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Postcards from Montreal #1 – Où est Saint Denis?

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Whilst I like to think Screening Film is rapidly becoming a kind of “Lonely Planent…for film”, despite the odd Oz event, it’s really only the UK and Ireland map which is populated at present. This will no doubt change in future, but for now, beyond our little island, I have to use other tools to track down film culture in a city.

I’ve been in Montreal for two weeks, and so far I have at least managed to work out that the map is not the terrain. Google Maps seems to confuse conventional cinemas with porn cinemas (of which there are a number, such as the Cinema L’Amour) and video production houses. Sifting through the results though, I’ve managed to visit a couple of interesting film spaces.

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The very stylish Cinematheque Quebecois is a great  modern space for film history and world cinema, with immense and varied programmes of classic films (and shorts) shown in their original format. Last week they showed King Vidor’s 1928 film THE CROWD, and next week it will be Kubrick’s THE SHINING, and Norman McLaren (Montreal’s adopted son). They currently also have a great exhibition of film posters by graphic designers from MTL and Cuba.

In a nice show of cross promotion and solidarity, the foyer of Cinematheque Quebecois also displays photocopied flyers for the nearby Cinema du Parc. (Why dont we see this more?). The Cinema du Parc is a strange venue indeed, hidden inside a small shopping centre – imagine the St Johns Market in Liverpool, but with 3 screens of between 150 and 250 seats. It has some really interesting programming too – the first week I arrived they were showing the Kurt Cobain film MONTAGE OF HECK, alongside a the new Dogwoof fashion doc DIOR AND I, and a Turkish Film Festival.

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My favourite experience so far has been the excellent Cine Club Film Society, who hold regular screenings across venues in the city, but mainly within the Concordia University. I found them initially through Meet Up, but I also spotted one of the volunteers flyposting downtown. They’ve been running for over 20 years and show pretty much everything in its orginal format, and usually give an introduction to contextualise it. Apparently the organisers’ commitment to film has in part been responisible for the projectors at Concordia being so well maintained. I treated myself to a double bill of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) and THE BLACK CAT (1934) starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, all for just $6 (about £4). Plus they have great coffee and pastries!

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In my spare time, I’ve also been doing my homework on Montreal film-makers. I watched Xavier Dolan’s MOMMY – a very moving drama about a mother struggling to cope with raising her teenage son, recenlty released from a behaviour institute. Help comes from an unlikely source, a timid neighbour struggling with a severe stutter, and the three form an unusual but supportive family unit. The chracters are well drawn, compelling and the performances for all three are excellent.

Another Montreal based film-maker who I’ve been hoping I’d bump into was Denis Villeneuve. I really loved INCENDIES and also PRISONERS, and finally managed to get round to the excellent ENEMY. Unfortunately Saint Denis, as they call him here, is away in Cannes, otherwise I’m pretty sure we’d be hanging out, eating poutine and discussing the whole spider thing.

Tonight, I was planning to try and see MAD MAX: LA ROUTE DU CHAOS – there is a late night screening at a nearby multiplex – but I’m tired so I’ll save that for next week. Weirdly the Cinema L’Amour is showing something called ‘BEYOND THE THUNDERDOME’ tonight, but even the 2-for-1 on tickets wont tempt me.

Maybe next week.

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