Distributed by National Film Board of Canada, 1123 Broadway, Suite 307, New York, NY 10010; 800-542-2164
Produced by The National Film Board of Canada/Office national du film du Canada, Nanouk Films Ltée and Christian Medawar
Directed by Michel Brault
DVD, color, 5 DVDs, 13 hrs, 37 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Film Studies, Canadian Studies
Reviewed by K. Johan Oberg, University of Minnesota, Wilson Library, Minneapolis, MN
Date Entered: 1/9/2007
This set of five DVDs from the National Film Board of Canada covers the award-winning Quebecois filmmaker Michel Brault’s first 15 years as a filmmaker, from 1958-1974, though his career has continued into the 21st century.
Michel Brault played an important role in the development of both the cinema verité and cinema direct movements in the 1950s and 1960s. The theme of Brault's cinema direct style was observing. Cinema verité was a version developed in France and involved a clear presence of the filmmaker. In the U.S., cinema direct became known as direct cinema. Brault’s 1958 documentary Les Raquetteurs (The Snowshoers) is often mentioned as a precursor to other cinema verité and cinema direct films. Les Raquetteurs helped him become the cameraman on French anthropologist Jean Rouch's ground-breaking cinema verité film called Chronicles of a Summer (1961). Throughout his career Brault has continued to switch roles between cameraman and director.
Brault has made both documentaries and feature films, and his documentary cinema direct style influenced his feature films. The set includes 13 films by Brault, of which four are feature films and nine are short- or medium-length films, presented in chronological order. Some of the films are made in collaboration with other Canadian filmmakers, and the films are often intimate and wonderfully human portrayals covering topics such professional wrestling, children with hearing loss, remote fishermen, factory workers, student protests, and Francophone identities in Canada.
In addition to the 13 films by Brault, the set also contains two documentaries as a bonus feature, and a 103-page booklet with a filmography, a list of awards, and 33 articles and commentaries in French or English, many of them excerpts from previously published books or articles on Brault and his films.
The two bonus documentaries provide an excellent introduction to Brault’s filmmaking, as well as an overview of 1950s and 1960s Quebecois cinema and the cinema direct style. The first bonus documentary is an interview with Brault, in which he recounts his own emergence and development as a filmmaker, often working closely in a collective fashion with other emerging Quebecois filmmakers. The second documentary places Brault in the larger context of the Quebecois cinema, while still focusing on his role in breaking with the conventions of the largely Anglophone tradition of Canadian cinema at the time to establish a Quebecois cinema.
Many of the films included in the set have not been available in the DVD format before. The set provides an opportunity to learn about an exciting period in the history of film. Because of the vital role Brault played as a filmmaker during this period, the set offers a view of the progression of not only Brault’s filmmaking, but also of larger changes in cinema during this period. Subtitles are available in French and English. It is highly recommended for academic libraries with a film studies program.