Clash of Cultures: Bon Cop, Bad Cop

When Eva from Coffee, Classics, & Craziness announced her Good Cop, Bad Cop Blogathon, the first film that immediately came to my mind was Érik Canuel’s Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006), the most commercially successful Quebecois films of history… so far.

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“Bon” literary means “good” in French so, basically,  the title of this film is the same as the title of the blogathon. That’s why I immediately thought of it. 😉

This dark comedy-thriller is an opposition between the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, between French and English, and between a rule-bending detective from the Sureté du Québec and a by-the-book detective from the Ontario Provincial Police.

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The victim of a murder has been found impaled on the top of a sign demarcating the frontier between Ontario and Quebec. Both the detective from Ontario, Martin Ward (Colm Feore) and the one from Quebec, David Bouchard (Patrick Huard), are called on the scene as the body, well, “touches” both Ontario and Quebec. Therefore, both provinces are “involved” by the situation. Both Ward and Bouchard aren’t interested in the case so they obstinate each other in order to determine who should really take the case. This gives place to a sassy dialogue:

Martin Ward: His heart is in Québec.

David Bouchard: Ya l’Ontario dans l’cul aussi!

Martin Ward: What ?

David Bouchard: But his ass belongs to you.

Ouuuch!

They both decide to take a ladder to see the body closer. As they reach the top, both the ladders fall and they have to choices but to grab the body not to fall. Bouchard grabs the legs and Ward, the arms. Well, what should happen, happens: the body, already damaged by the impalement parts in half and now it’s clear: half of it is in Quebec and half of it is in Ontario.

Re-ouuuch!

So, Martin Ward and David Bouchard don’t have much choice but to join forces in order to solve the murder, for better or but especially for worst since they don’t really like each other. But, they’ll eventually learn to cooperate. All along the investigation, they’ll discover more than one victim and these all have the particularity to have been tattooed by the murderer. These tatoos create connections between each victim and, eventually become clues as for the reason for these murders.

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But now, how are they labeled as the bad cop and the good cop? Obviously, David Bouchard is the “bad cop”, but not in the way you might think. He’s not the sadistic cop like Hume Cronyn in Brute Force or like Clancy Brown in Shawshank Redemption. Ok, these are prisons guards, but you get the point. No, David isn’t a bad person or a sociopath. Let’s just say he has unconventional ways to do his job. For example, when he and Martin manage to catch a suspect, he doesn’t put him in the back seat of his car, but in the trunk. See, the guy just has no pity. It, therefore, creates a very eccentric character and allows some hilarious scenes such as the one I just mentioned. David Bouchard simply doesn’t like to follow rules. He’s a rebel at heart. The fact that he breaks into a house without a warrant is another proof of it. This is also shown in his attitude, his way of talking (with a lot of swearing), the old car he uses for the job, and the way he dresses, which makes him look more like a bum than a detective.

But he remains a “good” cop as he helps to the progress of the investigation with the help of Martin Ward.

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This one is pretty much the opposite of David Bouchard, and not only because he is an English-speaker. This is first shown by his apartment, which is very clean in opposition to David’s one, just like his clothes, which include a well-pressed jacket and a black turtleneck, which David really likes to make fun of. Martin Ward is also a bit snobbish and this is shown in his very by-the-book methods and the pedantic things he can say:

David Bouchard: [surprised] You speak French?

Martin Ward: No, not really. I had a small gadget installed in my brain and I see subtitles under people when they speak.

And then he talks about the fact that he went to French school and spent a year in Paris.

But, even if Martin Ward seems a bit like a “boring” person in opposition to David, he might actually be the most interesting character as he changes a lot during the film. He actually becomes more and more influenced by David and not a so by-the-book detective after all. I was mentioning the suspect being put in David’s car trunk. Well, this is what Martin Ward has to say about it:

Harry Buttman: [the suspect] Don’t you know who I am? We’ll sue your asses. You can’t put me in the trunk of a car.

Martin Ward: Yes we can. It’s Quebec tradition.

[Ward closes the car trunk]

And cases like this happen on several occasions.

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The comedy in Bon Cop, Bad Cop is created by the way the two cops like to tease each other, the opposition between the French and English languages and the references to French-Canadian and English-Canadian culture. By the way, despite being a Quebecois movie, the film is both in French and English. I, however, believe it was more successful in Quebec than in English-Canada. All this creates some delightful situations and that’s why the main force of the film is the screenplay.

If we first look at the opposition between Martin and David, both like to make fun of each other based on their home province, their personality, and habits.

For example:

Iris Ward: What are you doing here?

Johnathan Ward: I just saved my dad.

David Bouchard: From what? Heart attack by watching curling on TV?

Or when Martin says to one of his policemen co-worker “He is from Quebec”, talking about David and trying to justify his manners.

Also, during a fight in the restaurant with the first suspect (the one put in the trunk of the car),  Martin finds himself in a bad position and asks for David for help, but this one only agrees to help him if he asks him in French. Then, the opposite situation happens.

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Talking about language, the film obviously makes a lot of fun of Quebecois trying to speak English. But, luckily, we have a good sense of humour. 😉 While Martin Ward has a subtle English accent when he speaks French, his French is much better than David’s English is. Obviously, the Quebecois in this film don’t care much for the English language. It’s also the case for David’s superior, Captain LeBoeuf (Pierre Lebeau):

David Bouchard: [in French] Chief, it’s okay – I understand English.

Capt. Le Boeuf: [French] Ah, shit.

[to MacDuff, in English]

Capt. Le Boeuf: It’s okay. David… can English.

Brian MacDuff: [doesn’t understand]

Capt. Le Boeuf: He can English. He can…

Brian MacDuff: [gets it] Oh! Okay!

Capt. Le Boeuf: [continues in broken English] So, uh – we thought it would be good, uh – hopititit… it was a good…

Brian MacDuff: Opportunity.

Capt. Le Boeuf: It was a good… hopportunity to…

Martin Ward: [in French] You may speak French, Captain.

Capt. Le Boeuf: [French] Ah, for fuck’s sake…

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Captain LeBoeuf

This is obviously very caricatural. We don’t all speak English like this! Well, I hope I don’t! But it holds a part of truth as some people from Quebec really do.

I also like the various references to Quebecois culture this film presents. There are also some references to Ontarian culture, but I think they are less interesting because I’m not Ontarian and, therefore, don’t necessarily understand them.

Here is one of my favourite examples:

When the suspect Luc Therrien (Sylvain Marcel) hides in a Hockey mascot costume, he stands in front of a bathroom mirror with his gun in his hand and says to his reflection “You talkin’ to me?” This is obviously a reference to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver  (nothing to do with our local culture), but, at one point, he also yells “Ah-Ha!” which is a reference ot the Familiprix television commercials in which the actor Sylvain Marcel plays a pharmacist who witnesses a situation where somebody gets hurt. When it happens, he yells “Ah-Ha! Familiprix!” which is a famous slogan here in Quebec.

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Examples of Familiprix commercials:

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We could talk endlessly about the humour in this film, but it also contains a part of seriousness and more “dramatic” situations such as the climax where [SPOILER] David’s daughter, Gabrielle (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse), is taken in hostage by the “tattoo killer”.

The actors in this film all give justice to their characters and give very good performances. I’ve always like Patrick Huard who plays David Bouchard and, while I’m less familiar with Colm Feore, his acting as the snobbish Martin Ward is admirable too. Lucie Laurier (sister of Charlotte Laurier, another famous Quebecois actress) and Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse both give performances with a lot of energy and determination as David’s ex-wife and daughter. Humorist Louis-José Houde also plays a small part in the film and his hilarious as always.  Interesting fact: actor Patrick Huard also participated in the writing of the film’s screenplay.

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Bon Cop,  Bad Cop was a commercial film, but also has a lot of qualities and is not only “commercial” in the pejorative sense of the word. Commercial successes in Quebec are actually a good thing. Obviously, our industry isn’t as big as Hollywood one (you don’t say!) and our stars don’t make millions like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie do. So, commercially successful movies are only a sign that our industry is working well and that our small, but strong cinematic culture, is given chances. The film made around 10 million at the box office (which is A LOT for a Quebecois film) making it one of the 10 most successful films at the Quebecois box office among big Hollywood stuff like Titanic, Lord of the Ring and Avatar. The film wasn’t only a huge commercial success, but also received a good critical success, winning a few awards such as the Best Motion Picture, Best Achievement in Overall Sound and the Golden Reel Award at the Genie Awards (our Canadian Oscars). At the same Awards, it was also nominated for Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Direction, Best Achievement in Editing, Best Achievement in Music – Original Song, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (both for Huard and Feore), and Best Achievement in Sound Editing. So yeah, that’s not too bad, right? 😉 It also won and was nominated for Jutra Awards, Canadian Comedy Awards, Director Guild of Canada Awards, and prices at Boulder, Hong Kong, Seattle, and Stockholm film festivals.

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Even if you aren’t Quebecois or Canadian and might not necessarily understand all the cultural jokes in the film, I believe you might enjoy it just the same. It’s a thrilling story that keeps you on the edge of your seat from the beginning until the end!

A film sequel was released in 2017, but I haven’t got the chance to see it yet.

 

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A big thank you to Eva for hosting this great blogathon. Don’t forget to read the other entries here!

See you! 🙂

I’ll leave you with the trailer!

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An Enchanting Garden

My latest Three Enchanting Ladies article: all about flowers named after Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn! Enjoy!

Three Enchanting Ladies

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Have you ever wondered how a garden worthy of Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn and/or Grace Kelly’s would look like? Are you an avid botanist who likes to give thematic to your gardens or organise them in a very precise way?

All our three enchanted ladies had flowers named after them, mainly roses. Honestly, I love rose gardens. To me, beautiful rose gardens are the result of a careful care and thoroughness. Antoine de St-Exupéry wrote it in The Little Prince; roses are capricious, fragile, and need a lot of attention in order to survive.

I don’t know much about gardening so I won’t tell you how to build your three enchanting ladies garden and what type of fertilizer you should use for each plant, but I want to discuss these flowers and see how they beautifully represent the honored actresses. I never thought I’ll be writing a gardening article…

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Breakdown: An Immobile Nightmare

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I’m very happy to participate, for the 3rd time, in the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by the great Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts! This time, I’ve decided to go with my favourite Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode: Breakdown (1955). This is the first episode of this tv show I ever saw and it has always been the one I liked the most ever since.

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Breakdown was the 7th episode of the series and it was directed by Hitchcock himself. It is important to precise this because, if Alfred Hitchcock produced and introduced each episodes, he didn’t necessarily direct them all. Well, the good thing about this is that Breakdown probably is one of the most Hitchcockian episode of the show and surely among his most suspenseful work.

The story is simple. Businessman William Calley (Joseph Cotten) is in Florida. After talking on the phone with one of his employee who has just been fired, it is revealed to us that he is a cold man without compassion and without pity. Soon after, he takes his car to go back to New York. On his way, he is the victim of road accident as a tractor bumps into his car. The man is in pretty bad condition as he is, in fact, completely paralyzed. He can’t move a single inch of his body. Hoping for someone to come and help him, he isn’t much lucky as the only people in the area are prisoners who have escaped the jail. None of them bother to check if he is still alive, but don’t hesitate to steal his stuff, including his clothes. Eventually, William tries to concentrate and, surprise, is able to move one of his fingers! He decides that this will be his way to have the people’s attention so they can realise that he is not dead. However, each time he tries to, it seems that something prevents him to succeed. There’s too much noise or people just don’t look at it. The situation becomes more and more nightmarish and we all anticipate the worst…

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Breakdown is pretty much a bad karma story and, in a way, a story of revenge. Is William Calley sort of punished for having been so cold-hearted toward his poor employee? Well, he surely finds himself in a pretty bad situation. However, if we don’t like him much when he is introduced to us, we eventually feel compassion for him as his accident is not something we would wish to anybody (except maybe to a very bad person or if we have a truly twisted mind), and the distress that is expressed by him is real and transmitted to us in a way that we can actually feel it.

After Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Under Capricorn (1949), Breakdown was the 3rd collaboration between Alfred Hitchcock and the underrated Joseph Cotten. In this tv episode, the actor’s acting is different from the one in the previously mentioned films. Why? Because, for the majority of the episode, Joseph Cotten can only act with his voice. He is completely immobile you see (well, except for that finger). But, we do hear his thoughts, his thoughts full of desperate hope, and, at one point, full of sadness and anxiety. Joseph Cotten manages to give the right tone of voice so we can understand what he is feeling and how he is planning to solve the situation, even if it seems hopeless. The interesting thing is that, even if most of the story turns around these thoughts, these don’t contain any unnecessary flourishes. The episode, fortunately, , doesn’t fall in the obvious clichés, such as the man starting to think about his wife and children or about his childhood. Ok, maybe he doesn’t have children and a wife, but you get the point. His thoughts are only concentrated around the immediat situation and that’s what’s important.

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I’m taking a seminar dedicated to Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock this year at university and, as our teacher made us observe, Alfred Hitchcock was pretty much a “montage” director. Breakdown support this brilliantly. Indeed, editor Edward W. Williams chose plans that have a connection between each other and there seems to be a reason and  significance for each of them. For example, at one point, William Calley starts to ear something, a tapping sound and he and we wonder what it is. In the next shot, we see his finger taping. So, we understand where the sound comes from. Edward W. Williams won a Primetime Emmy for Best Editing of a Television Film for his brilliant work on this tv episode.

The episode also focuses a lot of the sound dimension, not only because of this tapping finger and the out-loud thoughts but, as I was explaining in the synopsis, most of the obstacles the businessman encounter are created by sound. At one point, the character wonders if he has not become deft because everything around him seems so quiet. However, we can hear the almost quiet sound of birds singing which indicates us that he hasn’t lost the hearing.

With this idea in mind, we can notice that the episode is pretty much constructed in a way that everything is seen and felt from Joseph Cotten’s point of view. This is a brilliant way to involve the spectator in the story, not only by making him watch the episode. But of course, Hitchcock alternates between objective and subjective shots as it is sometimes necessary for us to see things from an external point of view, to understand the situation better, to note the bad physical condition in which the protagonist is. For example, at one point, we hear him think that he feels a pressure on his chest. If the movie would have been shot from subjective points of view only, we wouldn’t have known that this was caused by the wheel pressing on his chest. Not until that prisoner says it out loud anyway. On their side, the subjective shots are used to make us understand how much of the situation the main character can actually witness and see. For example, right after the accident, he has difficulty to see as if he had dust in his eyes. There, the image is sort of blurry. There’s also a highly interesting shot when he is taken to the morgue by two men. What Joseph Cotten sees is one a very low angle shot of one of these men’s chin and nose. This accentuates the nightmarish situation, not only because this view is pretty odd, but also because the man never bothers to lower his head and notice Joseph Cotten’s finger moving.

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As you can see, for a only 30-minutes tv show, there is a lot talk about. Well, it’s Hitchcock’s work after all. Not too surprising!

If you have never seen an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, this is a good one to start. Well, as I told you it is my favourite one and it certainly made me want to watch more of them! Those are like mini Hitchcock films where the suspense is installed in a very rapid way. I also believe that this tv show is a good source of inspiration for screenwriters who want to establish themselves by first writing short films. Breakdown‘s story was created by Louis Pollock and the teleplay was by Francis Cockrell and Louis Pollock.

Anyway, if you want to watch it,  you can just here:

 

Hopefully, you will enjoy it as much as I did! I promise you, Hitchcock knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat!

I want to thank Terence for once again hosting this highly entertaining blogathon!

I invite you to read the other entries here.

See you!

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