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May-June 2023

Goodbye to a towering figure in Québec cinema

The outpouring of tributes to Michel Côté following his death eloquently reflected his iconic stature in Québec movies. Côté was a larger-than-life actor who mattered in Québec's cultural and social life.

The common themes in the praise for Côté included his impressive filmography and his versatility as an actor who ran the gamut from popular comedies such as Cruising Bar, De père en flic (Father and Guns) and Le sens de l'humour (A Sense of Humour) to dramatic roles in C.R.A.Z.Y., Omertà and Piché : entre ciel et terre (Piché: The Landing of a Man).

One thing that wasn't mentioned is the way he helped young filmmakers get their start. He often agreed to play the lead in a young director's first feature, often a low-budget flick. Examples include Richard Roy's Moody Beach, Éric Tessier's Sur le seuil (Evil Words), Alexis Durand-Brault's Ma fille, mon ange (My Daughter, My Angel), and two thrillers shot on paltry $1 million budgets: Liste noire (Black List) by Jean-Marc Vallée and Erreur sur la personne (Mistaken Identity) by Gilles Noël.

Of all these films, the latter is probably the least known and most enigmatic. It was restored by Éléphant in 2020 and will be shown at the Cinémathèque québécoise on June 13 to pay tribute to Michel Côté and give audiences a chance to see another formidable performance by the great actor. The film was released to critical acclaim in 1996 but only 25,000 people saw it in the theatre (Liste noire, released a few months earlier, sold over 200,000 tickets).

Produced by Michel Brault and his daughter Anouk, Erreur sur la personne is a psychological thriller written and directed by Gilles Noël. A beleaguered policeman (Côté) becomes involved with a scheming young kleptomaniac (Macha Grenon). When the film was released, Côté commented that "it begins as a detective story but it soon shifts to a different pace and a higher plane, veering into psychological drama and delving into the heroes' past lives. In some ways, it's like a fable. I really liked the way my character evolved." In a review in Le Devoir on February 10, 1996, Odile Tremblay wrote: "Michel Côté, an actor with real charisma, is very good and the role lets him explore fine shadings. Here, his sensibility is expressed in a subtle register that takes him to new places." 

In an article in La Presse on February 3, 1996, Côté discussed Erreur sur la personne in terms that may shed some light on his liking for first films and low-budget, non-mainstream movies: "It's important that films like this, shot on a shoestring, continue to be made. Otherwise, the American juggernaut may make even us actors lose our taste for more personal work."

In-depth interview with Michel Côté (2020)

Actor Michel Côté talks about his career and his fondness for character roles, his desire to play different types of roles, his favourite characters, his love of comedy and the challenge he set himself throughout his career.

Watch the interview

Erreur sur la personne
(Mistaken Identity)
(Gilles Noël, 1995)

A cop who suffered an ear injury in the line of duty and has to wear a hearing aid is assigned to investigate a string of credit card thefts by a mystery woman. He tracks her down and spies on her to discover her motives. An original thriller about two people haunted by old wounds.

June 13 - Cinémathèque québécoise
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Cinematography by Pierre Mignot

"A cinematographer's job is to put into pictures what the director has in his head." - Pierre Mignot.

Pierre Mignot is unquestionably one of Québec's most respected and prolific cinematographers. Over the course of his career, he has worked with some of the greatest directors in Québec and in the world, and has won numerous awards. He has also been a photographer. It is interesting to note that Mignot was the cinematographer for two of Michel Côté's most memorable roles, in Cruising bar and C.R.A.Z.Y.

Éléphant recently had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a wide-ranging interview. He talked about the road that led him to his profession, his influences and the shoots that have stayed with him. 

Pierre Mignot developed his love of images in childhood. Growing up in Montréal's Little Italy neighbourhood, he got hooked on film at the age of 12 or 13 when a friend invited him over on a rainy day to watch his older brother print and develop photos. In a small bathroom, with the enlarger perched on the toilet seat and the trays in the bathtub, he saw a photograph appear through the developer for the first time and knew that this was what he wanted to do when he grew up. 

Mignot never went to film school. Instead, he went to the school of life and learned on the job. He found himself on a movie set for the first time when he filled in for a sick friend who was the set photographer on Jean-Claude Lord's first feature film, Délivrez-nous du mal (Deliver Us from Evil).

Then he plucked up the courage to offer his services to Michel Brault, who hired him as an assistant editor on the set of Entre la mer et l'eau douce (Drifting Upstream). Mignot went on to work with Brault on several films. Over the years, he has done every job related to cameras. Being keenly interested in documentaries, he worked for many years at the NFB and says he learned a great deal from Bernard Gosselin, who was able to produce beautiful lighting with limited means. While he's happy to have had a successful career in fiction, he regrets that his success meant the end of his work on documentaries. He feels that cinematographers are quickly pigeonholed into one category or another. 

His career as a cinematographer on dramatic features took off with Jean Beaudin's J.A. Martin photographe (J.A. Martin Photographer 1977). The film was screened at Cannes and its female lead Monique Mercure shared the best actress award with Shelley Duval, who won for her role in Robert Altman's 3 Women. Altman saw the film and subsequently contacted Mignot to ask him to work with him. Mignot talks about the relationship he developed with Altman and discusses his work on many Altman films.

He developed similarly close working relationships with a number of other directors, making several films with Jean Beaudin, André Melançon, Léa Pool and Robert Ménard.

In this interview, Mignot talks about some of the films he remembers most fondly, including Gilles Carle's Maria Chapdelaine, Robert Ménard's Cruising Bar, Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. and Robert Favreau's Un dimanche à Kigali (A Sunday in Kigali). 

As he looks back over his filmography, he talks about the working methods he developed, the special bond between cinematographers and actors, and the importance of good collaboration with the production's art director. 

Pierre Mignot concludes with these words: "I've had a great career and I've been lucky. 99% of the time it was a joy to be on the set. I was always happy—happy to arrive on the set in the morning and to light it, to shoot the scene, to be behind the camera. Filming has been my greatest pleasure in life. In fact, when young people who are just starting out ask me what they should do, I always tell them: "Shoot!"

Don't miss this fascinating feature interview on our website.
Discover or rediscover three films shot by Pierre Mignot

J.A. Martin photographe
(J.A. Martin photographer)
(Jean Beaudin, 1977)

At the turn of the century, a wife and mother accompanies her photographer husband on a tour of rural Québec and they rediscover the bond that unites them.

Film fact sheet

Maria Chapdelaine
(Gilles Carle, 1983)

The setting is Péribonka in the early 20th century. Maria Chapdelaine has been promised in marriage to Eutrope Gagnon but her heart belongs to the adventurer François Paradis. Maria also has a third suitor, Lorenzo Surprenant, who doesn't want to go home now that he's met her. During the winter, François dies in the woods. In the end, Maria will resign herself to marrying her betrothed, Eutrope.
Film fact sheet

(André Melançon, 1990)

A thriller about a hold-up and hostage-taking on Christmas Eve while a blizzard rages outside. "The snow is a character in the movie: it prevents people from making headway, holds them prisoner where they are, holds them hostage to themselves and others." (André Melançon)
Film fact sheet
Coming soon
Cinémathèque québécoise
Pas de vacances pour les idoles
August 15 2023
Film fact sheet
Vidéotron / Apple TV
September 2023   
Film fact sheet
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