Pauline Julien, intimate and political
| 77 min 39 s
Selections and Awards
Pauline Julien would have been 90 years old in 2018. Twenty years after her death, the latest documentary by Pascale Ferland captures the essence of the iconic Quebec singer—a passionately committed and eternally free spirit. Composed of a meticulous selection of interviews, performances and photos drawn from a vast and rich archival collection, Pauline Julien, Intimate and Political follows Julien on a journey from the 1950s to the 1990s. Uncompromising and at times vulnerable, the artist tells her story through personal anecdotes, songs and excerpts from her diary. As the filmmaker sketches the arc of Julien’s extraordinary life, including her relationship with poet Gérald Godin, she offers a memorable lesson in Quebec history, painting a portrait of an inspiring woman whose sovereigntist and feminist ideals continue to resonate today.
A word from the filmmaker
Pauline Julien would have been 90 years old in 2018. Twenty years after her death, the singer continues to project the image of an eternally youthful woman, unwaveringly free and passionately in love. The contagious smile, the wild hair—this is how the fiery muse of feminism and sovereignty appears, from one decade to the next, in Pascale Ferland’s new documentary. The filmmaker sketches an original and introspective portrait, plunging at times dreamily into the psyche of a complex woman of deep convictions.
And who better to talk about Pauline Julien than the songwriter, composer and singer herself? Through a meticulous selection of interviews, performances and photos, drawn from a vast and rich archival collection, Pauline Julien, Intimate and Political takes us on a journey from the 1950s through the 1990s, following in the footsteps of this icon of Quebec song. Uncompromising, genuine and intense, the artist tells her story candidly through personal anecdotes, songs, and excerpts from her diary.
As a counterpoint to these archives, Pascale Ferland shifts the camera’s gaze toward visual artist Alan Glass, Pauline’s closest friend, who, with great emotion, reveals lesser-known moments of the singer’s life that he had been privileged to witness. Glass starts by recalling a train trip he took with the singer. Pauline was weeping, staring off at the horizon, and he asked her what was wrong. “This…! This…!” she answered, gesturing at the vastness of the countryside. Referring to the novel L’avalée des avalés [The Swallower Swallowed] by Réjean Ducharme, Glass evokes the endless anguish that drove this deeply sensitive artist.
Born in Trois-Rivières on May 23, 1928, Pauline Julien devoted herself to becoming an actor. In 1950, she married actor Jacques Galipeau, with whom she would have two children. From 1951 to 1957, Pauline lived in Paris, where she acted on stage and sang in cabarets. On the Pont des Arts bridge, we see her sing about love with the cheekiness of Édith Piaf and the elegance of Jeanne Moreau.
After conquering France with songs by Ferré, Vian and Weil, Julien returned to Quebec, where she mesmerized audiences with the lyrics of Vigneault, Langevin and Lévesque, whom she would later introduce to the French. “Pauline Julien is a tough little tree, at once knotty and fragile, who captures you through a spirit and obstinacy that we call presence,” wrote smitten journalist Jacques Godin in Le Nouvelliste in 1961.
After separating from Jacques Galipeau, Julien confirmed in an interview that she had no regrets, as in the song. She also confessed her admiration for Marilyn Monroe and the extreme sensitivity that comes across in her films and songs. “Her death affected me deeply. In a way, I understood her. I understand people who commit suicide…” she confided, as if envisioning her own fate.
Although she consistently refused to be a committed protest singer, the nationalist wave that swept 1960s Quebec—as well as meeting poet Gérald Godin, who would be her husband until death parted them—transformed Pauline Julien. Already an ardent feminist, she would embrace the nationalist cause. Around the same time, she began writing her own songs. Worshipped in Quebec and English Canada alike, she would vigorously defend, in charmingly flawed English, her nationalist convictions to journalist Patrick Watson during a visit to the Queen City.
Even as she recounts Julien’s incredible destiny and love story with Godin, drawing on his poetry and excerpts from their ample correspondence of more than 500 letters, set against a backdrop of jazz that gives the couple a French New Wave allure, Pascale Ferland delivers a vibrant lesson in Quebec history. In so doing, the filmmaker gives new life to the songs immortalized by Pauline. When she sings “Bozo les culottes” in the aftermath of the FLQ and the War Measures Act, in which Julien and Godin became ensnared, or “La danse à Saint-Dilon,” after Godin was elected in the Mercier riding in 1976, or “Mommy,” following the failed 1980 referendum, each song assumes its full meaning.
Claimed by brain cancer in 1994, Gérald Godin left his muse and companion to mourn after 32 years of shared life. Four years later, suffering from degenerative aphasia, she killed herself. “It already seems so very, very long ago. It’s the fate that awaits us all. We will all be forgotten,” Alan Glass declares as he discusses his dear friend’s suicide on October 1, 1998. All of us? Not Pauline, who remains forever young and free in Pascale Ferland’s moving documentary.
I met Pascale Galipeau, daughter of the late singer Pauline Julien, in 1999, not long after her mother’s death. Stricken with degenerative aphasia, Pauline, an icon of a defining era in Quebec history, had already retired from the public scene years earlier. The idea of a film crossed my mind then, but the family was reeling. I felt it wasn’t the right time, and besides, Pascale had sealed her mother’s archives for 10 years.
In the fall of 2014, I went through my old notebooks, and I rediscovered a few entries about Pauline Julien. Over the decades, memory of her had faded, as it has for most of the players in Quebec’s Quiet Revolution.
So, I reconnected with Pascale to propose a film about her mother. I had no intention of idolizing Pauline, as Pascale feared. Rather, I wanted to underscore her strength of character, independent spirit, and her artistic, social and political commitment. This angle also allowed me to revisit a pivotal time in our history from a woman’s perspective.
Straightaway, Pascale gave me access to career and family archives, excerpts from the diaries Pauline had penned from her early years until her death, as well as love letters between her and Gérald Godin, which spanned some 30 years. How do you approach so much information, both private and public, and shape it into an original film that reflects such a rich life? That was my biggest challenge.
From the outset, I decided not to build my film around current-day interviews, but instead to use archival footage and photographs. Only Alan Glass, whom Pauline had met in her 20s, and with whom she remained friends until her death, occasionally interjects in the story.
Adored in Europe and respected in English Canada, despite her strong positions on feminism, the French language and Quebec independence, Pauline Julien was a ubiquitous presence in the media of the day, and I hoped to find enough material so that she could speak for herself. So, I set about searching a very broad spectrum—in every country involved—to reconstruct her artistic and political journey.
Pauline’s inner world was the hardest part to convey on film. But she had taken up the habit of writing to calm her fears. So, it was through her diaries and correspondence with Gérald Godin that a dreamier, more metaphorical film treatment took shape. This allowed me to explore the evolution of both Pauline’s political struggle and, on a much more personal level, her battle with illness. Her lover, Gérald Godin, was claimed by a brain tumour at age 56, shortly after Quebec’s first referendum on independence, on October 12, 1994. It was at this trying time that her own illness, degenerative aphasia, became known, a condition Pauline had long kept secret. After witnessing the failure of the second referendum in 1995 and the waning of the idea of Quebec independence that followed, Pauline, gradually deprived of words, grew weaker, and committed suicide on October 1, 1998.
This daunting project has resulted in a highly personal film. Not just because it was conceived free of any constraints, but because I had the honour of getting to better know Pauline Julien, a woman whose defence of a more just and inclusive Quebec inspires and resonates strongly across generations.
Photo : Anna Lupien
Pascale Ferland studied visual arts at UQAM, where she made several videos, including the award-winning experimental short Dormir ou une allégorie sur le sommeil (1995). After completing her bachelor’s degree in 1995 and devoting herself to sculpture, she made a short fiction film, Un peu, beaucoup, passionnément (1996), and later worked with Stéphane Gregory to shoot the experimental short Et vogue la galère (1998). In 2001, she made the medium-length documentary Palmerino. This was followed in 2003 by L’immortalité en fin de compte (Something Like Immortality), a Jutra finalist for best documentary that also screened at several festivals in Canada and abroad, including the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) and Visions du réel (Switzerland). This first feature looked at outsider-art environments and specifically at the works of Lionel Thériault, Léonce Durette and Roger Ouellette.
In 2003, she founded Qui vivra verra films to produce her own works, including L’arbre aux branches coupées (Tree with Severed Branches, 2005), a feature documentary about two men who lived under the Soviet regime. Despite being abandoned by the system, they find happiness in drawing and painting. The film screened at several national and international festivals, including RIDM, Hot Docs and Visions du réel.
After independent distributor Cinéma Libre closed down in 2005, Pascale Ferland co-founded non-profit art-film distributor Les Films du 3 mars in order to become more actively engaged. In 2008, she made the feature documentary Adagio pour un gars de bicycle (Adagio for a Biker). Selected as the closing film at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois (RVCQ), this portrait of late filmmaker René Bail (Les désœuvrés) was, like its predecessors, critically acclaimed and screened at many festivals both here and abroad. In 2006, she made two archival short films, Tourne ta langue and Le pays, c’est l’pays, produced by the NFB for an exhibition on the history of Quebec film at the Musée de la civilisation de Québec. In 2007, she received the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award (media arts) from the Canada Council for the Arts for the exceptional quality of her work. She collaborated in 2009 with Karina Soucy, Guillaume Lévesque and Thomy Laporte on the experimental documentary TER. The four filmmakers paint an intimate portrait of eastern Quebec, for which Pascale Ferland contributed the segment Greetings from Gaspesia.
In 2012, she wrote, directed and produced her first fiction feature, Ressac (Riptide). Inspired by the closure of the Gaspésia paper plant in Chandler, the film tells the story of a teenager (Clémence Dufresne-Deslières), her mother (Nico Lagarde) and grandmother (Muriel Dutil) after the tragic death of the girl’s father (Bobby Beshro). In 2016, she participated in the Atelier Grand Nord to begin writing her second fiction feature, Rapace, produced by Unité centrale. Set north of the 55th parallel, this film, currently in development, is about a white teenager who, after racking up debts and living a carefree life with his Inuit friend, sees his destiny transformed when he meets a researcher specializing in falcons. The NFB produced Pascale Ferland’s most recent feature documentary, Pauline Julien, intime et politique (Pauline Julien, Intimate and Political, 2018), which tells the story of the life and work of the iconic Quebec singer and her strong feminist and sovereigntist beliefs.
Photo : Michel La Veaux
Following her university studies in communication and film, Johanne Bergeron embarked on a career in the private sector. During a successful stint at Vent d’Est Films from 1992 to 1999, she produced such films as La République des Beaux-Arts – La Malédiction de la momie / The Republic of Fine Arts – The Curse of the Mummy (1998) by Claude Laflamme and Les survivants de l’apocalypse (1998) by the late Richard Boutet.
In 1999, she joined the National Film Board of Canada’s French Program as a line producer, working in close collaboration with producers Nicole Lamothe and Yves Bisaillon. She was subsequently put in charge of national and international co-productions and was appointed to the position of producer in 2007. In 2009, she joined the Quebec Studio where she continues to develop documentary film projects. Over the years, she has produced a number of films, including Junior (I. Lavigne and S. Thibault, 2007; Best Canadian Feature Documentary award, Hot Docs), Shots in the Dark (L. Moreco, 2008), The Battle of Rabaska (M. Duckworth and M. Isacsson, 2009), The Coca-Cola Case (G. Gutierrez and C. Garcia, 2009), They Think I’m Chinese! (N. Giguère, 2011) and, more recently, Triptych (R. Lepage and P. Pires, 2013) and Guidelines (J.-F. Caissy, 2014), which has been screened the world over, from Berlin to New York.
For the 75th anniversary of the NFB, Bergeron produced the content for the Making Movie History: A Portrait in 61 Parts website (D. Desjardins and J. Robertson), which went online in 2014, as well as The Red Path by Thérèse Ottawa, the first film resulting from the Tremplin NIKANIK competition.
Since 2008, Bergeron has also been responsible for the ACIC (Aide au cinéma indépendant – Canada) Unit, which provides support to many filmmakers year after year, enabling them to complete their films. They Dance at Night (I. Lavigne and S. Thibault, 2012), The Sower (J. Perron, 2014) and The Work of Days (B. Baillargeon, 2014) are eloquent examples that have been acclaimed at festivals.
In addition to serving on the board of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) from 2002 to 2006, Bergeron expanded the partnership between the NFB and the René-Malo Chair at UQAM through the creation of a competition for most promising documentary filmmaker in 2010. In 2014, she brought the NFB, SODEC and the Conseil des arts de Montréal together to launch the Regard sur Montréal residency for culturally diverse emerging filmmakers.
Executive Producer (NFB)
Photo : NFB
Colette Loumède began her career at the Coop Vidéo de Montréal, a group that has had a significant impact on Quebec cinema. Alongside Robert Morin, Lorraine Dufour, Jean-Pierre St-Louis, Louis Bélanger and others, she learned every aspect of the film trade long before becoming the veteran producer she is today.
Currently the head of the French Program Documentary Studio at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Loumède is known for producing documentaries that stand out for both their subject matter and artistry. Her productions have screened at many of the world’s top festivals, including Hot Docs, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the Berlin International Film Festival, Visions du réel, Sundance, and the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM).
Loumède’s work is driven by a desire to produce films with meaningful content by auteurs intent on addressing the important issues of the day. She has worked with Serge Giguère, Richard Desjardins, Patricio Henriquez, Hugo Latulippe, Benoît Pilon, Sophie Deraspe, Zaynê Akyol, Claude Demers, Jean-François Caissy and many other contemporary Quebec directors.
Over the course of her career, Loumède has collaborated with a wide range of groups and people. She was responsible for analyzing documentary projects for SODEC, Quebec’s public film-financing body, and founded and led the documentary program at the Institut national de l’image et du son de Montréal (INIS), Quebec’s foremost professional cinema training institute. She is actively involved with the Documentary Network, RIDM and other festivals across multiple genres, and has regularly served on panels, juries, and many domestic and international platforms devoted to promoting auteur documentary.
RESEARCHED, WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
CRISTOBAL JASSO AGUILAR
FRANCESCO JAVIER REYNA LUCERO
TECHNICAL SUPPORT – EDITING
TITLE DESIGN AND INFOGRAPHICS
JACQUES BERTRAND SIMARD
SYLVIE MARIE FORTIER
JEAN PAUL VIALARD
MUSIC AND NARRATIVE RECORDINGS
DRUMS PERCUSSION PIANO VIBRAPHONE
BARITONE SAXOPHONE BRASS ARRANGEMENTS
JOURNAUX INTIMES DE PAULINE JULIEN
© PASCALE AND NICOLAS GALIPEAU
PAULINE JULIEN AND GÉRALD GODIN 1962-1994
© PASCALE AND NICOLAS GALIPEAU
POEM BY GÉRALD GODIN
© ÉCRITS DES FORGES
À NOS AMOURS
Author… MAURICE FANON
TARA ENTERTAINMENT LTD.
WARNER CHAPPELL MUSIC FRANCE
From the film FABIENNE SANS SON JULES
L’INDUSTRIE MUSICALE INC.
MATHIEU FERRÉ ET CIE
ÉDITIONS … LE RIDEAU ROUGE (SACEM)
UNIVERSAL MUSIC PUBLISHING MGB FRANCE
From the film
FABIENNE SANS SON JULES
Composer… AL BACULIS
© PROPRIÉTÉ D’AL BACULIS
LA CHANSON DIFFICILE
Author-composer… GEORGES DOR
LES ÉDITIONS GAMMA LTÉE
LES ÉDITIONS GAMMA LTÉE
Author-composer… GEORGES DOR
LES ÉDITIONS GAMMA LTÉE
Author… MARCEL SABOURIN
Composer… ROBERT CHARLEBOIS
LES ÉDITIONS GAMMA LTÉE
LES EXPÉRIENCES INC.
COMME JE CRIE, COMME JE CHANTE
Composer… FRANÇOIS COUSINEAU
LES ÉDITIONS PEACE OF MIND
LE TEMPS DES VIVANTS
Author… GILBERT LANGEVIN
Composer… FRANÇOIS COUSINEAU
LES ÉDITIONS PEACE OF MIND
L’ÂME À LA TENDRESSE
Author… PAULINE JULIEN
Composer… FRANÇOIS DOMPIERRE
LES PRODUCTIONS FRANÇOIS DOMPIERRE
LES ÉDITIONS NICOLAS ENRG.
From the film
LES MAINS NETTES
Composer… MAURICE BLACKBURN
LA DANSE À SAINT-DILON
Author-composer… GILLES VIGNEAULT
LES ÉDITIONS DU VENT QUI VIRE
Author-composer… MARC GÉLINAS
MARCO DISQUES INC. GILLES RICHER
JE CHERCHE MON CHEMIN
Author-composer… ANNE SYLVESTRE
© ANNE SYLVESTRE (SODRAC)
From the show
Composer… BERNARD BUISSON
LE TEMPS QUI PASSE
Author… BORIS VIAN
Composer… ANDRÉ WILLY HODEIR
LES ÉDITIONS MAJESTIC
With the authorization of UNIDISC MUSIC INC.
PHOTOS AND FOOTAGE RESEARCH
AND RIGHTS CLEARANCE
MUSIC RESEARCH AND RIGHTS CLEARANCE
CHRONOLOGY AND DECRYPTION OF CORRESPONDENCE
BETWEEN PAULINE JULIEN AND GÉRALD GODIN 1961-1994
ROBERT GRAY, KINOGRAPH
OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO
FOR THE EXTRACTS FROM HIS FILM FABIENNE SANS SON JULES
© 1964 National Film Board of Canada
WE WOULD ALSO LIKE TO THANK
MARCO DE BLOIS
JEAN PIERRE LANNES
FRANCINE ALLAIRE AND MICHEL SCHEFFER
BIBLIOTHÈQUE ET ARCHIVES NATIONALES DU QUÉBEC (BAnQ)
AND ALL THOSE WHO WORK TO PRESERVE ARCHIVES AND LIVING HERITAGE. THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THIS FILM AND TO QUEBEC’S COLLECTIVE MEMORY IS ESSENTIAL AND INVALUABLE.
WITH THE COLLABORATION OF
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