Sunday, August 11, 2019

Cinéma québécois, féminin singulier

After Nuit #1 in 2011, between 2015 and 2019 in the span of five years, the now 37 year old québécois director Anne Émond has released three new films: Our Loved Ones (2015), Nelly (2016) and her latest Jeune Juliette (2019), which has just been released in Québec. The productivity, perhaps excluding Denis Côté, is unheard of in this country. And what’s perhaps even more surprising is the artistic ambition and diversity of the films. There’s a constant between Émond’s four features: the emotional journey of young women protagonist. A characteristic that’s very much in vogue these days but where others deal with the subject in a very naturalistic manner, Émond constantly surprises by the style and imagination that she bring to her treatment. Style, imagination and emotions, these are Émond’s best traits. And she’s so productive too! If some of the best newer Canadian directors always struggle to make work: where the transition from shorts to features can take years (if ever) and the time span between can also linger, the lightness and gracefulness of Émond is a sign how the (québécois) system can work.

Jeune Juliette tells the story of a young high-schooler, whose life isn’t really that bad; she struggles with body issues and not having too many friends. But it’s her kindness, fun, sensitivity and contradictions that makes her so interesting. She surrounds herself with others who are just as offbeat as her, but what’s nice about her journey is how after some conflict and growing she finds herself at the center of the end of the year high school party. If the trailer of Jeune Juliette sells it as a feminine and québécois version of Superbad (which it is partly), it’s actually much more closer to Eighth Grade, Booksmart and Trinkets. It’s just that the feminine adolescent experience has more doubt and anxiety, which is a nice counter-balance and makes the moments of joy even richer.

If there’s always been suggestions that Émond’s films are somewhat autobiographical, the vintage high school portrait of her at the close of the film and its resemblance to the star of Jeune Juliette only heightens this impression.

It’s been a good year so far for québécois cinema: Répertoire des villes disparues, Genèse and now Jeune Juliette. (And films in general with Synonymes and The Souvenir). I would probably pick Émond’s film as my favorite. It feels good to see a director putting forward their best work and remaining positive. My hypothesis: the future of québécois cinema belongs to Anne Émond.