Quebec, on the cusp of the 1960s. The province is on the brink of momentous change. Deftly selecting clips from nearly 200 films from the National Film Board of Canada archives, director Luc Bourdon reinterprets the historical record, offering us a new and distinctive perspective on the Quiet Revolution.
Quebec, on the cusp of the 1960s. Something big is brewing. You can see, hear, and feel it, coming just around the corner—a quiet revolution that will extend into the 1970s.
In The Devil’s Share, the latest film by the director of The Memories of Angels, Luc Bourdon offers us yet another tapestry woven from Quebec’s collective memory. Bourdon worked closely with editor Michel Giroux to reinterpret archival footage in his unique, poetic new opus, deftly selecting clips from nearly 200 National Film Board of Canada titles to craft a compelling portrait of the 1970s, a decade when the pace of change in Quebec suddenly accelerated and Quebec society was profoundly transformed.
But was this change for the better? As in The Memories of Angels, Bourdon doesn’t so much try to answer this question as to show that history is actually composed of an infinite number of situations, and that the negative aspects of some changes are not always obvious at first glance.
To review and reinterpret history in this light, Bourdon and Giroux create a montage in which scenes of the gritty streets of Montreal, immortalized in Quebec singer-songwriter Georges Dor’s 1966 hit song, Le Manic, brush shoulders with tranquil scenes of the St. Lawrence River from the NFB documentaries of Pierre Perrault; images of the string of Stanley Cup victories to which Guy Lafleur led the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s alternate with scenes from the general strike by the Common Front of Quebec’s largest labour unions; and the starkness of the October Crisis contrasts with the merriment of Quebec City’s Winter Carnival.
In The Devil’s Share, we encounter famous and not-so-famous Quebecers from many walks of life: athletes, politicians, workers, radicals, musicians, businessmen, actresses, country singers, painters and many more.
From the Quebec Winter Carnival beauty pageant as seen in Robert Favreau’s Le soleil a pas d’chance to a young René Simard recording the theme song for Montreal’s 1976 Summer Olympics in Jean-Claude Labrecque’s On s’pratique… c’est pour les Olympiques, Luc Bourdon paints a fresco in which we can also pick out such famous Quebecers as Ti-Jean Carignan, Jean Chrétien, Michel Chartrand, Michel Tremblay, Micheline Lanctôt, Jean-Paul Lemieux, Armand Vaillancourt, Jean Lesage, Robert Charlebois, Luce Guilbeault, Maurice Richard, Marie Savard and Willie Lamothe, not to mention a cameo appearance by Muddy Waters.
Once again, there is no narration and no direct intervention by the filmmaker, except the same use of sound that structured The Memories of Angels, his earlier venture into the NFB’s archives—a complex blend of voices, shouts, songs, poems, laughter and crying. The Devil’s Share is a feat of composition, editing, and cultural archaeology, a kaleidoscopic film offering a new and distinctive perspective on Quebec’s Quiet Revolution.
It captures the anguish of the dispossessed, the resonant words of people with their backs against the wall, the voice of a promise, of a tomorrow. The voice of René Lévesque, at ease in both official languages, explaining his plans for an independent Quebec when they were still in their infancy; the grave, magnificent voice of Alanis Obomsawin, transmitting a strength and a pain that seem too much for any one human body; the voices of a very young Zachary Richard and Acadian poet Gérald Leblanc; the raspy voice of rock singer Gerry Boulet and the moving voice of rock singer Serge Fiori; the tragicomic voice of the actress Mouffe in a film by Jean Pierre Lefebvre; the voice of actress Patricia Nolin, shouting to be heard against police sirens (“It would be easy to be just one thing, but what I am is two things at once.”) Or singer, actress and sovereigntist Pauline Julien reciting this verse by Roland Giguère: “The big hand that has us pinned to the ground will one day rot away.”
All that, as well as events that remain etched in Quebec’s collective memory: the exhilaration of riding the minirail at Expo 67, the police roundups of October 1970, the exploits of gymnast Nadia Comaneci at the Montreal Olympics, the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976, and all the instability of the times, as heard in the anonymous voices that filled the radio airwaves.
The Devil’s Share is a love letter to the power of images, a heightened, exhilarating view of history, a journey back in time. This rare cinematic experience brings together all the different currents and cultures that left a mark on Quebec society. The film invites each of us to become a committed observer of these events, and to lend an attentive ear to its passionate, lyrical statement on this momentous decade.
A film by
Featuring, among others…
Pierre Elliott Trudeau
François Belle Fleur
And with the voices of
Research, Script and Direction
Conservation and Laboratory Team
Sylvie Marie Fortier
Aldo La Ricca
Technical Support – Editing
Translation and Subtitling
Credits and Title Design
Catherine Van Der Donckt
Jean Paul Vialard
Foley assisted by
Music Rights Research and Clearance
Alexandra de Launière
Acting Development Producer
A National Film Board of Canada production