1 November 2002 | madsagittarian
In its long form, Claude Jutra's masterpiece.
For my money, this is the masterpiece of the late great director, not MON ONCLE ANTOINE (I even like A TOUT PRENDRE better than that film). The director's anticipated follow-up to ANTOINE was a critical and box-office disappointment. The version everyone saw was a mutilated two-hour print that destroyed Jutra's use of filmic language. But in the early 1980's, when Canadian pay stations were eager to fill up their programming schedules, Jutra found an opportunity to re-cut (and especially lengthen) the film to his original intentions, and so this extended version did play on television to greater acclaim. Sadly, it exists only on video- it is a pity that it was not re-cut on film so future cineastes could see this film in its initial glory in a theatre where it belongs.
Based on the novel by Anne Hebert, this is a stream-of-conscious story about a soon-to-be widowed woman (played by Genevieve Bujold) who, while keeping a bedside vigil for her current ailing husband, reminisces about her an extra-marital affair during her previous marriage to an obsessive jerk. Not only is the content interesting (you see how women are obliged to stand by their man, regardless of how much of a brute he is), but the form is really startling. Jutra effortlessly unfolds two different time frames simultaneously, intercutting them at precise moments. But even so, the transition between the two threads is not connected by dots like Woody Allen's use of flashbacks-- instead, the two timeframes shift like a stream-of-conscious flow, much like the fleeting mind would unfold them. In that regard, this film feels much like a novel (perhaps the film's original novel is like this -I haven't read it- but it also begs comparison to Henry Miller's flow of language in "Tropic of Cancer").
Set in a remote Quebec location at the turn of the century, like many of Jutra's films, it shows one's placement with the landscape. The isolated snow-blown hills illustrate the same isolation between people amidst this barren wasteland, where any human contact is welcome under these circumstances- destructive or otherwise.