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In the summer of 1999, based on a dozen short films and an outstanding participation in The World Destiny Race, Ricardo Trogi would produce with his friends Patrice Robitaille and Jean-Philippe Pearson a mockumentary for Télé-Québec. But after seeing the first images of a provisional montage, the producer thanked the three friends without further notice…
Finding themselves stuck in the water, with no contract for the summer, the trio decided to dust off a Robitaille concept for an experimental feature film, which they envisioned shooting in real time in a single car between Quebec and Montreal.
“I saw it as a sequence shot with a camera in the car and an improvised stage around a canvas. The boys would have taken a piss in Drummondville and we would have continued filming without them in the car! “Remember the actor laughing.
“When he told me the first time, I didn’t turn on the light. For a first film, being trapped in a tank is not what made me dream from a visual point of view”, recognizes Ricardo Trogi, whom I met last week at Radio-Canada, the place of our first interview, in 1994, for The race (the theme of the next film in the series 1981).
However, it was Trogi who brought the project back to life, when he envisioned ellipses and stories that could be told simultaneously. The trio got to work, exchanging ideas, lines and firecrackers. At that time Robitaille and Trogi were practically neighbors, rue de Rouen. In the fall of 1999, the first draft of the script for Quebec-Montreal I was ready.
“We had written stories for 17 cars, but we reduced them to 5 because we saw that the idea didn’t hold up! Trogi says. He and his co-writers wanted to recognize themselves in the movies. Listening to the language and concerns of his generation, which was then 25-30 years old, on the big screen.
“This film, we wrote a lot in reaction to what we saw and heard in the cinema in Quebec, he says. It was often in international French. Films were made to be shown in Europe, whereas in Europe it is not the language that is spoken. It was nonsense. We wanted to present the language we speak every day. Our great workhorse, that was all. »
A critical and public success
The trio offered their script to producer Nicole Robert (GO Films), with whom Trogi had collaborated on the aborted novel adaptation project. the sand eater by Stephane Bourguignon. “Dealers were not very interested in our project,” recalls Patrice Robitaille. In my memory, Nicole had made a deal with a distributor, offering her a star-studded movie that she could more easily sell. In exchange, the distributor agreed to take over this project from unknown young creators. »
These young creators would not be unknown for long. Quebec-MontrealCritically acclaimed for its boldness and inventiveness, it earned $1.4 million at the box office. The next film scripted by Trogi, Robitaille and Pearson, Biological clockwhich hit theaters exactly three years later, has grossed a phenomenal $4.4 million.
Beyond its success, Quebec-Montreal Above all, it revealed a generation of talented artists (actors, authors, playwrights, directors) who have had a profound impact on Quebec’s popular culture over the past two decades. Whether it’s Trogi’s projects on television (the simons) and in the cinema (1981, 1987, 1991), Robitaille’s work on stage and screen, and the works and series of François Létourneau (The invincibles, black sequence, that’s how i love you), who plays one of the main roles in the film.
They were mostly between 26 and 32 years old when the film was released and taking their first steps in cinema: Trogi, Robitaille, Pearson, Létourneau, Pierre-François Legendre, Julie Le Breton, Stéphane Breton. Isabelle Blais, who won the Jutra award for Best Supporting Actress, had hardly any more experience and Benoît Gouin, the famous “Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin” of the film, came to the game after studying medicine.
We discovered the “Quebec gang”. Some, like Robitaille and Létourneau, knew each other from the CEGEP, where they had done theater. Most of them, including Trogi, Pearson, Legendre (and others, like Rémi-Pierre Paquin) met at Université Laval, where they improvised.
“I didn’t hire any outsiders,” says Trogi. I met Isabelle Blais because she studied at the Conservatory with Patrice. Rémi-Pierre, Martin Laroche, who were also in our gang, auditioned for roles, if I remember correctly. I was happy that people thought the actors were good, even if they weren’t well known. »
In fact, they were all very good, even in the more minor roles (Catherine-Anne Toupin and Geneviève Rochette, in particular). “You are very lucky to have met talented people. But I also feel that there is something exhilarating about being around talented people. All the better if what we did had resonance,” says Patrice Robitaille, whom I contacted by phone when she was going to pick up her children from the summer camp where they had spent the week, in the region of Quebec.
“It’s like in that’s how i love you ! Robitaille says. At the same time, François Létourneau, author of this wacky Radio-Canada series, was making the same trip from Montreal to Quebec to find his own children in the same camp. You can’t make that up.
What has aged poorly
What has aged less than the performance are the images of Quebec-Montreal. The film was shot on MiniDV, as were previous Trogi shorts, including it happened near us, about a serial seducer (Robitaille) who talks about his conquests. “If he had to do it over again, he would do it differently,” admits the filmmaker. “It is the technical support that we had, with few resources. It’s old-fashioned, but that’s life,” adds Patrice Robitaille. The film is not found on any distribution platform, only on DVD.
Has the subject aged poorly? The film features male characters who are not presented in the best light, a constant in the collective work of the “Quebec gang” (both in Quebec-Montreal thatBiological clock Where The invinciblesfor instance).
His speech would probably go less well today with the youngsters. They don’t see things the same way. I’m not sure I want to rub shoulders with the backlash it might provoke!
Ricardo Trogi, on the male characters of the time
Twenty years ago, the film was hailed above all as a breath of fresh air on the Quebec film scene, with its incisive and frank dialogue, funny and acidic, that testified both to an era and a generation. it’s not for nothing that Quebec-Montreal was the big winner of the Jutra Evening in 2003.
“I have the impression that we salute the audacity and the courage to speak out,” says Patrice Robitaille of the awards won by the film. We were not very aware of it and that was good. Otherwise, speaking would have been a bit forced and that’s something I like less. We wanted to say things, but the message was not too direct, to use a fashionable expression. »
The actor also rightly believes that this comedy was “the bridge between the popular and the most intellectual.” We remember some memorable scenes.
My favorite is the one in which Pierre-François Legendre’s character insists on going to the “Indian”, where gas is cheaper, which leads to the exasperation of his girlfriend (Julie Le Breton), a breakup and the dissolution of their marriage.
“I pretend to believe that Quebec-Montreal it has given certain authors the taste for writing in their own language, says Ricardo Trogi. It’s a shade I found elsewhere later. But I have no other claim! »
After his two six-handed films, Ricardo Trogi moved on to solo projects, Patrice Robitaille was in demand everywhere as an actor, and Jean-Philippe Pearson settled in the Florence area of Italy, where he still lives. “We wrote to each other last week,” Robitaille said.
The trio had no concrete plans to work together on another script. “We could have bet on ourselves more than that, but we wanted to see what the others had to offer us,” said Trogi. That said, I’m sure that if we did make a sequel, the audience of Quebec-Montreal I would be there! That is obvious.
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