(March 24, 2014 – Montréal, Québec) The 16th annual Soirée des Jutra was held last night and, perhaps overshadowed by the Québec election campaign, there was a certain “je ne sais quoi” in the air. A sense that something wasn’t quite right and that the celebration should be a little more buoyant, a little less hesitant. From a perspective beyond Québec`s substantial borders, it would seem that home-grown filmmakers can do no wrong. Inside those borders it was clear that all was not right with the world.
Perhaps Guillaume Cyr said it best when in his acceptance speech, picking up the first Jutra of the night for Best Support Actor in Louis Cyr: l’homme le plus fort du monde, he urged the viewing public to see the films in theatres. “It’s called Québécois cinema not Québécois DVD,” he said, reminding everyone in not so subtle a message that the true measure of the industry`s success is at the box office. He may have inadvertently reminded attendees that the heyday for local cinema has passed and how nice it would be if there could be a tangible turnaround in all their fortunes.
But even if mildly subdued, it was a night to celebrate and Louis Cyr: l’homme le plus fort du monde would give many reason to cheer and feel good about their work. Nominated in 11 categories, the biopic about the legendary Québec strongman ended up sweeping the night winning 9 of the 11 nominations including Best Picture and the coveted billet d’or, or Golden Ticket, which is award to the film with the best box office take.
Antoine Bertrand won the Best Actor Jutra for his portrayal of Louis Cyr and Carmen Alie, who won a Canadian Screen Award added a Jutra for Best Costume also for Louis Cyr.
The producer of Louis Cyr, Christian Larouche, emphasized the need to make movies people want to see when he commented that the province’s filmmakers are making too many depressing movies. “If we tell stories that people want to see, people will come to the cinemas. Certain films are too dark.”
Here at Northernstars we think there might have been another contributing factor last year. Three of the province`s and Canada`s best filmmakers, Denis Villeneuve, Jean-Marc Vallée and Ken Scott were off making films elsewhere. Specifically, Villeneuve was busy with two films, Enemy, for which he received a Best Director nod at the recent Canadian Screen Awards and Prisoners; Vallée directed Dallas Buyers Club which produced a couple of Oscars® earlier this year and Ken Scott was south of the border with Delivery Man, a Hollywood remake of is hit film Starbuck.
It should also be noted, and it was pointed out in a statement from the federal Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official languages, that the industry, if viewed by numbers alone, seems to be healthy. In fact the Jutras received submissions of 173 short- and medium-length fiction films, 39 feature-length fiction films, 36 short- and medium-length animated films, and 29 feature-length documentaries.
Honoured at the Canadian Screen Awards with a Best Picture award, Gabrielle, a story about a developmentally challenged young woman who falls in love with a man in her choir, won five Jutras, including best direction and screenplay for Louise Archambault, best supporting actress for Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and as the Québec film that enjoyed the best box office returns outside of the province. It didn’t do too shabby at home either, although its $1 million take a home was a far cry from Louis Cyr.
In keeping with so much of the atmosphere last night — that is looking back instead of forward — the highlight of the evening had to be the tribute to actress and director Micheline Lanctôt, which was capped by a surprise appearance by director Ted Kotcheff. Always remembered for his classic 1974 film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, it was a thrill for the audience both at the soirée and watching on TV to see the two of them together again.
Speaking in French, Kotcheff stated that Lanctôt was an actress without equal.