québec began to structure itself. The producers created their professional association (Association des producteurs de films du Québec) in 1966, and the technicians their own union (Syndicat national du cinéma) in 1969. The Association professionnelle des cinéastes was formed and a few years later published the radical manifesto Le cinéma: autre visage du Québec colonisé (1971), but then folded in 1972. The following year, the directors founded the Association des réalisateurs de films du Québec. The Québec government modernized its legislation and structures by transforming its censorship bureau into the Bureau de surveillance du cinéma, and its film board into the Office du film du Québec. After the creation of the Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC) in 1967 (seeTelefilm Canada), the Québec filmmakers lobbied the provincial government to have a law on cinema and a similar film funding corporation. Thus, the Institute québécois du cinéma (IQC) was founded in 1975 and the Loi sur le cinéma was voted by the Liberal government but implemented by the Parti québécois that came into power in 1976.

Documentary and Fiction of the 1970s

The documentary movement began to falter at the beginning of the 1970s, partly because some of its practitioners (Labrecque, Gosselin, and especially Brault and Groulx) were attracted by the possibilities of fiction film. In 1967 Brault made his first solo feature film, Entre la mer et l'eau douce, which showed the marks of his long apprenticeship as a cameraman/producer. With Les Ordres (1974), Brault once again put documentary skills at the service of fiction and, with his reconstruction of Québec under the War Measures Act in 1970, made the perfect synthesis of the flexibility, improvisation and attention to detail of direct cinema with the dramatic progression and structured narrative of fiction. Groulx, on the other hand, went exactly the opposite way in both style and content, offering a clear personal statement for discussion and criticism. Three features illustrate his methodology: Où êtes-vous donc? (1969), Entre tu et vous (1969) and 24 heures ou plus (1972). His films illustrated his mastery at integrating documentary and fiction at the editing stage.

Fiction moved away from direct cinema and won new adherents for a second reason. In 1967 the CFDC was born, and with it avenues of financing. The next year Denis Héroux. releasedValérie, Québec's first erotic film and commercial success. These two factors opened the way for commercial filmmaking and explain the production boom of the 1970s. Québec had its various waves, such as “Maple Syrup porno” (including Claude Fournier's box-office hit Deux femmes en or, 1970), subtle comedies and thrillers. This boom in commercial films soon ran into trouble, made even worse by foreign control of the key sectors of distribution. Some commercial films overcame the problems of quality versus commercial viability. Gilles Carle knew how to lace his films with humour and sex, ideology and social colour, showmanship and stars, making them much more interesting than most of the others in his field. With his fifth feature, La Vraie Nature de Bernadette (1972), Carle won lasting international acclaim.

Others also knew how to combine quality with commercial success. The best known is probably Denys Arcand, whose Réjeanne Padovani (1973) and Gina (1974) blended social observation and colour with perfect artistic harmony; or Claude Jutra, who won acclaim for his NFB film Mon oncle Antoine (1971), one of the finest Québec films ever made. Unfortunately, he did not have the same commercial success with Kamouraska (1973), a period film based on the celebrated novel by Anne Hébert, and an expensive co-production. A number of other NFB producers (Marcel Carrière, Perron, Godbout and others) made films that could scarcely be distinguished from private ones. The trailblazer of this kind was Jean Beaudin's tender and simple period film, J.A. Martin, photographe (1976).

Jean Pierre Lefebvre dominated the genre of the personal statement film for 15 years, with 18 very important features to his credit. His work evolved from two fundamental approaches to filmmaking: the first, social, concrete, reflective and critical; the second, abstract, symbolic and intimate. Jacques Leduc, who concentrated on nondramatic moments of daily life and the state of the soul, belonged to that same generation of filmmakers. Leduc's work, marginal yet high-profile, belonged both to the school of direct cinema (On est loin du soleil, 1970) and to fiction (Chronique de la vie quotidienne, 1973–78).

A group of women filmmakers within the NFB produced En tant que femmes (1973–74), a series of films, some documentary and some fictional, about issues that concerned women. Women had very recently found their voice in Québec cinema with the appearance of Anne Claire Poirer’s De mère en fille (1968), the first feature made by a woman in Québec, followed by the first feature privately made by a woman, Mireille Dansereau’s La Vie rêvée (1972).

The NFB series encouraged film production by women. Dansereau now has several films to her credit, as does Poirier (including the famous Mourir à tue-tête, 1979, about the psychological, social and political implications of rape). Filmmakers such as Louise Carré, Paule Baillargeon, Micheline Lanctôt and Léa Pool explored new and unexpected paths in fiction. Direct films began to explore uncharted territory (e.g., sexism, domestic work, the couple, violence, racism) with the work of Luce Guilbeault, Hélène Girard, Diane Létourneau, Tahani Rached and others. The work was much more important than its numerical output would indicate, and was a sign of awakening, renewal and dynamism.

Another kind of dynamism in the 1970s originated with young filmmakers who concentrated more on individual, even marginal, problems than on social ones. Some excelled at films for children (André Melançon); others went happily from fiction to documentary (Jean Chabot and Roger Frappier). Some were more traditional, more narrative, one of the best being Francis Mankiewicz (Les Bons Débarras, 1980). Three names dominated what was then the fringe of this generation: André Forcier (four features, including Bar salon, 1973), Jean-Guy Noël (three features, including Ti-cul Tougas, 1976) and Pierre Harel.

The films of these filmmakers were produced or co-produced by the Association coopérative de productions audio-visuelles, which received funding from the IQC for shorts and first features. This production by young people assures Québec cinema a vitality and creativity that otherwise would be lacking, especially in fiction, which had been dominated for years by large established companies. An exception to this is the astonishing Les Plouffe (1981) by Gilles Carle, in which historical authenticity is matched by emotional accuracy.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, direct cinema films once again became the best part of Québec cinema. This is primarily due to the work of the veterans: Perrault, with his two major film cycles on Abitibi and the Montagnais-Naskapi (including Pays de la terre sans arbre ou le Mouchouânipi, 1980); Gosselin, Brault, André Gladu and a few others with films that mixed ethnology, pop culture and nationalism; Michel Moreau's pedagogic and ideological films; Lamothe's two social and political series about Indigenous life and culture (Carcajou et le péril blanc, 1973–76; Innu asi, 1979–80; Mémoire battante, 1983); and Georges Dufaux, a director-cameraman of sensitivity and humanity whose variety of subjects have included old age, health, education and China.

1980s Slump and Renaissance

As the 1980s began, Québec film was again in crisis. The number of private productions was declining dangerously; even the NFB faced cutbacks. Filmmakers with high hopes for the Québec Film Act of 1975 were disillusioned by the government’s turn towards building an industry and away from nurturing a national culture. In 1983, the Québec Cinema Act was amended and the IQC was replaced by the Société générale du cinéma (SGC, now SODEC), which kept only its consultative and research mandates. The CFDC and the SGC were mainly interested in a profitable, commercial film industry based on international markets, and leaned heavily in this direction with the films of the tax shelter era (seeThe History of the Canadian Film Industry). However, this is not always compatible with filmmakers' definitions of a national film industry. Direct and documentary filmmaking decreased, even at the NFB.

The film genre that most clearly reflected the conflict between the commercial interests of the industry, and the artistic and political concerns of filmmakers, was the documentary. Some documentarians explored the latest trends, such as combining non-fiction and fiction (Paul Tana, Tahani Rached, Richard Boutet), sliding towards autobiography (Jacques Leduc, Jean Pierre Lefebvre, Marilù Mallet, Jean Chabot, Sylvie Groulx), or taking an experimental approach (Fernand Bélanger). Others, such as Jean-Claude Labrecque, André Gladu, Serge Giguère, Marcel Simard, Jean-Daniel Lafond and Richard Lavoie, to name only a few, took a standard approach to cultural and social topics.

Fewer productions, money problems, higher costs, unemployment for competent producers, technicians and artists, and huge productions with international content were elements of Québec filmmaking in the early 1980s. Just when fiction films were hitting a low, which some associated with the backlash and depression within the cultural milieu after the referendum of 1980 on the sovereignty of Québec and its association with Canada, a few films came out that reversed the trend. The huge success, at home and abroad, of Arcand's Le déclin de l’empire américain (1986) and Jésus de Montréal (1989) are the most striking examples. The emergence of new directors also breathed life into production. To be singled out are Yves Simoneau (Pouvoir intime, 1981; Dans le ventre du dragon, 1989), Léa Pool (Anne Trister, 1986), Jean-Claude Lauzon (Un zoo la nuit, 1987; Léolo, 1992), Jean Beaudry and François Bouvier (Jacques et Novembre, 1984; Les Matins infidèles, 1989), and Pierre Falardeau (Elvis Gratton, 1985; Octobre, 1994).

Inspired by Arcand, older filmmakers caught a second wind. Jacques Leduc reached a new maturity with Trois pommes à côté du sommeil (1988) and La vie fantôme (1992),and André Forcier mixed realism, poetry and magic better than ever (Kalamazoo, 1988; Une histoire inventée, 1990; Le vent du Wyoming, 1994). It should be noted that unlike other retired filmmakers who turned to television or were having great difficulty financing their projects, Forcier persevered, completing, often with budget problems, works that were original and marvelous, imbued with the absurd, fantastical and the imaginary. Je me souviens (2009) and Coteau Rouge (2011) returned to the social fantastical and imaginary realism that were part of his work 30 years ago, confirming that Forcier must be acknowledged as one of the most original and surprising directors in Québec cinema.

This period also saw the emergence of a new genre in Québec cinema, films for children, thanks to the series Contes pour tous, produced by Rock Demers, which involved such notable directors as André Melançon (with his classic La guerre des tuques, 1984), Michael Rubbo and Jean Beaudry. Certain films in this series were co-productions, a method of financing that became increasingly common at the NFB, in private industry, at the IQC, the CFDC and on television. Films for children opened the door for another important director, Roger Cantin, who specialized in fantasy movies (Matusalem, 1993; La forteresse suspendue, 2001).

Since the crisis in Québec film has not been primarily one of creativity or quality but of production, such co-productions may provide the means for continuing growth in the industry. Commercial practices in the 1980s and 1990s went off in all directions. Francophones directed films in English hoping to penetrate the international market, and television became a regular, if not committed, production partner. This explains the production of several telefilms and long feature films that were turned into series, namely Carle’s Les Plouffe (1981), Claude Fournier’s Bonheur d'occasion (1982) and Jean Beaudin’s Le Matou (1985). It became increasingly common to find film directors making popular television series.

1990s Transformations

The high level of film creation that earned a reputation for Québec cinema for more than 20 years faced challenges but remained a living force in the 1980s and 1990s despite the loss of names from the preceding generation. Animated films maintained their high quality thanks to the work of Frédéric Back, Co Hoedeman, Jacques Drouin, Suzanne Gervais and Pierre Hébert, who made his first feature film, La Plante humaine, in 1997.

The 1990s saw the NFB radically transformed by several developments: the retirement of many of the filmmakers who brought it renown; the role played by Telefilm in granting huge amounts to television production; SODEC's increasing reliance on industry and its preoccupation with distribution abroad; and the means adopted by independent filmmakers who tried to survive in a world where video often seemed the only practical approach. Film practices were changing. Film itself was disappearing and being replaced by digital formats; and the means of consumption were multiplying. Everyone was now talking of new media, as imprecise as that name seems.

This transformation impacted documentaries most of all, now being relegated more and more to television. However, it did not stop the emergence of a new generation of documentary filmmakers who took up the baton from the major names in direct cinema. Many engaged in social or political filmmaking, speaking out against the exploitation of peoples and the planet. Among them were Garry Beitel, who focused on the particularities of Montréal (Bonjour! Shalom!, 1991; The ‘Socalled’ Movie, 2010),anti-globalization advocate Magnus Isacsson (Vue du sommet, 2002; Ma vie réelle, 2012), Hugo Latulippe (Bacon, le film, 2001; République: un abécédaire populaire, 2011) and Sylvain L’Espérance, who was interested in promoting auteur documentaries and artistic research (Le temps qu’il fait, 1997; Un fleuve humain, 2006).

During the 1990s, a new generation arose among male directors who pursue personal and bold formal innovations, encouraged by video and other arts. Consider André Turpin (Zigrail, 1995; Cosmos, 1996; Un crabe dans la tête, 2001), François Girard (Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, 1993; The Red Violin, 1998; Silk, 2007), Robert Morin (Requiem pour un beau sans coeur, 1993; Windigo, 1994) and Michel Langlois (Cap Tourmente, 1993). Even the famous dramaturge Robert Lepage added films to his creative range (Le Confessionnal, 1995; Le Polygraphe, 1996; , 1998; La face cachée de la lune, 2003).

Of these, only Morin would pursue a regular filmmaking career, with eight feature films since Windigo. Morin uses pseudo-direct and experimental elements in fiction, producing films that directly address the social and even political concerns of Québec, using an innovative and flexible style. Films such as Quiconque meurt, meurt à douleur (1998), Le nèg’ (2002), Journal d’un coopérant (2010) and Les 4 soldats (2013) confirm his status as one of today’s most important directors and certainly the most provocative.

Also of note is Bernard Émond, a trained anthropologist who began making documentaries in the early 1990s (Ceux qui ont le pas léger meurent sans laisser de traces, 1992; L'instant et la patience, 1994; Le Temps et le lieu, 2000) before writing and directing several acclaimed fiction films that examine the existential crisis of values in Western society (La Femme qui boit, 2001; 20h17 rue Darling, 2003; La Neuvaine, 2005; Contre toute espérance, 2007; La Donation, 2005; Tout ce que tu possèdes, 2012). Émond’s style and tone are both austere and dark, but with a tinge of optimism and faith in the redemptive power of individuals.

Apart from his 18 short films, most of which were independently produced, Denis Côté has directed seven features, often prized by foreign festivals for the quality of the cinematography and their formal innovation, including: États nordiques (2005), Elle veut le chaos (2008), Curling (2010) and Vic + Flo ont vu un ours (2013). Côté focuses on narrative experimentation and attempts to destabilize the viewer’s expectations. His style and process follow that of directors such as Rafaël Ouellet (Le cèdre penché, 2007; New Denmark, 2009; Camion, 2012), Simon Lavoie (Laurentie, 2011; Le torrent, 2012), François Delisle (Le bonheur est une chanson triste, 2004; Toi, 2007; Le météore, 2013) and Stéphane Lafleur (Continental – un film sans fusil, 2007; En terrains connus, 2011). Also included in this group are Simon Galiero, Frédérick Pelletier and Maxime Giroux. All these filmmakers work in a poetic, often minimalist cinema that turns its back on realism and the socio-political tradition of Québec cinema.

Women’s Cinema

In the 1990s, many women — Micheline Lanctôt (Deux actrices, 1993), Mireille Dansereau (Le Sourd dans la ville, 1992), Paule Baillargeon (Le Sexe des étoiles, 1993) and Léa Pool (Mouvements du désir, 1994) — occupied an important place between Anne Claire Poirier, who rediscovered her inspiration in the moving Tu as crié: Let Me Go (1997), and what was thought to be a new wave (Marquise Lepage, Catherine Fol, Michka Saäl, Manon Briand, Catherine Martin, Helen Doyle). The destiny of the first group was not the same for everyone. Lanctôt and Pool managed to keep producing on a regular basis, Lanctôt doing so up until 2011, the year she released the well-received Pour l’amour de Dieu. Pool had several quality films to her credit, including, in French, Emporte-moi (1999) and ... Maman est chez le coiffeur (2008), and, in English, The Blue Butterfly (2004) and the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. (2011).

However, Dansereau and Baillargeon did not achieve the same consistency. Dansereau no longer produces full-length features, producing only documentaries which focus on dance (Eva, 2008; Les cerisiers ont envahi les espaces comme incendie, 2010), and on culture and creativity in a more general sense. Baillargeon was also drawn to the documentary world, a field in which she excels, as can be seen in the biographies Claude Jutra, portrait sur film (2002) and Le petit Jean-Pierre, le grand Perreault (2004). She also produced the magnificent self-portrait, Trente tableaux (2011).

As for the other directors mentioned, the situation was not an easy one and changes in the NFB's production policies were partly to blame. Saäl and Fol have been nearly non-existent. More versatile, Lepage has produced documentaries for television. She has shown an interest in young people, socio-historical subjects and biographies (Jacques Parizeau: l’homme derrière le complet trois pièces, 2006; Martha qui vient du froid, 2009). First hired as a videographer by Vidéo-Femmes, Doyle began to show the scope of her creativity starting in the 1990s. She was funny and sensitive in Je t’aime gros, gros, gros (1993) and Petites histoires à se mettre en bouche (1998), and more tragic and socially-oriented in the films she directed in the former Yugoslavia and Chechnya, areas stricken by the horrors of civil war. An artist of animated images, Doyle explores in Dans un océan d’images (2013) how the way one sees the world helps one to understand it.

Interested in documentaries, Briand began her career in a promising way, all the more so since she had the support of Roger Frappier, an important producer. With 2 secondes (1998) and La turbulence des fluides (2002) — two works imbued with a personal aesthetic — she was seen as a promising director. However, like many other female filmmakers, she would face many obstacles, so much so that it would be another 10 years before she directed another feature film, Liverpool (2012), which fluctuates between romantic comedy and thriller.

Other female filmmakers would emerge in the 1990s. Catherine Martin is a demanding filmmaker in the formal sense, whether when doing documentaries (Les dames du 9e, 1998; L’esprit des lieux, 2006) or fiction (Mariages, 2001; Trois temps après la mort d’Anna, 2010; Une jeune fille, 2013). Her work is poetic, sensitive, in search of the soul of people and places. Louise Archambault (Familia, 2005; Gabrielle, 2013) offers works that are very sensitive. Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, an excellent documentary and fiction filmmaker (Le ring, 2007; Inch’Allah, 2012), produces works which exude empathy, social involvement and sensitivity to people and the situations they find themselves in.

Lastly, among the new wave of filmmakers looking to make a name for themselves since the early 1990s, are Jeanne Crépeau, a filmmaker focused on urbanity and sexual identity (Revoir Julie, 1998; La fille de Montréal, 2010), Manon Barbeau, who is concerned with culture and marginality (L’armée de l’ombre, 1999; Barbeau libre comme l’art, 2000), Johanne Prégent (Les amoureuses, 1993; Le diable au corps, 2007), Céline Baril (La fourmi et le volcan, 1992; La théorie du tout, 2009), Lucie Lambert (Avant le jour, 1999; Aimer, finir, 2009), Anne Émond (Nuit #1, 2011), Sophie Deraspe (Rechercher Victor Pellerin, 2006; Les signes vitaux, 2009), Caroline Martel (Le fantôme de l’opératrice, 2005; Le chant des ondes, 2013), Marie-Julie Dallaire (Notre père, 2006), Jennifer Alleyn (L’atelier de mon père, 2008), Pascale Ferland (Adagio pour un gars de bicycle, 2008; Ressac, 2013) and Chloé Robichaud (Sarah préfère la course, 2013).

However, it must be acknowledged that, overall, female filmmakers have difficulty occupying an important and stable place in the filmmaking world, particularly in the area of fiction, and that they are often obliged and limited to producing documentaries for television or to opt for independent productions on video. In 2007, many female filmmakers followed the initiative of Marquise Lepage and founded Réalisatrices équitables to lobby for the equal distribution of public funding for female directors in Québec cinema, television and new media.

New Directions and Commercial Success

Other directors engage in auteur filmmaking, but they have taken a completely new direction, opting for narrative clarity, emotionality and a synergistic connection between audience, actors and subject matter. Some are well positioned in the Québec and international scene, and have imbued Québec cinema with an impact and influence it has not had for a long time. Philippe Falardeau stood out in 2000 with La moitié gauche du frigo, with its ironic tone and charming social connotations. After the very imaginative Congorama (2006), Falardeau directed the heartfelt and touching Monsieur Lazhar (2011), a cinematic surprise that focuses on the cultural and human impact of living in contemporary Montréal.

Kim Nguyen has taken a more unique track. Since Le marais (2002), he has been exploring an element uncommon in Québec cinema: the fantastical. Combining this approach with a realistic and violent political backdrop, his talent exploded in Rebelle (2012). There are parallels between Nguyen’s career and that of Denis Villeneuve, who, after completing a dozen short features with an experimental flavour, focused on more formalist cinema (Un 32 août sur terre, 1998; Maelström, 2000) before revealing another facet of his exceptional talent with Polytechnique (2009), a harrowing account of the Montréal Massacre, and Incendies(2010), a political and moral drama focusing on sectarian conflict in the Middle East. Since then, he has pursued a career in the US (Prisoners, 2013). Jean-Marc Vallée made an impressive debut with Liste noire (1995) and broke through with the auspicious coming-of-age story C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005), a film about family structured like a musical composition. He then went on to pursue an international career in English and in French (The Young Victoria, 2009; Café de Flore, 2011; Dallas Buyers Club, 2013; Wild, 2014).

In a completely other niche, but also enjoying an international audience, there is Xavier Dolan, who was barely 20 when he debuted with J’ai tué ma mère (2009) and who has been making a name for himself ever since (Les amours imaginaires, 2010; Laurence Anyways, 2012; Tom à la ferme, 2013). Brilliant, funny and touching, his films explore the synergy between actors (often including himself), and the dynamics between family and homosexuality. With his inspired direction and camerawork, Dolan has contributed a great deal to the richness of Québec cinema.

Several other directors are practitioners of original and varied auteur films, ranging from chamber cinema to exuberance, the imaginary to realism, emotion to humour. Briefly, some of these filmmakers include: Guy Édoin (Marécages, 2011), Sébastien Pilote (Le vendeur, 2011), Louis Bélanger (Post Mortem, 1999; Gaz Bar Blues, 2003; Route 132, 2010), Sébastien Rose (Comment ma mère accoucha de moi durant sa ménopause, 2003; Le banquet, 2008), Benoit Pilon (Des nouvelles du nord, 2007; Ce qu’il faut pour vivre, 2008), Ricardo Trogi (Québec-Montréal, 2002; 1981, 2009; 1987, 2014), Robin Aubert (Saint-Martyr-des-damnés, 2005; À l’origine d’un cri, 2010), Jean-Philippe Duval (Matroni et moi, 1999; Dédé à travers les brumes, 2009), Luc Picard (Babine, 2008; Ésimésac, 2012), Robert Favreau (Les muses orphelines, 2000; Un dimanche à Kigali, 2006).

Lastly, it should also be mentioned that from the turn of the 21st century onward, as part of a tradition that goes back to Gilles Carle, commercial cinema has flourished in Québec. Anchored in a narrative form that is easily accessible, these films often utilize genre filmmaking, especially comedies, adapt popular works and cast excellent actors who are beloved by the public. This category of film includes directors who work in both cinema and television.

Some of these directors have completed an array of films that are quite varied both in style and genre as well as language. This is the case with Charles Binamé, whose career began in the 1990s after some 20 years in advertising. He began with a few films that were more personal (Eldorado, 1995; La beauté de Pandore, 2000) before turning to more commercial films (Un homme et son péché, 2002; Maurice Richard, 2005) and television. Érik Canuel is a filmmaker who has directed thrillers (La loi du cochon, 2001; Lac mystère, 2013), comedies (Nez rouge, 2003; Bon Cop Bad Cop, 2006) and historical films (Le survenant, 2005; Barrymore, 2011).

One of the big surprises in comedy was the Les Boys films, about a beer-league hockey team. Directed by Louis Saïa, the first film, released in 1997, was such a success that three sequels followed (1998, 2001, 2005), as well as a TV series that aired for five seasons. In 2013, the producer of the series, Richard Goudreau, directed the nostalgic prequel Il était une fois les boys. Émile Gaudreault is another who does comedies and commercial films (Mambo Italiano, 2001; De père en flic, 2009), as well as Ken Scott (Starbuck, 2011), who has also been an actor and screenwriter for several successful films, such as the two works by Jean-François Pouliot, La grande seduction (2003) and Guide de la petite vengeance (2006). Daniel Roby (Louis Cyr, 2013) also jumps easily from one genre to another. Finally, another director who has been successful in both television and cinema through his virtuosity and sense of the dramatic is Daniel Grou aka Podz (10 ½, 2010; L’affaire Dumont, 2012; Miraculum, 2013).

From the 2000s, Québec cinema has been characterized by exceptional maturity and diversity. Several directors have received international attention at prestigious festivals and won high-profile awards. Denys Arcand became the first Canadian filmmaker to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for Les Invasions barbares (2003). Three Québec films in the next eight years — Villeneuve’s Incendies (2010), Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar (2011) and Nguyen’s Rebelle (2012) — earned Oscar nominations in the same category.

Many Québec filmmakers now reach a broad audience, both through the genres they take on and the actors they work with, to the unfortunate point that certain producers are ready to sacrifice quality in exchange for box office results that often do not materialize. As is the case everywhere, the films are distributed on a variety of platforms. This diversity is problematic for institutions such as Téléfilm and SODEC whose budgets do not keep up with the ambitions of the filmmakers. In 2010, many directors wrote an open letter to SODEC arguing that commercial films were being more heavily favoured than auteur cinema. Within this context, many swear by co-productions, others go abroad, some cannot make do without television, while at the opposite end many swear by independent, auteur and creative films only. In short, it is an artistic and cultural practice in tune with Québec society.

See also: Cinémathèque Québécoise; The History of the Canadian Film Industry; National Film Board of Canada; Telefilm Canada; Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.

Suggested Reading

  • Peter Morris, Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema 1895–1939 (1978).

    Pierre Véronneau and Piers Handling, eds., Self Portrait: Essays on the Canadian and Québec Cinemas (1980).

    Louise Carrière, Femmes et cinéma québécois (Boréal, 1983).

    David Clandfield, Canadian Film (Oxford University Press, 1987).

    Pierre Véronneau, Résistance et affirmation: La productions francophone à l’ONF 1939–1964 (Cinémathèque québécoise, 1987).

    Douglas Fetherling, ed., Documents in Canadian Film (Toronto: Broadview Press, 1988).

    Yves Lever, Histoire générale du cinéma au Québec (Boréal, 1988); Le cinéma de la Révolution tranquille (Montréal, 1991); and Anastasie ou la censure du cinéma au Québec (Septentrion, 2008).

    Heinz Weinmann, Cinéma de l’imaginaire québécois: De La petite Aurore à Jésus de Montréal (L’Hexagone, 1990).

    Joseph I. Donohoe, Jr. ed., Essays on Québec Cinema (Michigan State University Press, 1991).

    Sylvain Garel and André Pâquet, Les cinémas du Canada: Québec, Ontario, Prairies, Côte Ouest, Atlantique (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1992).

    Bill Marshall, Québec National Cinema (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000).

    Wyndham Wise, ed., Take One's Essential Guide to Canadian Film (University of Toronto Press, 2001).

    Christopher E. Gittings, Canadian National Cinema (Routledge, 2002).

    Michel Larouche, ed., Cinéma et littérature au Québec : rencontres médiatiques (XYZ, 2003).

    Scott Mackenzie, Screening Québec: Québécois Moving Images, National Identity, and the

    Public Sphere (Manchester University Press, 2004).

    Christian Poirier, Le cinéma québécois. À la recherche d’une identité? (University of Québec

    Press, 2004)

    George Melnyk, One Hundred Years of Canadian Cinema (University of Toronto Press, 2004).

    Michel Coulombe and Marcel Jean, eds., Le dictionnaire du cinéma québécois, 4th ed. (2006).

    Jerry White, ed., The Cinema of Canada (Wallflower, 2006).

    Marion Froger, Le cinéma à l’épreuve de la communauté (Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2009).

    Gilles Marsolais, Cinéma québécois: De l’industrie à l’artisanat (Éditions Triptyque, 2012).

    Serge Bouchard, Les images que nous sommes. 60 ans de cinéma québécois (Les Éditions de l’homme, 2013).

Self-Portrait of the Artist as Radical Feminist in Experimental Theatre:
Joie by Pol Pelletier

Louise H. Forsyth
University of Saskatchewan

Pol Pelletier (comédienne, metteure en scène, dramaturge, enseignante, fondatrice de théâtre, et directrice artistique) est l'une des rares femmes artistes du théâtre qui a publié et performé des oeuvres théoriques sur le jeu. Elle s'est donné l'objectif radical de changer la pratique du théâtre, et du monde même. Elle voulait que les femmes découvrent des mythologies qui résonnent avec leurs expériences et qu'elles arrivent ainsi à jouer des rôles forts et authentiques. De telles mythologies et de tels rôles restent encore rares sur les scènes d'aujourd'hui. À la base de la pratique et de la position théorique de Pelletier figure la conviction que les femmes doivent se débarrasser d'idéologies et de conventions reçues qui limitent de façon dange-reuse le plein exercice de l'esprit, du corps et de la voix. Entre 1975 et 1985 Pelletier s'engageait vigoureusement au théâtre expérimental et à la création collective, jusqu'au point de fonder le premier théâtre féministe permanent du Canada, le Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes. Joie, créée en 1990, est la première pièce d'une trilogie dramatique où Pelletier fait rétrospectivement le point sur les réussites éblouissantes et les déceptions écrasantes de cette période expérimentale. C'est la re-création d'une tranche de sa vie. C'est en même temps une performance dramatique et un programme théorique pour le renouveau non-sexiste du théâtre.
Ça fait dix ans que je rêve de voir sur une scène des person-nages féminins "autres", l'explosion d'une mythologie fémi-nine, forte, grande, inédite. ("Histoire d'une féministe," Trac 92)1CHANGER LE MONDE. Oui, j'ai cette prétention. (Joie 95)2

1 Pol Pelletier is a well-known and widely respected woman of theatre in Québec: actor, director, playwright, artistic director, acting theorist, and teacher. She is equally well known for her commitment to the total transformation of stage practice. Her involvement in theatre began in the 1960s. Then, early in her professional career, she co-founded two experimental theatre companies: the Théâtre Expérimental de Montréal (TEM, 1975) and the Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes (TEF, 1979). It was a time when others shared her conviction that change is essential and were willing to spend time and energy collaborating in the exploration of experimentation's potential. The TEM and the TEF were remarkable laboratories of collaborative creation in Montréal. The TEF, in which Pelletier played the leading role between 1979 and 1985, was likely the first feminist theatre company in Canada, and perhaps even the first in North America, with its own house. The atmosphere at the TEF was heady for players and spectators; it was also exhausting and often tense, as Pelletier's vision and drive stirred simultaneously intense enthusiasm and intense controversy. However, her contribution to theories of acting and the understanding of women's memory, creativity, physical presence, and spirit in theatrical performance cannot be overestimated.

2 After a decade Pelletier felt the need to take a break and give herself some personal space and distance. She resigned from the TEF and, having already travelled to South America, she went on an extended voyage to India. Five years later she wrote the autobiographical performance piece Joie (premiered 1990), in which she stepped back and reflected on her theatrical work between 1975 and 1985, what she had accomplished, and where she was in the present. The play shows that her innovative work, although passionately gratifying, was never easy. Pelletier's objective in Joie is to recapture memory, to celebrate high points of an exciting decade, and to examine low points carefully. Joie mirrors in evocative shards some of the many faces of Pol Pelletier, as herself— consummate actor and writer—and as the many characters she played during this intensely creative period. In the alternation between re-creation of roles played in the past and questions still erupting in the present, Pelletier captures in the play the many conflicting emotions she felt in her ten-year commitment to the transformation of theatrical conventions and practices: "en écrivant ce spectacle, je voulais répondre à des questions de fond sur mon métier."3 Her choice of a play as the medium for retrospective reflection, rather than an essay, highlights the fact that for Pelletier theory has not ever been abstract. Rather, the theoretical imperative for her is thought, emotion, and imagination in action on the public stage.

3 We can see, then, that Joie is experimental, autobiographical theatre.4 It is also autoreferential in its reflections on doing theatre, in that its primary focus is not on particular events in Pelletier's personal life, as autobiographical traditions might lead us to expect. Instead, it is a play about making plays.5 It has historical and testimonial elements, but its salient and sustained component is a theoretical exploration for other ways of doing theatre, particularly other ways of women doing theatre.Without fresh performance strategies, women's stories are likely to remain buried beneath the weight of sexist traditions and practices.

4Joie was the first autobiographical retrospective in a theatrical trilogy: La Trilogies des histoires. Océan, the second one-woman performance, evokes the period 1985-1990 and themes of personal transformation when Pelletier's mother died and during the spiritual journey she took in India. Or, the third piece, is a return to the study in action of radically innovative theories of acting. For six years the three plays of the trilogy were a stage work in progress, with Pelletier performing and modifying successive versions.6La Trilogie des histoires served as a mobile mirror that Pelletier wrote and performed to understand and share understanding of her quest as a woman of theatre for practices that offer the possibility of representing women in their integrity, from both inner and outer perspectives. The plays offer audiences the extraordinary opportunity of sharing the dazzling beauty of Pelletier's dream for theatre.At the same time, they show the harsh truth that the dream remains far from realized. The vision of what theatre could be is evoked in memories of earlier moments, while the voices of Pelletier's personae reveal profound disappointments. Joy is affirmed; love for spectators is expressed; yet there is grief that she failed to overcome lack of understanding in fellow players and publics.

5 Since the scripts of Océan and Or have never been published or deposited with the Centre des Auteurs Dramatiques, and so are unavailable for consultation, I have limited my study in this paper to the representation of ten years in Pelletier's theatrical career, as dramatized in Joie.

Theories of Acting / Ten years of Expermentation 1975-1985

6 Pelletier was convinced from the beginning of her career that theatrical conventions, as taught in theatre courses and applied through directors on most stages, deprived players of their vital energy by stressing textual interpretation over imaginative discovery and by relying upon sexist stereotypes that predetermine the ways in which roles are to be played and actions between characters are to be represented. In her view actors are sources of physical force and spiritual vision with the potential, if only they are able to release them, of bringing about transformations in themselves and in spectators. Untrammelled experimentation can help to decondition actors and free them from the straitjackets that internalized stereotypes and ready-to-play theatrical conventions have constructed in their bodies and their minds. It can quell the fear, guilt, and doubt that individuals often feel when they are moving off the path beaten by voices of authorities and into the unknown. Pelletier's perspective on experimental theatre has always involved the whole person—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In order to get into the regions where transformation can occur, preconceived notions about movement, sounds, voice, and space must be set aside; scripts inscribed in memory must be forgotten and primitive work with the body must be the starting point: "La voix qui est branchée à mon coccyx qui est branché à mes pieds, qui sont branchés à ma tête. SAUTE! SAUTE! Déplacer de l'air, fouler la terre, avoir des os et des muscles et quasi en mourir de ravissement" (Joie 97).7

7 In Pelletier's approach actors, previously conditioned to believe that costumes, make-up, blocking, and dialogue constitute their roles, begin through a return to pre-linguistic corporeal presence, so they may hear the impulses and messages from within, while moving their bodies to the rhythms of their own visceral sounds.Her work involved stripping away non-essential decoration so as to get down to bare minima. Such an unconventional perspective on doing theatre led her to challenge established practices of acting, writing, directing, and teaching insofar as both women and men are concerned, since these practices rely almost exclusively on sexist conventions that literally and figuratively place women in corsets and predetermine the stories that can be told.

8 Pelletier's first experimental initiative was in 1975 when she organized a workshop at the TEM for research on the female character. She hoped participants in the workshop would create characters other than mothers, lovers, and servants. The workshop involved exercises to strip away inhibitions and false knowledge and to discover sources of the participants' own erotic energy. They worked to remove crippling emotions, such as fear and guilt, to set aside doubt when accused of being mad or ugly, to refuse taboos surrounding the female body, and to release the strength that had lain dormant in their suppressed capacity for physical aggression.

9 Next, Pelletier collaborated for several months with director and actor Luce Guilbeault and eleven other writers and actors in the creation of La Nef des sorcières (Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, March 1976). Pelletier played a lesbian character but found that the role as written by Marie-Claire Blais gave her insufficient scope for theatrical experimentation and celebration of the jouissance she experienced when making love with a woman. She wrote a second monologue and played them both, wearing a wig in one and beginning the other by angrily ripping off the wig to reveal a defiantly shaved head. Pelletier has underlined the importance in her career of this, her first experience writing for and playing in women's theatre: "Mon premier vrai spectacle de femmes. Uniquement des femmes. Je dois beaucoup à Luce. Pour la première fois, j'ai écrit pour le théâtre, et c'était important, ça valait quelque chose, les femmes" (Trac 105).8 In 1979 Pelletier collaborated for a second time in a collective creation called Célébrations at the TNM. Pelletier performed an extract from Nicole Brossard's Le sens apparent and Jovette Marchessault's Les Vaches de nuit ["Night Cows"]. She is perhaps best known in the theatre world for her performance of Les vaches de nuit, a play in which, indeed, "a strong, tall, as-yet-unspoken feminine mythology" bursts onto the stage (see citation at the top of this article).The moment of recognition, through performance, of the extraordinary theatricality of Marchessault's text revealed to Pelletier the very basis of her feminist artistic practice and theoretical reflection (See Joie 36-7).

10 With the encouragement of TEM co-founder Jean-Pierre Ronfard, in September 1976 Pelletier, Guilbault, and two others created the first TEM spectacle de femmes: Essai en trois mouvements pour trois voix de femmes.9 A study without words of women's voices and bodies in motion, it experimented with voice, movement, props, and relations between actors and spectators. The following year they did Finalement, again a play without words that was the second in a triptych of experimental plays. In 1978 the women of the TEM collectively created À ma mère, à ma mère, à ma mère, à ma voisine. In this play, experimentation on characterization and words was added to ongoing play with voice and body movements. The violently angry desire to kill debilitating stereotypes of motherhood underlies the thematic structure of À ma mère. The three actors (Pelletier, Louise Laprade, and Nicole Lecavalier) and the stage manager (Dominique Gagnon) improvised and wrote parts of the text and staging instructions. As published with many personal notes and photos, À ma mère retains its qualities of collaboration, orality, improvisation, and theatricality. The publication in 1978 of Trac Femmes. Cahier de théâtre expérimental, a collection of short essays written by women who had participated with Pelletier at the TEM since 1975, shows a quite large community in search of new ways of doing theatre. Their analyses are probing and passionate. In Pelletier's essay "Histoire d'une féministe" she situates herself as a strong feminist and explores what such a siting means for doing theatre, as well as what feminist theatre can do to combat sexist stereotypes prevailing in society and in women's own views of themselves and the world: "Il est grand temps qu'on fasse une analyse objective de ce métier, qu'on cesse de l'entourer de mille fadaises romantiques. Que les comédiennes se rendent compte des images de femmes parfaitement rétrogrades et stupides qu'elles véhiculent pour la plupart" (97).10

11 The radical feminist positions affirmed in both À ma mère and Trac appear to have driven a wedge between Pelletier and most of those at the Théâtre Expérimental de Montréal, whose views on experimental theatre did not include any form of gender analysis and whose experimental practice, according to Pelletier in Joie, frequently included sexist stereotyping. A schism occurred, followed in February 1979 by the founding of the Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes by Pelletier, Louise Laprade, and Nicole Lecavalier. The mission of the TEF was to offer the public a theatre where all roles and all positions were held by women. The TEF quickly became a centre and a symbol for the women's movement in Québec. As Noiseux has discussed, participation in the TEF required full commitment on the part of individuals, since it aimed at the total transformation of culture, knowledge, history, and human relations:Les débuts du TEF n'engageaient pas que l'objet à créer, mais l'être tout entier: corps et esprit. Et si l'on proposait une autre définition de la cosmogonie, des mythes, de la marche de l'Histoire, du monde qui nous entoure, des relations entre les femmes et les hommes? [...] Il faut découvrir une autre manière de voir et de dire."11

12 Working toward their mission involved Pelletier and other members of the company in the active training of women in all aspects of theatre, as well as workshops, festivals, lectures, conferences, and informal encounters. The years between 1979 and 1985 at the TEF were rich with a wide range of theatrical and paratheatrical events designed to construct a changed theatre community that allowed women to build on strengths, participate in fresh explorations, and give artistic form to new mythologies. At the same time, Pelletier continued to develop her theories on acting. "Jouer au féminin," which she wrote in 1982 and in which she mentions her admiration for Grotowski, is an important treatise on acting.As Josette Féral has discussed, Pelletier's well-developed theories on acting (le jeu) are all the more impressive since there are few theoretical pieces by women of theatre anywhere on creating for theatre ("La place des femmes" 113-16).

13 The character in Joie, who evokes chronologically events at the TEM and the TEF between 1975-1985, takes readers and spectators into the experimental processes implemented by Pelletier and her colleagues to give theatrical form to at least some of the stories and mythologies that women have conceived upon finding the source of their psychic, physical, and spiritual harmony.

The Play's the Thing: Joie

14 In Joie Pelletier portrays herself exploring memories of her bold and uncompromising creative initiatives while doing experimental theatre in the féminine during the decade 1975-1985. The play is a sustained reflection on the theoretical and practical questions through which she was working at that time, as seen from the 1990s, when these questions seemed to have been forgotten. The play provides the distance Pelletier needed in order to ask what was achieved during those years of energy, optimism, and new community. Joie crosses generic boundaries in that it can be seen as both a play and a performance piece. Jeannie Forte describes the performance artist as not playing a role written for her by others, but rather performing autobiographically, speaking and writing for herself, affirming the reality of her material and corporeal presence, making her subversive, satirical points using non-canonical acting strategies, and undermining the symbolic structure of dominant representation systems, whose arbitrariness and contingency she is exposing and challenging (see particularly 252). Joie uses poetic devices to draw attention to theoretical concerns, and it mixes fact and fiction with dramatic abandon. The first word pronounced in the play echoes its title: "Joie" (9), which is further reinforced by the leitmotif: "LES FEMMES, L'ART ET LA JOIE!" (15).12 However, the irony that must be seen to underlie the play's title and this leitmotif is highlighted throughout the play by its transformations, as joy is replaced by fear, problems, and culture: "Les femmes, l'art et la peur" (22); "Les femmes, l'art et les problèmes" (63);"Les femmes, l'art et la culture" (81).

15 The rich theme of women, art, and joy and the subject of memories of a decade of theatrical experimentation—along with the shrill barbs of irony that permeate this retrospective performance—receive sustained emphasis throughout the play with the interlocutor Pelletier created for her persona: "l'oiseau noir de la mémoire." This "black lark of her memory" (Joy 6) is the protagonist's left hand wearing a black glove, which emerges from behind her back and intervenes to remind her of each successive incident as it reappears from the past. The "black lark of her memory" is thus an accomplice and an old friend, but also a disruptive trick-ster figure standing in the way of any complacent glossing over of painful memories.

16 Scenes in Joie cover the founding of the Théâtre Expérimental de Montréal and the beginning of work in collective creation with women. Pelletier was extremely active during this period of return to the simplicity of women's uncostumed bodies in motion: she produced the extraordinary À ma mère, à ma mère, à ma mère, à ma voisine; she wrote and performed the lesbian Marcelle in La Nef des sorcières; she founded and operated the Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes; she created Jovette Marchessault's Les Vaches de nuit in Célébrations at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde; she collaborated with international theatre companies and travelled abroad; she wrote and created La Lumière blanche (a feminist tragedy and exorcism of debilitating fear); she staged Marchessault's La Terre est trop courte, Violette Leduc and works by other radical playwrights, such as Lise Vaillancourt; and, finally, she resigned from the Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes in 1985.

17 Pelletier's quest throughout the decade was to work with other women seeking ways to inhabit their own bodies, hear their own voices, acknowledge their own feelings, explore their imaginations, find or invent stage means to show their experiences without the filter of patriarchal interpretive traditions, affirm the reality and legitimacy of women's memory, and exercise material control of theatre space and technologies. Joie recalls a turbulent and exciting period in Quebec theatre and society; it revisits outrageous acts and painful disappointments, dreams and frustrations, successes, blocked paths and deep misunderstandings; it evokes memories of women coming together in theatre, sharing their passions and working there to bring new performative and interpretive communities into being.

18 There are also memories of these same communities bursting apart, as the Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes ultimately did. The character in Joie representing Pelletier draws attention with sad irony to the distance between the shared lofty ideals at the TEF of changing society and the painful recognition that they could not even get along with each other: "On prétend changer le monde et on ne peut pas s'entendre à quatre personnes?" (75).13Joie sustains a strand of lament from beginning to end for the loss of dreams, passions, commitment, and shared vision. The play is an exploration and a search for the reasons why women's collective energy— which had been so powerful in the 1970s and 1980s as a means for affirming communities of women, with theatre companies doing collective creations, opening other performance spaces, meeting in bookstores and other public spaces, founding publishing houses, and collaborating in resistance to injustice—has dissipated. Joie does not offer facile explanations for why the social climate has changed. Instead, it explores factors: the absence of models for women coming together for creative and experimental artistic purposes; the equally serious absence of non-patriarchal performative and interpretive communities and spaces; the dominance and ubiquity of patriarchal cultural references and the roles for women that go with them; values placed by dominant socio-cultural practices on written texts; isolation of individuals; generalized fear; distrust of women who take on positions of power; and burn-out.

19 Toward the end of this richly layered, multivocal production, the protagonist of Joie talks to the black-gloved left hand of memory, reminding the bird of the radically new theatre aesthetic she forged in the 1970s based on the connections among women's voices and all parts of their bodies: powerful, mobile bodies taking up as much stage and theatre space as possible in defiance of all conventions of beauty and propriety:Tu te souviens des années 70 où tu forgeais une esthétique complètement neuve: les femmes sur scène, bougeantes, impudiques, explosives, pas maquillées, pas coiffées, pas «costumées», on voyait leurs corps et leurs muscles et leur sueur, et leurs pieds, et ça se passait dans des espaces éclatés, des lieux inventés, avec le public tout mélangé là-dedans, assis de toutes sortes de façons bizarres, il ne savait plus si ce qu'il voyait était «beau» ou «laid», il n'avait plus de références, il était troublé. (93-4)14The protagonist concludes her theoretical reflection at this moment with a simple but urgent question about beauty. If women step completely out of the beauty myth that has held them prisoner for so long, are there any aesthetic, epistemological, ontological, and ethical traditions that can endure unchanged?: "Qu'est-ce que la beauté?"(94).The suggestion is that beauty, like women's myths, has not yet been adequately told or represented in dominant cultures. Pelletier recalls in Joie the years when the play was the thing whereby she would catch the conscience of theatre and society.

Joie and Québec Theatre in the Feminine

20 I have noticed that when social or cultural practices are seen to be feminist, or even to belong primarily to areas of women's activities, they are excluded discursively from recognition as experimental practices. It is as though women's creativity and inventiveness are viewed as uncongenial or otherwise contradictory to that which is artistically or scientifically experimental. Of course, such an inability to see beyond the "feminism" word is alien to Pelletier's approach to theatre. She and her colleagues retained, after all, the appellation of an experimental theatre company after they separated from the Théâtre Expérimental de Montréal to form the Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes. In fact, Joie offers a fine analysis of all the components of prevailing theatre practice that call out for experimentation; it provides theatrical demonstrations of the experiments that Pelletier, her colleagues, and members of her audiences carried out. In its refusal of productions based on the fetishisation of women's bodies, it illustrates well the integration of Brechtian theory into feminist theory through gestic feminist practice, as Elin Diamond has discussed: "[W]hat the spectator sees is not a mere miming of social relationship, but a reading of it, an interpretation by a historical subject who supplements (rather than disappears into) the production of meaning (90).

21 As described above, Joie can be read as a theoretical program on how she and her colleagues envisioned the renewal of theatre in ways that would make it a non-sexist cultural practice providing actors, members of the production community, writers, and the public opportunities to know the passion of "nous qui brûlons du feu" (35), of those 'who burn with fire', with a freed imagination, an expressive voice, and a body unconstrained by social conditioning. To demonstrate women's right to control their own bodies, memories, imagination, and desires, Pelletier cites the text by Nicole Brossard, "Le sens apparent," that she played in Célébrations: "nous appelons corps la forme que prennent nos corps une fois qu'ils se sont exercés à la mémoire, à l'imagination et à l'appétit"(35, 36)15 In Pelletier's work the actor's body has consistently been the site of struggle, enunciation, and myth-making.

22 Despite the positive connotations of titles such as Joie or Célébrations, it is important to note the emphasis placed throughout the play, and indeed throughout Pelletier's theatre career, on the theme of fear—fear that is so deeply rooted in women's bodies that it is rarely acknowledged, despite its debilitating impact. Pelletier's practice for uprooting fear necessitated recognition of the violence to self and to others that is needed for such uprooting. "Niceness" will not do it. Women must learn assertiveness, even violence to themselves and in their relations with other women, if they are to go beyond the boundaries dictated by fear:ON A PEUR.
ON A PEUR. [...]
On a peur de s'engager dans le pacte, la fidélité, la responsabilité ... de l'amour!
On a peur de s'engager dans la violence! Oh non, même pas la violence physique. La violence de ce que nous ressentons, car ce que nous ressentons est violent. Et nous avons peur d'identifier précisément ce que nous ressen-tons si violemment.
Qu'est-ce qui se passe ENTRE nous?
Qu'est-ce qu'on laisse dans l'ombre?
Qu'est-ce que cette femme catalyse d'insupportable, et d'indicible, et de trop douloureux en chacune de nous? (emphasis in original, 73-74)16

23Joie begins with awareness of injustices and the denunciation of stereotypes, exclusions, and demonstrations of ideologies at play in the constitution of existing performative and interpretive communities. As Pelletier took careful stock of representational practices in dominant culture, as well as the opportunities available to her as a member of the theatre community, she found— even of the boldest of experimental theatre companies—no room for women as agents and players in their own spectacles. From the start Joie expresses the anger she felt in the face of such exclusion: "Le langage primitif des débuts était lié à une révolte extrême, un rejet radical de la société et de toutes ses manifestations culturelles" (80).17 It also expresses the urgent need to refuse to play any longer the subservient roles that serve the status quo.The play is a blueprint for action, beginning with aggressive demonstrations of physical power and control.

24 It was creating Jovette Marchessault's Les Vaches de nuit, as well as Célébrations, that revealed directly to Pelletier the psychic and physical states where the inner dimensions of acting become evident. This revelation confirmed the path she was already taking in theatre; it became the basis of her theatrical research:"Ce jour-là je suis tombée dans ce que j'ai appelé par la suite le véritable «état de jeu»: un état physique et psychique très particulier qui est devenu la base de mes recherches" (Joie 37).18 To reach this true state of acting it was necessary to get dominant cultural practices and words out of the heads and bodies of actors, directors, and spectators.

25 Pelletier explores at some length in Joie the reasons why the approaches of collective creation, very popular among Quebec theatre companies in the 1970s and 1980s, seemed to lend themselves particularly well to feminist experimental theatre having the objectives just mentioned. In fact, the play develops an implicit equation between experimental theatre and collective creation:C'est par l'oralité que les créations collectives de femmes ont vu le jour.
Par le parlage.
En se racontant nos histoires de femmes, car cette matière n'existait pas encore dans les livres, ou si peu. Aussi, en inventant, dans la vie de tous les jours, des nouveaux gestes, des nouveaux comportements, des nouveaux langages. [...]
Les créations collectives étaient aussi étonnantes parce qu'elles étaient le reflet des innovations que nous amenions dans nos vies. [...]
La création collective, au point de départ comme au point d'arrivée, ce n'est pas un texte, c'est des corps qui bougent et qui font des sons. [...] (47-48)19

26Joie, as portrait of the experimental artist as militant feminist and radical woman of theatre, takes readers and audiences through the experience of working individually and collectively in corporeal, concrete, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions. It is a thoroughly ambitious project. Pelletier's protagonist recognises, however, that it has had mitigated impact.20 She indicates her extreme discouragement in not finding Quebec theatre transformed, not even finding many women in theatre working together to achieve such transformation, despite the fact that there is now a significant number of women in senior artistic and administrative positions. Even the memory of the struggle seems to have been lost in such a short time: "Comment ça se fait que l'histoire que je vous raconte est tombée dans l'oubli? Comment ça se fait que c'est moi qui doit raconter cette histoire? Comment ça se fait que les femmes qui m'ont suivie et qui ont bâti leur travail sur le mien font comme si ce travail n'avait jamais existé?" (90).21

27 In response to this question regarding the absence of strong feminist awareness in today's theatre and society, Pelletier's character offers the surprising hypothesis that women's demands and experimental creative power were so compelling and relevant that they awakened endemic, paralysing fear and thereby frightened even those who were making them, causing women and girls to feel guilty about being seen to be making so much noise and causing upset:Tu sais ce que je pense? Je pense que nous, les femmes nous nous sentons collectivement COUPABLES d'avoir crié haut et fort dans les années 70, même les jeunes femmes qui n'étaient pas là, et qui s'imaginent que tout est réglé, elles aussi sont coupables, la culpabilité est partout, dans l'air, dans nos os. Je pense que nous nous sommes fait très peur et que nous n'osons plus rien dire. [...] Je pense que le mouvement des femmes a posé des questions fondamentales qui nous ont tous et toutes secoué-e-s jusque dans nos racines, où nous avons touché et l'HORREUR, et le RÊVE. (90-91).22Despite the apparent absence at the present time of success in Pelletier's bold experimental endeavor over more than a decade to change theatre and society, the conclusion of Joie affirms the character's commitment to the continuing struggle—to keep the flame burning—and to the belief that it is possible to get rid of the stifling dead wood inside each individual and society collectively:J'ai brûlé et j'ai crié. Plusieurs fois.
Pour allumer le feu sur la place publique, il faut commencer par prendre tout le bois mort qui est à l'intérieur et le jeter dans la flamme. Tous les jours, j'en brûle encore un petit bout. [...] L'espoir est une poire dans une foire ... (98-99)23

28 In Joie Pelletier has given a complex and composite portrait of herself and other women as creative, self-reflexive writers and theatre artists. While it is a one-woman show, it weaves a fabric of multiple sounds, voices and images. Using first- and second-person pronouns—for example in the dialogue between herself and "the black lark of memory"—she projects herself into the stage personae of this autobiographical performance piece as warrior, player, writer, director, and artistic director. She recounts and re-plays old roles, but always with a difference and in a fresh tapestry. There is new textual material and old. Around the new textual material, Pelletier has woven the voices of other of her own published or performed texts, or collective creations in which she participated. The narrative contains additional quotations written by other writers from plays she produced or played in.

29Joie is a celebration of an exhilarating decade in women's thea-tre in Quebec. It is also a celebration of women's memory, creativity, physical presence, and spirit. It is an important treatise on the art of acting and the profession of theatre. The characters in the story it tells did not achieve all their objectives. Indeed, in many ways, the story shows the power of fear and dominant cultural practices to crush women's vision, creativity, and erotic energy. Much remains to be done before women and men can take their place and exercise their full power on public stages. This play, including Pelletier's many performances of it in Quebec, in France, and elsewhere, is a significant step in affirming the power of experimental theatre by women.

Works Cited

Brossard, Nicole. "Le Sens apparent." Célébrations. La Nouvelle Barre du jour 75 (1979): 11-23.

Diamond, Elin. "Brechtian Theory/ Feminist Theory: Toward a Gestic Feminist Criticism." The Drama Review 32.1 (Spring 1988): 82-94.

Féral, Josette. "Écriture et déplacement: la femme au théâtre." The French Review 56.2 (Dec. 1982): 281-292.

—-. "Arrêter le mental. Entretien avec Pol Pelletier." Cahiers de théâtre. Jeu 65 (1992): 35-45.

—-. "La place des femmes dans les théories actuelles du jeu théâtral: l'exemple de Pol Pelletier." Nouveaux Regards sur le théâtre québécois. Dirs. Betty Bednarski & Irène Oore. Montreal & Halifax: XYZ Éditeur & Dalhousie French Studies, 1997. 105-116.

—-. "Pol Pelletier: le théâtre est le lieu de rencontre du visible et de l'invisible." Mise en scène et jeu de l'acteur. Entretiens. Tome 2: Le corps en scène. Montréal / Carnières: Éditions Jeu/ Éditions Lansman, 1998. 229-252.

Forte, Jeannie. "Women's Performance Art: Feminism and Post-Modernism." Performing Feminisms. Ed. Sue-Ellen Case. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1990. 251-269.

Gagnon, Dominique, Louise Laprade, Nicole Lecavalier and Pol Pelletier. À ma mère, à ma mère, à ma mère, à ma voisine. Montreal: Éditions du Remue-Ménage, 1979.

Godard, Barbara. "Between Repetition and Rehearsal: Conditions of (Women's) Theatre in Canada in a Space of Reproduction." Theatre Research in Canada/ Recherches théâtrales au Canada 13.1-2 (1992): 18-33.

Guilbeault, Luce, Marthe Blackburn, France Théoret, Odette Gagnon, Marie-Claire Blais, Pol Pelletier and Nicole Brossard. La Nef des sorcières. Montreal: Quinze, 1976. Tr. Linda Gaboriau. A Clash of Symbols. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1979.

Marchessault, Jovette. La Terre est trop courte, Violette Leduc.Montreal: Éditions de la Pleine Lune, 1982. Tr. Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood. The Edge of Earth Is Too Near, Violette Leduc. 1985 (from Le Centre des Auteurs Dramatiques in Montreal [CEAD]).

—-. "Les Vaches de nuit." Tryptique lesbien. Montréal: Éditions de la Pleine Lune, 1980. 79-94. Tr. Yvonne M. Klein. Night-Cows. 1978 (available from CEAD). The original version of "Les Vaches de nuit" was published in Célébrations. La Nouvelle Barre du Jour 75 (février 1979): 83-92.

Noiseux, Ginette. "Du Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes à l'Espace GO: une autre manière de dire." Théâtre. Les Cahiers de la Maîtrise 7 (2002): 44-55.

Pelletier, Pol. "Histoire d'une féministe." Trac Femmes. Cahier de théâtre expérimental. Montréal: Les Publications Trac, enr. 1978: 92-97.

—- . "Petite Histoire ... ." Possibles 4.1 (automne 1979): 175-187.

—- . "Jouer au féminin." Pratiques Théâtrales 16 (1982): 11-21.

—- . "Myth and Women's Theatre." In the Feminine. Women and Words / Les Femmes et les mots. Eds.Ann Dybikowski, Victoria Freeman, Daphne Marlatt, Barbara Pulling, Betsy Warland. Edmonton: Longspoon Press, 1985: 110-113.

—- . La Lumière blanche. Montréal: Les Herbes Rouges, 1989. Tr. Yvonne M. Klein. The White Light. 1987 (available from CEAD).

—- . "Réflexions autour de «Joie»." Cahiers de théâtre. Jeu 65 (décembre 1992): 30-34.

—-. Joie. Montréal: Éditions du Remue-Ménage, 1995.

Notes

1 "I've been dreaming for ten years of seeing female characters who are 'other', the bursting onto a stage of a strong, tall, as-yet-unspoken feminine mythology." (Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are by the author.)


2 "CHANGE THE WORLD.Yes, that's what I'm daring to try."


3 "[I]n writing this show, I wanted to respond to basic questions about my profession." ("Réflexions autour de «Joie»" 30).


4 Pelletier is not alone in adapting autobiography to suit her creative and theoretical purposes. New forms of autobiography have been developed and used extensively in Quebec and elsewhere by contemporary women writers, including playwrights. These writers have found that autobiography opens avenues for innovation to tell stories and make experiences visible that established cultural institutions have so far failed to include in their works.


5 Josette Féral's interview with Pelletier in 1992 provides interesting detail on Pelletier's theoretical position on acting. As the title of the interview indicates, it is a matter of freeing the actor from narrow mental notions that inhibit the body and block the connections between it and inner spaces.


6 Following is the chronology of the creation of successive versions in Montreal by Pelletier of the three plays in La Trilogie des histoires:


Display large image of Table 1

Joie was invited to the Festival International des Francophonies en Limousin in September 1993, to the Journées Théâtrales de Carthage, Tunisie in October 1993, and by Ariane Mnouchkine to the Théâtre du Soleil December 1993. Joy was premiered in English by Pelletier in 1995 with Theatre Passe-Muraille in Toronto.

7 "The voice that's connected to my tailbone that's connected to my feet, that are connected to my head.JUMP! JUMP! Displace the air, trample the ground, feel bones and muscles and almost die with delight." For a detailed and early discussion by Pelletier of her theoretical position regarding acting and the actress's profession, see "Histoire d'une féministe"and "Jouer au féminin."


8 "My first real women's show. Only women. I owe a good deal to Luce. For the first time, I wrote for the theatre, and women were important, it was worth something."


9 For a description of Essai en trois mouvements, along with a discussion of experimental objectives, staging methods, and theoretical reflections, see Trac 6-12; for Finalement,see Trac 13-23; for À ma mére,see Trac 24-39. An overview of the three shows, "Réflexions sur les trois spectacles" (37-8) provides further insight into these experimental productions and also shows that they did not turn out to be the trip-tych originally intended, which is precisely what happens in experimental theatre.


10 "It is high time that an objective analysis of this profession be made, that it cease to be surrounded by a thousand insipid romantic notions. That actresses take stock of the perfectly stupid and retrograde images of women that they are responsible for perpetuating for the most part."


11 "The beginnings of the TEF did not engage only the object to be created, but the entire being: body and spirit. What if we proposed other definitions of the cosmogony, of myths, of the march of History, of the world that surrounds us, of the relations between women and men? [...] It is necessary to discover another manner of seeing and of saying." For some idea of the critical attention the TEF and women's theatre received in the early 1980s, see Works Cited.


12 "WOMEN, ART AND JOY."


13 "We claim we're going to change the world and we can't get along among the four of us?"


14 "Do you remember the seventies when you were forging a completely new esthetic—women on stage, physical, immodest, explosive, no make-up, no wigs, no fancy costumes, we could see their bodies and their muscles and their sweat and their feet, and it all took place in non-traditional spaces with the audience seated in all sorts of strange arrangements, and they could no longer tell whether what they were seeing was 'beautiful' or 'ugly,' there were no more points of reference, they were deeply disturbed."


15 "[W]e define the body as the form adopted by our bodies once they have practiced memory, imagination and appetite."


16WE ARE AFRAID.
WE ARE AFRAID. [...]
We are afraid of committing to the bond, to the fidelity and the responsibility of ... love! We are afraid of committing to the violence! Oh, no, not even physical violence. The violence of what we feel, because what we feel is violent.And we are afraid to identify exactly what it is we feel so violently.
What is going on BETWEEN us?
What are we keeping in the dark?
What is this woman catalysing that is so unbearable, so unspeakable and so, so painful in each one of us? (Joy 41)


17 "The primitive language of the early shows reflected a radical rejection of society and all its cultural manifestations"(Joy 44).


18 "That day I fell into what I now call the true 'state of acting.' A very special physical and psychic state that has become the basis of my research"(Joy 20).


19"It was through oral transmission that women's collective creations were born. Through talk. Girl talk.
By telling each other about our experiences as women, since this material was not yet, or at least rarely, available in books. Also by reinventing, in every day life, new gestures, new behaviour, new languages.[...]
Collective creations were astounding because they reflected the innovations we were bringing to our lives. [...]
Collective creation, at the starting point and at the point of arrival, is not a text, it's bodies in movement, bodies making sounds.[...] (Joy 27-28)


20 In "Le Théâtre expérimental des femmes: essai en trois mouvements" three women of theatre closely associated with the TEF and its audiences took stock in 1985 of its successes and disappointments.


21 "Why is it that the story I am telling you has fallen into oblivion? Why do I have to be the one to tell this story? Why is it that the women who came after me and who built their work on mine act as if that work had never existed?"(Joy 50).


22 "Do you know what I think? I think that we women feel collectively GUILTY, guilty of having shouted so loud and so long in the seventies, even the young women who weren't there, and who imagine that all the problems have been solved, they also feel guilty, guilt is everywhere, in the air, in our bones.I think we really frightened ourselves and we don't dare say anything anymore. [...] I think the women's movement asked fundamental questions that shook all of us, men and women, right down to our very roots, where we struck both the HORROR and the DREAM"(Joy 50).


23"I burned and I screamed. Several times.
In order to light the fire in the public square, you must begin by taking all the dead wood that is inside and throwing it into the flames, Every day, I burn a little more. [...] Hope is a lark in the park ..."


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