Crime and blandishment

Marci McDonald September 25 1978

Crime and blandishment

Marci McDonald September 25 1978

Crime and blandishment

Working conditions in Canada? Rather better than in France,” wrote French film director Claude Chabrol in the weekly Pariscope, adding that among the Canadian actors and crew he has taken a shine to lately, the team spirit was “so obvious that it touched me.” So obvious, in fact, that after Chabrol shot his currently released thriller, Blood Relatives (with Donald Sutherland, Donald Pleasance, David Hemmings and Canadian actress Lisa Langlois) in Montreal, the director promptly imported Langlois and a dozen other Canadians to France to work on his next film, Violette Nozière. The film’s star, Isabelle Huppert, went on to share the Best Actress Award at Cannes with Jill Clayburgh, and Violette Nozière chalked up a success at the French box-office, but Chabrol’s proCanadian remarks did not elicit any team spirit from the French.

In a bitter rebuke entitled Merde à Chabrol (politely rendered as “excre-

ment on Chabrol”), Paris cinematographer Guy Chabanis blasted the director for failing to support his compatriots, pointing out that 80 per cent of French film technicians were already out of work. “Is it true, then? Have I read correctly?” he raged. “Do you want the field of cinematography to disappear?” “They were furious,” marvels Chabrol, astonished at finding himself embroiled in Franco-Canadian rivalries. “But it’s true, the Canadians were very enthusiastic. In France, we’re a little jaded in the cinema world. And in Montreal, I found Normand Belair,

the best prop man I’ve ever known.” Well, blame New York. The controversy began innocently enough with Chabrol’s search for a location for Blood Relatives that would be “like New York—but not New York.” The 48-yearold director, who has been responsible for some of the screen’s most sardonic, bloodcurdling thrillers (Le Boucher, La Femme infidèle), explained that “the thought of working in New York terrified me. I was sure I would be mugged.” Equally wary of crossing the language barrier after two disastrous attempts to make movies in English, the obvious answer was Montreal—“the most American French-speaking town I know.” Back home, the critics are coming around, Chabrol insists, but more than anything else, the controversy serves to underline the current fragility of the French film industry—once considered a sort of cinematic utopia—which has now lost so much blood that one director, asked to comment on it, put it this

way: “What French film industry?” Despite the feelings his decision may arouse in France, Chabrol has slated his next two scripts for North American locations. One of them, a suspense saga called Nightride, is due to unroll between Toronto and Vancouver sometime in the coming year. “I’d prefer to work in France,” he says, “but you have very good crimes in Canada—much better than we do here.”

Marci McDonald

It’s been nice—too nice

I think Barbara Amiel is mistaken when she says in her column that Canadian artists have insufficient National Guilt to generate creativity, These Foreigners Ought to Thank Us for Helping Them Suffer for Their Art (August 21). I think the treatment of the Indians and the Métis throughout Canadian history, along with the treatment of the Japa-

nese during the Second World War have provided plenty of material for feelings of guilt. The problem with Canadian creativity lies in what I feel to be almost a national religion: before anything else Canadians must always be nice. The same way Americans are thought of as loud, and the French as great lovers, Canadians are thought of as nice. I think greater creative strides will be made when Canadians realize that like

everyone else, they have not always been nice, but have quite often been interesting, which is much more important.


Don’t rain on our parade

I feel your article on the Commonwealth Games, It's All in the Games (July 24), made Edmonton look like a cheap, impoverished hick town instead of praising it for producing such good facilities without all the glitter and garbage that was evident in the ’76 Olympics. In Edmonton, people are proud of the use made of existing facilities and the fact that the planning went so well. Furthermore, I put five months of long, tedious, tiring practice into the opening ceremonies, which Roy MacGregor calls “gaudy.” I resent mine and everybody’s hard work being put down.



Three cheers for Judith Timson’s article, Bounce for Glory (August 21), on the recent growth of the bump and grind in the Canadian Football League. I have watched the phenomenon with growing dismay. As a reasonably attractive woman in a professional career still heavily dominated by men I am constantly struggling to be accepted as an equal, not only as an attractive woman. I like to think I’m helping other women by changing the attitudes of some of the men I meet through work. This makes my struggle well worthwhile. But women like these quasicheerleaders, who seem to believe that the pinnacle of success is to have their bodies leered at by hundreds of football fans, make me wonder whether women’s biggest barrier in the equality issue is not the male of the species but themselves.


It saddened me to see that football clubs are promoting the use of women in the way described in your article on cheerleading. The women concerned enjoy displaying their sexuality in public, and the men in the stands enjoy the show. The men are aroused in a sexual way and can indulge these sensations, while the women involved thrive on the feelings of power that come from knowing the audience is captivated by them.


Love’s labor leased

Your article about the legal status of unmarried couples, The Lady ’s Not for Burning... Or Is She? (August 21), has confirmed my long-harbored suspicion that the women’s liberation movement has spread a plague or neurosis instead of the independence and self-fulfilment once touted as its goals. Whatever happened to the poor old “meaningful relationship” we used to hear so much about? It appears to be reduced to a mere convenient arrangement, which seems to run along the lines of, “If you do the laundry, you get to keep the canary when we split up.” Before today’s women entirely stamp out the self-respecting male, or at least force him into hiding, they would do well to consider another near-extinct phenomenon. It used to be called love. God only knows what it means now.


Too short a shrift

I found Lawrence O’Toole’s review of Bruce Cockburn’s new album in For the Record (August 21) to be particularly offensive. To try to sum up in two or three sentences an album such as this is absurd and unfair to the musician who obviously put in much time and effort to produce it. I know many people who do not love Cockburn as I do but none would deny that he is a brilliant guitarist and, at least, an interesting lyricist.


It’s the rail thing

It was encouraging to read that our travel experts have finally devised an alternative to the monotony of flying, namely the VIA passenger train, described in your article, Back on the Tracks (August 7). Train travel is one of the most enjoyable ways of seeing Canada’s open spaces. A good example is the southern tree line along the Lake Superior route which meanders through the world’s biggest Christmas tree lot, and gets you from Toronto to Winnipeg in about 30 hours. (At some airports you may wait almost that long for your baggage.) People wave as you pass the mill towns, and you can spot a clothesline hanging from a clapboard cottage. I can only hope that the meal service will stay at the unpretentious level of Canadian Pacific’s The Canadian where a waiter once told me, “For dessert we got C.P.R. pie—apple or cherry.”