Pierre Perrault and the Poetic Documentary
One of the great exponents of the direct cinema style, Quebecois poet, essayist, and film-maker Pierre Perrault (1927-1999) began his documentary career in radio before joining the more traditional René Bonnière filming life in the lower St. Lawrence. In the 1960s he joined the National Film Board of Canada to shoot films in the new direct style, taking a small two-man crew into communities to reveal their beliefs and allegiances as they coped with social change. His legendary trilogy on the Ile-aux-Coudres opened with his most famous work, Pour la suite du monde (1963). Ostensibly a look at the local people’s effort to revive a traditional beluga hunt, it is actually the beginning of a lifelong inquiry into the relationship between community and national identity. This relationship emerges most clearly in the highly poetic Un pays sans bon sens! (1970), which brought Perrault into conflict with the NFB. The film was sidelined for many years.
After a trip outside Quebec to Moncton to document francophone student unrest, Perrault made a second trilogy, this one in northwestern Quebec, showing the collapse of traditional farming communities relocated to the Abitibi during the Great Depression. Further explorations took Perrault to the northern interiors of Quebec, the hunting woods of Maniwaki, and to the tall ships retracing Jacques Cartier’s voyages of discovery. The triology culminated in the desolate arctic landscapes of the mysterious muskox, and two of his most haunting creations.
The first major publication on Perrault in English, Pierre Perrault and the Poetic Documentary discusses not only the world that Perrault’s cinema revealed but a revolution in film-making from a great poet.
Co-written and edited by David Clandfield, Principal of New College in the University of Toronto, Pierre Perrault and the Poetic Documentary also features contributions from scholar Jerry White, as well as translations of some of Perrault’s writings on film.
Published by the Toronto International Film Festival. Distributed in Canada by Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Distributed outside Canada by Indiana University Press.
"Clandfield is especially skilled at explaining Perrault's singular position in Quebec culture . ... An afterword by. .. Jerry White makes a cogent argument for Perrault's importance in the wider stream of international documentary filmmaking, so in closing this elegantly designed volume, you feel as if you've just been whispered a secret you absolutely must pursue. "- David Weaver, Globe and Mail, January 15, 2005