B: June 25, 1928 in Montreal, Quebec
D: September 21, 2013 in Huntsville, Ontario
Michel Brault was a writer-editor-director-cinematographer. His first encounter with film production was in 1947, when he helped Claude Jutra complete his first short, Le Dément du Lac Jean-Jeunes. More than fifty years later he directed what he called his last feature, Quand je serai parti… vous vivrez encore (1999) and his last documentary, La Manic (2002). Brault was one of the very few Quebec filmmakers who had remained active since the forties. Beyond his longevity, Brault held a unique posllion in Québec cinema for his key role as eilher director or cinematographer in the production of more than two hundred films. From the short documentaries he directed at the National Film Board of Canada in the late fifties and early sixties to his finest achievements – Pour la suite du monde (1963) and Les ordres (1974) – as well as all the films he photographed for Caude Jutra, Anne Claire Poirier, Francis Mankiewicz and many others, Brault`s oeuvre, when considered in its entirety, provides a most illuminating overview of the hitsory of Québec cinema since the Second World War. In fact, Brault was considered to be Canada’s most gifted cinematographer and an innovative, seminal force in Québec cinema since the 1950s. His early cameraman work with Gilles Groulx, Claude Jutra and Pierre Perrault virtually defines the look of classic Quebec cinema. He became involved with filmmaking while still at university and joined the National Film Board in 1956, working on the celebrated Candid Eye series. From 1961 to 1962 he was in France, where he worked with directors such as Jean Rouch and Mario Ruspoli, and shot the influential Chronique d’un été with Raoul Coutard and others. In France he is considered an originator and one of the purist practitioners of cinéma-vérité. Brault returned to Quebec and the NFB, but quit the Board in 1965 when Pierre Juneau, the director of French production, refused to okay his first fiction feature, Entre la mer et l’eau douce. He went on to have a very successful freelance career in feature films, documentaries, shorts, and television. His cinematography ranges from the gritty cinéma-vérité style of À tout prendre to the lyricism of Kamouraska, and his directorial work from the terse documentary stylings of La Lutte to smoothly proficient television dramas such as Les Noces du papier. He won Canadian Film Awards for his work behind the camera on Mon oncle Antoine and Le Temps d’une chasse, and Genie Awards for his work on Les Bons Débarras and Threshold. Les ordres, which he directed, shot and wrote, won him three more CFAs and he shared the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1975. The film seamlessly fuses documentary and fiction styles while dramatizing the trauma of innocent people caught up in the October Crisis of 1970. It is still regarded as a masterpiece of Canadian cinema. Part of a preface to an interview recorded in 1980 with Claude Jutra, the famed Québec director said this of Brault: “Michel is a cameraman whose contribution is so important as to be equal to that of a film auteur. But he`s not just that. When he wants to, he can also be a film director. And a script writer, while we’re at it. He makes up a story and puts it down on paper. He works out the stage direction. He directs the actors. Beginning with La fleur de l’Age and continuing with Entre la mer et l’eau douce, he reached the apogee of his career with Les ordres. An astounding undertaking. Never has a dissident position been so clearly enunciated in Quebec cinema or indeed in Canadian cinema.”
Michel Brault suffered a heart attack while travelling to the Film North festival in Huntsville, Ontario where he was to receive the Bull’s Eye Lifetime Achievement Award for an award-winning career that included directing the 1974 October Crisis docudrama Les ordres and his work as a cinematographer for the 1971 coming-of-age drama Mon oncle Antoine. He is pictured while attending the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival in Toronto in 2012.
These are Michel Brault’s credits as a director.
Also see: The Île-aux-Coudres Trilogy.
Features & TV Movies:
Les Raquetteurs (1958)
La Lutte (1961)
L’Acadie, l’Acadie (1971
A Freedom to Move (1985)
Montréal vu par… (segment La Dernière partie, 1991)
La Manic (2002, documentary)