YVONNE COX March 30 1987


YVONNE COX March 30 1987



When a Quebec contingent of 25 movie actors and film-makers boarded Air Canada Flight 405 in Montreal for Toronto and the 1987 Genie Awards, their pilot made a special announcement: he wished them good luck, in both official languages. Less

than a decade ago the chance of a pilot recognizing his film industry passengers would have been slim, at best. Then, Canadian films were limited

generally to earnest National Film Board documentaries and Quebec feature films that English-speaking viewers rarely saw, if indeed they had even heard of them. And film award nights usually honored movies that few people would see because Canadian-produced movies received poor distribution in theatres across the country. But at the 1987 Genies there was no sign of the Canadian film industry’s dowdy beginnings. At a cocktail party on the 33rd floor of a downtown Toronto hotel, guests clad in black tie or sequinned gowns sipped champagne, nibbled crab and

talked confidently about the movies, stars and film-makers nominated for that evening’s awards ceremony. Canadians were able to share in the March 18 celebrations through the CBC TV broadcast of the twohour-and-20-minute awards show with actress Helen Shaver, two-time Genie winner Linda Sorensen and TV soap opera star Jean LeClerc sharing hosting duties. Actors Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Dale, Barry Morse, AI Waxman and Margot Kidder made cameo appearances. For the movie-industry insiders and hangers-on who converged on the Metro

Toronto Convention Centre for the gala, the occasion was a time to bask in what movie critics throughout the world are calling the maturing of the Canadian movie industry. The prime example of the coming-of-age is the international success of Quebec director Denys Arcand’s Oscar-nominated sex comedy, Decline of the American Empire, which captured eight Genies. Not only is the film a hit with English-Canadian viewers, but it has been shown and acclaimed in 32 countries, grossing more than $18 million. Now a major Hollywood studio, Para-

mount Pictures Corp., is proposing an American remake. Declared the film’s coproducer, René Malo: “Decline is a turning point.” Added Arcand, as he relaxed at a bar backstage after picking up two Genies: “Not bad for something that started out as an experimental film for the National Film Board.”

rom the moment he arrived in Toronto for the Genie Awards, Quebec movie director Denys Arcand was the toast of the town. And Arcand, whose sophisticated French-language sex comedy, Decline of the American Empire,

collected eight Genie awards, two of which—for best director and for best original screenplay—went to him personally, returned the compliment. After receiving the screenplay prize, he thanked the city of Toronto and its film critics for supporting Decline from the start. “I first knew the film would do better than a two-week run when I saw the enthusiasm of the Toronto critics at Cannes last spring,” he had told Maclean's earlier, “and then the response from filmgoers at the Toronto Festival of Festivals last fall was so warm, so unbelievable.” Among Decline's six other Genies were best supporting actor, won by his younger brother, Gabriel, and best supporting actress, Louise Portal. And if there had been a prize for most popular person at awards night, the 45-year-old Arcand would have won that too. Well-wishers surrounded him during two days of pre-award dinners and cocktail parties, while Decline cast members raved about his writing and directing talents. Said Rémy Girard, nominated for best actor for his role as a philandering husband: “The characters were intelligent people, which is unusual in movie scripts. Seldom do you have people who are so articulate.”

Yves Jacques, nominated for best supporting actor for playing a homosexual in the movie, lauded Arcand’s directorial finesse. Said Jacques:

“Denys is so cool it’s incredible. He has such confidence in what he is doing. He is great with actors because he keeps all the worrying about the film to himself.”

Added Decline coproducer Roger Frappier:

“Denys made no compromise in the writing, the shooting or the editing. Like the films of Woody Allen or Ingmar Bergman, it’s a film totally without compromise.”

In Decline, the comic, frank and often darkly cynical discussion of their sex lives by the characters sets the movie apart from other movies concerned with sex. According to René Malo, the movie’s other coproducer, viewers are not neutral about Decline. Said Malo: “For some people, it’s a very light comedy. For others, it’s the saddest film they’ve seen in their lives—it’s life, and a lot of people don’t want to accept life like it is.” Talking to reporters backstage at the awards, Frappier de-

fended the frank talk about sex that some people say they have found offensive. “Québécois always talk about sex at the dinner table,” Frappier explained. “Denys says that he has never been to a dinner party where people didn’t talk about sex for at least 20 minutes.” Still, for all its open discussion of the sexual adventures of its characters, Arcand said that Decline may be “a period piece.” He added, “One American critic suggested to me that the movie will be considered as the last pre-AIDS film —and the end of an era.”

For a director whose movie dominated the award night, Arcand—a 25-year veteran of the Quebec film industryremained characteristically modest, often displaying a dry sense of humor. When actress Margot Kidder presented him with a $5,000 cheque and said, “I’m not sure you need this, given the success of your film,” Arcand replied, “Do you want to see my bank account?” And amid predictions from international film critics that Decline will win the Oscar for best foreign-language film on March 30, Arcand said: “I was honored when I met a very old man in Los Angeles recently. It was Julius Epstein, who wrote the screenplay for Casablanca, and he told me I could write. To me, that’s enough. Now I can retire.”

ewfoundland-born Gordon Pinsent,

56, has demonstrated versatility and virtuosity during a 33year career as an actor, writer and director. Still, most Canadians know him as an actor who brings passionate conviction to his roles—and on Genie Award night he was rewarded for doing just that. Although Pinsent was nominated as best writer for his John and, the Missus screenplay, it was Pinsent the actor who collected an award. The choice of Pinsent as best actor in a leading role for his portrayal of John, a

Newfoundland miner who is stubbornly attached to his outport birthplace, received one of the warmest receptions of the evening. For his part, Pinsent said: “We offered this role to a great many actors, but they were all too old, or too young, or too rich, or too dead. We were running out of time, so I had to play it.”

Acclaimed stage actress Martha Henry has appeared in only two feature films, but each time she has won a Genie award for best actress in a leading role. Her first Genie was for her performance in the 1983 movie The Wars, based on a novel by Timothy Findley. The second is for her compelling portrayal of Edna in Dancing in the Dark, a role Henry describes as “the kind that comes along once in a lifetime.” In the psychologically probing movie based on an acclaimed novel by London, Ont., writer Joan Barfoot, Henry plays a compulsive housewife who kills her husband in a moment of murderous rage. Henry, 49, said that making Dancing in the Dark proved revealing for the women on the set. “Secretly, away from the men on the shoot, we began to discuss our own drive to achieve perfection in relationships by trying to make ourselves perfect,” she said. “We all could identify with my character, a woman who lives entirely through someone else—and we were all women with careers.”