Memoire des Anges

by Hugh

Last Friday, I went to the premier of the fabulous NFB film, Memoire des Anges, by Luc Bourdon (thanks, Matt). The movie is a love letter to Montreal of the 50s and 60s, and to the brilliant film-making that came out of the NFB at the time. It’s made up entirely of footage from NFB, an impressionistic collage of the city in the past, through the eyes & celluloid of the grand men (and some women) of innovative documentary, Gilles Groulx, Hubert Aquin, Richard Notkin, Suzanne Angel, Claude Jutra, Jacques Godbout, Arthur Lipsett, Denys Arcand, Tom Daly and scores of others.

Bourdon avoids all sentimentality, and instead gives us the faces, hands, feet of the people of the city, the roadways, bricks, snow, sun and chairs that define a place. There’s no narrative to speak of, though clever bits of story are peppered into the whole, often by splicing footage from numerous films, black and white to colour, a decade or two apart, to make something coherent, if fleeting.

For Montrealers, there is the added fun of picking out street corners and buildings treasured, hated, or gone. But the film works on its own as a document of a time gone, rooted in the look and sound of a city, the voices and faces of its inhabitants, and as a piece of art beyond all the bits that went into it. It’s really a marvel, not least for the rich sound of Paul Anka melting the hearts of the girls in the audience.

And with all the talk of cutting arts funding, I can’t help look to the NFB of the past, the creativity and innovation that forged in the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of our country. More of that please, less mediocre crap.

So to Federal Arts funding I say: less Pit Pony, and more (old school) NFB.