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The Wide-Angle Cinema of Michel Brault

March 9, 2006 - March 26, 2006

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Of Whales, the Moon and Men, March 9

"I don't know what truth is. Truth is something unattainable. We can't think we're creating truth with a camera. But what we can do is reveal something to viewers that allows them to discover their own truth."—Michel Brault

This spring, as part of the ongoing series Documentary Voices, we are pleased to introduce the Quebecois director and cinematographer Michel Brault to a Bay Area audience. Brault's documentary work makes him "one of the key figures in the history of cinema verité and direct cinema worldwide. His cinematography for narrative features has also been unusually restless and inventive. . . . Brault achieved what many documentarists were striving for throughout the fifties: a form of documentary filmmaking not reliant on scripts, dramatic re-creations, staged events, and literary devices, but deriving its form from material gathered in contact with the real events and people portrayed. . . . Brault's documentary camerawork . . . is a distinctly 'wide angle' style, putting the camera operator in close proximity to his subjects, not separate from, but within the action, and it is this style, derived from a strongly held ethical position, that makes his contributions so distinctive" (Chris Gehman). In the early 1960s, Brault collaborated with his countryman Pierre Perrault on the landmark film Of Whales, the Moon and Men, documenting life on Île-aux-Coudres in the St. Lawrence River. Our series concludes with two more of Perrault's Île-aux-Coudres films, giving viewers a glimpse of another documentary maker whose "significant film legacy is marked by technical innovation, poetic richness, and sensitivity to social change" (David Clandfield).

During his Documentary Voices residency at PFA, Michel Brault will be present at screenings to engage with the audience; he will deliver a lecture on March 9, and lead a workshop the following day for students and others interested in his process.

Thursday, March 9, 2006
7:00 p.m. Of Whales, the Moon and Men
Lecture by Michel Brault. Michel Brault and Pierre Perrault beautifully evoke the rhythms of rural life and language in this enchanting documentary about a near-forgotten custom: catching beluga whales using wooden staves and the working of the tides on Île-aux-Coudres, an isolated island in Quebec. Plus short The Snowshoers.

Thursday, March 9, 2006
7:00 p.m. Of Whales, the Moon and Men


Friday, March 10, 2006
1:00 p.m. Workshop with Michel Brault (Admission Free)


Friday, March 10, 2006
7:30 p.m. Orders
Michel Brault in Person. Shot in a near-documentary style, Brault's film follows five innocent people arrested and held without warrant or charge under Canada's War Measures Act in 1970. "A relentless look at how easily totalitarian methods can surface in a so-called republic or democracy . . . touching and harrowing."-Variety. With short Wrestling.

Friday, March 10, 2006
7:30 p.m. Orders


Saturday, March 11, 2006
6:30 p.m. Drifting Upstream
Michel Brault in Person. Brault's poetic and richly complex fiction feature evokes themes of lost innocence in the story of a young man who leaves his small town for Montreal and a singing career. Starring Claude Gauthier and Geneviève Bujold. With short The End of Summer.

Saturday, March 11, 2006
6:30 p.m. Drifting Upstream


Saturday, March 11, 2006
9:05 p.m. Good Riddance
Michel Brault in Person. This backwoods Gothic centers on a precocious thirteen-year-old obsessively jealous of the men in her mother's life. Directed by Francis Mankiewicz and shot by Brault, it's part horror story, part political parable.

Sunday, March 12, 2006
5:30 p.m. Chronicle of a Summer
Brault was one of four cinematographers recruited to film this landmark of cinema verité. Directors Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin asked Parisians in the summer of 1960: "Are you happy?" With short The Snowshoers.

Sunday, March 12, 2006
5:30 p.m. Chronicle of a Summer


Sunday, March 26, 2006
3:00 p.m. The Times That Are
Pierre Perrault's charming follow-up to Of Whales, the Moon and Men (March 9) accompanies an elderly patriarch from Île-aux-Coudres to France, where he discovers that the distance between the French and the Quebecois is a matter of more than miles.

Sunday, March 26, 2006
5:20 p.m. The River Schooners
This visually stunning homage to the glories of a dying world follows traditional watercraft plying Quebec's St. Lawrence River.

Texts by Chris Gehman, David Clandfield, and Jerry White are quoted from Cinematheque Ontario publications.

Documentary Voices is made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts.


Thanks to George Kaltsounakis, Andréa Picard, Steve Gravestock, Cinematheque Ontario; Stéphanie Côté, Cinémathèque québécoise; Flaherty Film Seminar; Marie Bonnel, French Cultural Services; and James Roberts, National Film Board of Canada, for their support and assistance in making this series possible.