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May 2022

Louise Portal, Iris Tribute 2022: Career interview with a towering figure in Québec cinema

Actress, singer, writer and lover (by her own description) Louise Portal celebrates a 50-year career milestone this year. From the 1970s to the present day, she has been one of Québec's hardest-working actors. Over the years, we have watched her evolve from young Gigi in Taureau (1972) to, most recently, the grandmother Lisette in Paul à Québec. In all, Portal has appeared in more than 40 feature films and 20 shorts, playing roles in a wide range of styles and registers. She is a powerhouse of Québec cinema whose performances have left their mark on our collective imagination. At the Gala Québec Cinéma on June 5, she will receive the 2022 Iris tribute award for lifetime achievement.

Louise Portal generously took the time to tell us about her passion for her art. She discussed her prolific career, starting with the childhood artistic ambitions that led her to leave her native Saguenay at the age of 18 to study in Montréal and realize her dream.

Vivid memories

She was moved as she recalled one of the high points of her career, an event that was a moment of revelation:

"My brightest memory is the making of Taureau. I found out what it's like to be on a film set for x weeks. I worked with André Melançon, who played the role of Taureau, and the memory that has stayed with me—I often talk about it—is the scene in which Gigi, my character, throws herself into the river fully clothed.
"Afterwards—I have such a distinct memory of this—I thought, this is life! The wind, the water against my body, the birds....I thought, is this what cinema is? This is amazing! I'm home!"

After this eye-opening role, she quickly chose her path and turned down several offers because she wanted to explore a range of emotional worlds through different women and different roles.

In this exclusive interview, Portal told us about two other memorable roles that she found particularly rewarding and which long stayed with her: Cordélia Viau in Cordélia (Jean Beaudin, 1979) and Diane in Le déclin de l'empire américain (The Decline of the American Empire, Denys Arcand, 1986). She also discussed the films Mourir à tue-tête (A Scream from Silence), Larose, Pierrot et la Luce, Mes meilleurs copains (My Best Pals), Tinamer, Les amoureuses, Quand je sera parti.. vous vivrez encore (The Long Winter), L'odyssée d'Alice Tremblay (Alice's Odyssey), Les invasions barbares (The Barbarian Invasions), Vers le sud (Heading South), Le garagiste, Les loups, Paul à Québec and Il pleuvait des oiseaux (And the Birds Rained Down).

She recounted how she came to write songs, how she became a singer, made 5 albums and spent 13 years in the music industry—years she remembers fondly.

With wit and charm, she traipses through the decades and shares anecdotes about her most memorable shoots and most decisive encounters. A fascinating interview with a great and multitalented artist.

Éléphant has digitized and restored 7 feature films in which viewers can appreciate Louise Portal's unique talent.

See her complete filmography (dramatic feature films)
In-depth interview with Louise Portal
Actress, singer and writer Louise Portal talks about her prolific career, her defining experiences, her most memorable roles and her approach to acting.
Watch the interview
15 février 1839 to be screened at the Montréal International History Film Festival

From May 18 to 22, 2022, the Montréal International History Film Festival (FIFHM), now in its fourth year, will show more than 70 history films, including shorts and feature-length movies running the gamut from documentaries to art-house films. The program includes screenings at the Cinémathèque québécoise and an online selection. On Saturday, May 21 at 8:15 pm, Éléphant will present the restored version of one of Pierre Falardeau's greatest films, 15 février 1839 (February 15, 1839, 2001). 

Falardeau wanted to make a political film about the last 24 hours in the lives of two Patriotes, based on the letters and last testament of the Chevalier de Lorimier. He and Charles Hindelang were charged with treason and sentenced be hanged by the British authorities. 15 février 1839 is the product of the determination and resilience of a filmmaker and the people around him. Despite financing challenges, the film was made, thanks to the support of a citizens' committee and several prominent personalities.

A stellar cast, including Luc Picard and Sylvie Drapeau, came together to make 15 février 1839. It is a film about memory which calls on viewers not to forget the struggle of the Patriotes, their spirit and their yearning. It is thanks to them that this country which is not a country still exists today, and its culture continues to flourish.

Visit the FIFHM website

Film fact sheet with rental links.
Doux aveux to be screened at the Cinémathèque québécoise with Fernand Dansereau in attendance on May 23
After landing at the NFB by chance after several years as a journalist with Le Devoir, Fernand Dansereau began an impressive 65-year career in film and television as a producer, screenwriter and director. Today, at the age of 94, he is still working on film projects. On May 28, he will receive Canada's highest honour in the arts, the Governor General's Award. For the occasion, Éléphant presents the newly restored version of his feature film Doux aveux (Sweet Lies and Loving Oaths) as part of its monthly big-screen screenings at the Cinémathèque. Doux aveux was released 40 years ago, on September 10, 1982.

After directing the ambitious feature film Le festin des morts (Mission of Fear) at the NFB in 1965, followed by the intimate short fiction film Ça n'est pas le temps des romans (This Is No Time for Romance) in 1967, Fernand Dansereau spent the next 15 years exploring social intervention cinema. He cofounded the NFB's Social Research Group with Robert Forget and went on to direct a number of social intervention films, from Saint-Jérôme to Thetford au milieu de notre vie, a fictional film about the world of miners shot with amateur actors. He supervised and inspired many other social intervention and collective projects, and co-directed the documentary series Un pays, un goût, une manière... with Iolande Cadrin-Rossignol. 

In 1982, Dansereau returned to conventional fiction cinema with Doux aveux. Shot in Québec City using young local technicians with little experience in the movies (Dansereau is a teacher/mentor by nature) and based on a screenplay that grew out of writing workshops he led for young screenwriters, including his son Bernard and actor/comic Dominique Lévesque, the film explores generational conflicts and the bonds that eventually develop between two elderly people (Marcel Sabourin and Hélène Loiselle) and their grandchildren (Gilbert Turp and Geneviève Brassard). The late André Melançon played the Hélène Loiselle character's son-in-law.

Doux aveux, the first film by Dansereau to be restored by Éléphant, posed some colour-correction challenges, mainly because of the dominance of shades of green in the cinematography, green being the most difficult colour to process in cinema. The film was restored from a 35mm interpositive and a 35mm negative optical sound.

The restored version of Doux aveux will be screened at the Cinémathèque québécoise on May 23 at 6:30 p.m. with Fernand Dansereau in attendance. It will be made available on illico, Helix, iTunes and AppleTV in the following weeks.
Buy tickets
Film fact sheet
Le festin des morts, Fernand Dansereau first dramatic feature, will also be added to the Éléphant catalogue and will be available on the same platforms as of May 31. 
Coming soon
Vidéotron / Apple TV
Où êtes-vous donc?
May 31
Film fact sheet
Vidéotron / Apple TV
Et du fils
May 31   
Film fact sheet
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