Rails of romance

Brian D. Johnson July 1 1994

Rails of romance

Brian D. Johnson July 1 1994

Rails of romance

No matter where she is, film-maker Léa Pool always feels she is from somewhere else. Her cultural identity, like Canada’s, is a collage. She grew up in Switzerland, a nation that has made a science of multiculturalism. Now, having lived in Montreal for 19 years, she is a Canadian who is still not at ease speaking English—and a Québécois who speaks French with a European accent. But it would be hard to find a more Canadian movie than Pool’s latest feature, Mouvements du désir: a romance between two French-speaking strangers who meet on the train to Vancouver.

The railway is Canada’s original symbol of national unity. But these days, a passenger train is more “for dreaming than for transport,” says Pool. “The train belongs to the same era as the cinema, and both are endangered. American movies are doing fine, but our national cinema is in jeopardy.”

In her own films, particularly Mouvements du désir, the characters are trying to communicate across a strange distance. “I have a

fascination with space that wouldn’t strike someone who is from here, this immense space that takes four days to cross,” says Pool. After two decades, she still regards her surroundings as slightly foreign. “People say they’ve never seen Montreal look the way it does in my films. For me, it looks like it has been bombed.”

Pool’s existential vision, with its accent on alienation, bears more resemblance to that of EnglishCanadian directors than of her Quebec colleagues. “I feel much closer to Patricia Rozema and Atom Egoyan than to Denys Arcand,” she acknowledges. But her affection for Quebec is strong enough that she is sympathetic, on some level, to the independence movement: “I feel that Quebec culture is in real danger.” In the event of a referendum, she says, “I have a greater inclination to say k Yes, because it’s important to give us g our place.”

1 Yet Pool has qualms about nationg alism. “Frontiers bother me. I’d

2 rather open up than close things down. So it’s neither a Yes, nor a No with eyes closed. It has a lot to do with how and when the question is

posed.” And if Quebec becomes independent, she wonders if that might rob its artists of their raison d’être. “Creativity comes from the lack of something. If there is no need to defend anything, there isn’t the same drive to create.”

BRIAN D. JOHNSON