Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Connaissance du cinéma

Un nouveaux chef-d'œuvre d’André Habib? Maybe... Even though I'm not so sure if the hyperbole is really necessary since these six episodes of Connaissance du cinéma (Canal Savoir) are so modest in their scope while simultaneously also being so richly personal and full of a breath of information. The show is described as an educational series where film professionals from two different generations discuss their area of expertise. There are episodes on sound recording, filmmakers, projectionist, home movies, and an old camera collector. The guests include Marcel Carrière and Stephen de Oliveira, Pierre Hébert and Karl Lemieux, Guy Fournier and Julie De Lorimier, François Auger and Annie Hardy, François Lemai and Louis Pelletier.

The original idea of the series is André Habib’s and was produced with the assistance of the University of Montréal and TECHNÈS. Connaissance du cinéma continues the project of Habib's La Main Gauche de Jean-Pierre Léaud as it focuses on a hidden history of cinephilia in Québéc that goes beyond the general list of important film titles and auteurs to focus on its more intimate incarnations and enthusiastic passions. But now it's being recorded which adds another layer of interest and dynamism to the project. 

The Cinemathèque québécoise is the home base of the series as the people moving through it discuss, among many other things: the audio-recording technology at the time of Brault and adapting an unrealized Bazin project. Robert Daudelin is cited for his point that it is the film projection that has been the most important aspect of the history of cinema. Home movies are presented as a counter-point to the more official Québécois film cannon. And finally François Lemai takes us through a guided tour of his own incredible vintage camera collection, which is partly stored at his own house and at the University of Laval. (Which I can imagine inspired Habib and Pelletier’s most recent ‘Cinema in the Eye of the collector’ conference).

What stands out through all of these episodes is everyone’s openness about their work, passion and collaboration. Through the multi-generational and mixed gender pairing there’s a real sense of the continuation of history into the present that is mutually enjoyable and beneficial. Everyone seems to have such a strong, articulate and particular understanding of what cinema is for them. And the fact that a show on such a specific aspect of cinema, film technology and cinephilia even got made is an incredible feat – there must have been a lot of perseverance by everyone involved.

From the perspective of here in Toronto, where people tend to keep themselves and focus on their own careers, protect and rarefy their own set of knowledge and skills, and where it's so easy to feel cut off from an older, more institutionalized generation; there’s something about Connaissance du cinéma (and probably also the magazine 24 Images) that makes Montréal look like a utopia for film.

But, maybe, as we all know: the grass is always greener...

 I need to thank Guillaume Potvin for bringing this show to my attention. You can watch all six episodes of Connaissance du cinéma on the Canal Savoir website : http://www.canalsavoir.tv/emission/connaissance_du_cinema

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