My Family on Television: Les Filles de Caleb (1990-1991)

©Virginie Pronovost, 2012. All rights reserved

Ok, we’ll talk a bit about my family. Shall we?

When Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films announced that she’ll be hosting a blogathon dedicated to the world of television, I had the idea to discuss one of Quebec’s most famous tv show: Les Filles de Caleb. The direct translation would be Caleb’s Daughters.


Les Filles de Caleb was a mini-series of 20 episodes that was based on Arlette Cousture’s bestseller Les Filles de Caleb: le chant du coq. Émilie Bordeleau (Marina Orsini) is the central character. She comes from the village of St-Stanislas-de-Champlain in Mauricie, Quebec. Her father is Caleb Bordeleau and her mother, Celina Bordeleau. She has numerous brothers and sisters, like most people living in the countryside at the time. In her late teens, Émilie becomes a teacher at the little school “l’école du Bourdais” in the near village of St-Tite. She has to impose her authority since some of the students are barely younger than her. There, Émilie meets the handsome Oliva Pronovost (Roy Dupuis) who doesn’t seem very motivated by the school but who turns out to be quite interesting and you can guess what happens… Yes, they fall in love with each other! The Bordeleau family and the Pronovost family become close and Émilie and Ovila eventually marry. The young woman has to give up her teaching job to consecrate her life to motherhood. Hey, that was life at the time! She and Ovila have numerous children together including Blanche, born in a snowstorm. Ovila and Émilie’s relationship is difficult since Ovila is someone who needs a lot of liberty, who doesn’t like farm work and has some problems with alcohol. Les Filles de Caleb is a series full of adventures and misadventures. Yes, it shows you how life could be hard during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, but it also shows you how people from the countryside could be friendly with each other and supportive. Even today it’s still like this!


Les Filles de Caleb was broadcast on Radio-Canada television between 1990 and 1991, and on CBC television under the name of Emilie. In France, it was a huge success as well and was known as Émilie, la passion d’une vie.

Les Filles de Caleb is not a purely fictional movie as it tells the real life-story of these characters. The author of the book, Arlette Cousture, was herself the daughter of Blanche Pronovost and the granddaughter of Émilie Bordeleau. If the first book of the series, “Le chant du coq”, turns around the life of Émilie, her second one “Le cri de l’oie blanche” is mostly focused on Blanche’s life. This one was also adapted into a television show called Blanche, but I believe it didn’t have as much success as Les Filles de Caleb. I myself have watched the first episode and didn’t continue as I didn’t really get into it. Maybe I’ll give it another chance eventually. The book was good tho, but not as exciting as the first one!


Author Arlette Cousture

Now, you might wonder why I’ll talk about my family. Well, as you might know, my last name is Pronovost… and all the Pronovost are related! It’s a big family coming from the region of Mauricie. And because of this, a few anecdotes concerning the link between me and the tv show are worth mentioning.

1- As much as I can remember, I think Ovila Pronovost was the cousin of my great-grandfather, which will also make him a distant cousin of mine. I guess that’s because of him if we love outdoors in our family haha! The man loved nature.

2- My late grandfather was born in the village of St-Tite (like Ovila and his family) in 1910 and went to the little school where Emily taught. Well, at the time, she wasn’t teaching there anymore as she was already married. There even is a Pronovost Road in St-Tite! Today, the village is also famous for its Western Festival.

Emilie’s school today. ©Virginie Pronovost, 2012- All rights reserved


The house where my grandfather was born in 1910. ©Virginie Pronovost, 2012- All rights reserved
A covered bridge in the village of St-Tite. ©Virginie Pronovost, 2012- All rights reserved
Pronovost Road! ©Virginie Pronovost, 2012- All rights reserved

3- We have a country house at St-Stanislas-de-Champlain where Émilie was born. This is a centenary old house that was given to us by my grandfather’s cousin, Stella Brunelle, who was a nurse and died at the very young age of 104! We have good genes. The house where Émilie was born and where her family lived is on the other side of the Batiscan river. Émilie died in the house that is just in front of ours, on the other side of the street! Surely Stella knew her, despite being younger. She is buried in the village’s cemetery.

The village of St-Stanislas-de-Champlain in 1905
The village of St-Stanislas today. The grey house on the corner is the one where Emilie passed away. ©Virginie Pronovost, 2012- All rights reserved
Caleb Bordeleau’s house where Emilie was born and spent her childhood
Emilie’s grave in the St-Stanislas’s cemetary

As I’ve mentioned in my article on Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith, Stella Brunelle was the daughter of St-Stanislas’s blacksmith and we still have one of the account books where Caleb’s name is written! In the television show, we don’t see any scenes of Caleb or his family going to the smithy, but I believe it was mentioned in the novel.

The blacksmith! ©Famille Pronovost. All rights reserved
Stella’s house with the smithy in the background. ©Famille Pronovost. All rights reserved
The smithy today. ©Virginie Pronovost. All rights reserved

Émilie and Olivia married each other at St-Stanislas’s church.

St-Stanislas’s church, a long time ago!

The television show wasn’t shot on location, however. It’s in the village of St-Jean-des-Piles in Mauricie that is was filmed. After the shooting, the set was moved in the sector of Grand-Mère and what was known as Émilies’s Village was recreated and became a popular attraction for people to visit the sets. Unfortunately, the recreated village doesn’t exist anymore BUT you can still come to St-Stanislas or St-Tite to see the real locations! And people at the time knew it. Actually, a lot of tourists came in “St-Stan” in the 90s (before I was born) and would stop at our house to see the smithy. We even had people from France! Well, it’s true that our house with the blacksmith, the barn, and the large site is a beautiful location. 😉



Emilie’s Village, a touristic attraction in the 90s


Stella’s house when she lived there. ©Famille Pronovost. All rights reserved

Our country house today. ©Virginie Pronovost, 2010. All rights reserved
Stella’s father with his friend Joe Breaker in front of the barn. ©Famille Pronovost. All rights reserved
The barn today. ©Virginie Pronovost. All rights reserved.


If La Petite Vie was Quebec’s most successful sitcom, Les Filles de Caleb was the most successful television drama. And, as mentioned on imdb, it was one of the highest rated show in Quebec when it was broadcast. I think the main quality of it is that it aged well. Even today, it appeals to a lot of people. It tells the story of rural Quebec but, as it is more a love story more than a historical drama, it’s the kind of television show that can be appreciated and understood anywhere. The story of Émilie and Ovila marked the imaginary of Quebec and, still today, people remember them well. And having Pronovost as a last name can create fun situations! For example, in my last year of high school, my French teacher was a huge fan of actor Roy Dupuis who portrays Ovila in the television show. It was the beginning of the year and I asked her a question which she answered, but she couldn’t remember my last name.

Me: “Ah, Pronovost”

My teacher: Ah! Like Ovila Pronovost!”

And this is far from being the only time it happened to me. By the way, you don’t pronounce the “s” and the “t” at the end of Pronovost!





The cast of Les Filles de Caleb was composed of Marina Orsini (Émilie), Roy Dupuis (Ovila), Germain Houde (Caleb Bordeleau), Johanne-Marie Tremblay (Célina Bordeleau), Véronique Le Flaguais (Félicité Pronovost), Pierre Curzi (Dosithée Pronovost), and Patrick Goyette (Ovide Pronovost – one of Ovila’s brothers). As they were very young when the series was made, that’s pretty much what put Marina Orsini and Roy Dupuis on the map. And with the success it had, it certainly gave them a name. I believe the whole cast was great in their respective roles. Marina Orsini gave the necessary strength of character to Émilie. Roy Dupuis was perfect to incarnate the mysterious and seducer Ovila Pronovost. The two actors looked beautiful together and made that passionate love story highly believable. Pierre Curzi and Germain Houde both played fathers with a lot of humour and always had a great chemistry with the other characters. Veronique Le Flaguais and Johanne-Marie Tremblay knew how to be maternal, but strong women, which I think was necessary when you lived the hard life of the countryside and had to raise a bunch of kids! And Patrick Goyette as Ovide made an interesting contrast with Roy Dupuis as the jealous but more down to earth brother. Of course, there are many more actors and characters in the show, but these are the main ones.



Pierre Curzi as Dosithée Pronovost and Véronique Le Flaguais as Félicitée Pronovost



Patrick Goyette as Ovide Pronovost

Actually, I think the only problem with the cast is that Roy Dupuis was much more handsome than the real Ovila Pronovost! But who cares? It is so agreeable for the eyes to watch the sexy (and talented Roy Dupuis! 😉 One of our most praised actors here in Quebec!

Even if Les Filles de Caleb lasted only 20 episodes, a lot is going on and definitely makes us wish it would last longer. It is a real adventure truffled with breathtaking,  heartbreaking and overall beautiful moments. I don’t know if you can find it with English subtitles somewhere, but if yes, I highly recommend you to watch it! It’s that kind of tv show that, once you started it, you can stop! It’s addictive like that.

You know what? Now I truly feel like watching it again! I think a little Filles de Caleb marathon is in order!


This article was written for The Small Screen Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. It was a pleasure for me to participate! Thanks Maddy!

Make sure to check the other entries as well!

The Small Screen Blogathon

See you!




We’re crazy about C.R.A.Z.Y.


8 years before he made his debut in Hollywood with Dallas Buyers Club and 12 years before he won an Emmy Award for Big Little Lies, Jean-Marc Vallée released what is, for me, one of the best French-Canadian films ever made: C.R.A.Z.Y. Dallas Buyers Club, The Young Victoria, and Wild were great but, in my opinion, never surpassed the quality of this film I’m going to talk to you about.

Honestly, there are so many great things to say about this film. I wouldn’t know where to start. C.R.A.Z.Y. is that type of film that makes me proud of our French-Canadian movie industry and that gives it a good reputation. You might have heard of it or even saw it as, on its released, it gained not only a national recognition but also an international one. The film represented Canada for the Best Foreign language Film Oscar, but unfortunately wasn’t selected as a finalist for the competition.

On the right, Vallée witn actors Michel Côté (left) and Marc-André Grondin (centre)

When Vallée’s masterpiece was released in 2005, I was only 9 or 10 so didn’t immediately saw it as it deals with themes you don’t necessarily understand at that age. But I remember my parents seeing it at the movie theatre and saying it was great. So, I eventually see it with them and my sister a few years later and I was in awe. It eventually became my favourite French-language Canadian film and it surely is in my top five movies of the 21st centenary. You see, C.R.A.Z.Y. is a perfect national movie as it deals with our local culture but there’s also something about it that makes it internationally accessible. It’s the kind of story that could happen in many places.


But what is it about? C.R.A.Z.Y is a coming of age drama telling the story of young Zachary “Zac” Beaulieu (Marc André Grondin), born on Christmas and who has to deal with a sexual identity crisis. The film takes place in Quebec during the 60s, 70s and the beginning of the 80s. Zachary is the 4th one of a family of five children. As a child, he and his father (Michel Côté) share a beautiful complicity. He is his hero. But when Zach starts revealing a non-masculine side and a possible homosexuality, war is declared. His father doesn’t accept it so things between them aren’t the same anymore. However, has Zach wants to get his father’s love back, or, should I say his complicity (because his father doesn’t stop loving him despite everything), he himself has difficulty to accept his sexual orientation. But everyone has a breaking point… Luckily, in times of crisis, Zac’s mother (Danielle Proulx), a wonderful woman, is always here to support him.


Aside from being a truly “crazy” film (in the good sense of the term), C.R.A.Z.Y., stands for two things: Zac’s father, Gervais, is a fan of Patsy Cline and her song “Crazy”. Also, the letters that form the words are the first letters of Zac and his brother’s names: Christian (Maxime Tremblay), the nerd who reads anything, including ketchup bottles and cereal boxes; Raymond (Pierre-Luc Brillant), the rebel and junky, Zac’s “worst enemy”; Antoine (Alex Gravel), the athlete; Zachary; and Yvan (Gabriel Lalancette), the youngest one.



C.R.A.Z.Y. was praised for his realistic representation of a middle-class family of 60s-70s Quebec. The quality of this film also resides in the fact that it is an highly creative movie. After all, Jean-Marc Vallée spent between 5 and 10 years writing it with co-writer François Boulay (who’s personal memories of growing-up inspired the story). So, the result couldn’t be mediocre.

We first have to take a look at the varied characters and their incredible performers.

C.R.A.Z.Y. is the film that put Marc-André Grondin on the map of Quebecois cinema. At the time the film was made, he was 20-21, which is Zac’s age at the end of the film. His portrayal of Zac is one that can allow many viewers to identify with him. The role is complex, so probably wasn’t an easy one to play. It’s a character that constantly changes and tries desperately to find himself in order to “fit” in a particular environment. Zac’s knows moments of joy, anger, sadness, hate, and happiness. A certain versatility for such a role was necessary and Marc-André Grondin did it with brio.


Michel Côté who plays the boy’s father, Gervais, probably is one of the main reasons why I love this film. I think I can say that he is my favourite Quebecois actor. He is known as one of our best stage and on-screen actors. Playing the role of Gervais Beaulieu implies putting himself in the skin of someone with whom he didn’t necessarily share the ideologies. Côté has an incredible charism which he transmitted perfectly to his character. Because Gervais Beaulieu is the type of man that owns a place when he’s in it. His character knows also different moments of complex emotions and the clash between his and Zac’s ones creates amazing fireworks. What I love about Michel Côté also is his very natural acting game and that’s a quality we can find in many local actors here in Quebec. I work in a movie theatre and Michel Côté sometimes attends special events there such as Q & A for the promotion of his films or, as I’ve been told, sometimes just come to see a movie! I haven’t seen him yet (I started working there in late August) but if I ever do, I will probably faint.


Danielle Proulx who plays Zach’s mother is an actress I first knew thanks to the children television show Cornemuse. Every kid from my generation know this program. Danielle also was part of the distribution of Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar, which was nominated at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. Laurianne Beaulieu is one of the most beautiful characters of the film. Quebec uses to be a very Catholic place but it began to change precisely in the 60s with the venue of new ideologies and the Quiet Revolution. Mrs. Beaulieu is a strong believer, but her acceptance of her son’s sexual orientation sort of incarnates that clash of culture and ideologies that Quebec knew in the 60s and 70s. The complicity she has with her son is strong and different from the one he has with his father. You see, Zac can never fear to lost his mother’s love. This would simply be impossible. To her, Zach is very special as he was born the same day has Jesus. Danielle Proulx touches our heart infinitely with her protrayal of Mrs. Beaulieu. She shows, yes, a sensibility, but also an incredible strength. She is a woman of the Revolution.


Of course, all the other actors in this film are incredible as well, but I decided to focus on the three main ones, otherwise, this text would be way too long! Interesting fact: young Zachary Beaulieu was played by Jean-Marc Vallées son, Émile, who showed a great potential as a child actor.
Jean-Marc and Émile Vallée on the set of the film

Music is one of the most important elements of C.R.A.Z.Y. As a matter of fact, $ 600 000 CAD were invested in the music only as many the music rights had to be obtained. Jean-Marc Vallée even had to cut his own salary for it. The music truly defines the atmosphere of the film and any great music lover would be amazed by the choice of the songs from legendary artists such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Pink Floyd, and more.


Jean-Marc Vallée knew perfectly how to include the songs to the story and really made them “part of” the film. Some of the best scenes are the ones where the music takes a lot of space.

From the first minutes of the film, you know it won’t be an ordinary one. It all starts with Elvis. Images of a baby (Zac) in his mother’s tummy are shown to us. It’s first almost silent and, slowly, we start hearing Elvis’s singing “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”. We then move to the next scene where the Beaulieu’s are celebrating Christmas’s Eve until Mrs. Beaulieu’s waters breaks and the family has to head to the hospital for Zac’s birth.

If Zach and his father share a common interest, it’s certainly is their passion for music. They both have different music tastes (being from different generations), different but all great. Gervais Beaulieu not only his a fan of Patsy Cline but also of French singer Charles Aznavour. Every Christmas, he traditionally to sing his beautiful song “Emmenez-Moi”, which is probably the song we hear the most often in the film.

If I can identify myself to Zac, it’s thanks to his obvious love for David Bowie who also is my idol. We LOVE Zach’s bedroom as it is decorated with posters of the singer and iconic vinyl records such as Space Oddity, Aladdin Sane, and Diamond Dogs are part of his music collection. The “Space Oddity” scene is one of the most iconic of the film and is a glorious moment. I’ll let you watch it:

Zach also loves Pink Floyd and, as you saw in the previous video, his bedroom is beautifully decorated with The Dark Side of the Moon colour prism. Zac’s transition from childhood to teenagehood is brilliantly made with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”.

So many great songs are part of this film, but I’ll finish this musical discussion with another of the film’s most glorious moment: the “Sympathy for the Devil”‘s moment. Zac puts The Rolling Stones’ album and we transit to the church where he attends the Midnight Mass with his family. The song continues to play in Zac’s head but, suddenly, everybody starts being part of it, including the priest. This is a very fantasist moment as it surely only happens in Zac’s mine, but we love it.

Here are both “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Sympathy for the Devil” scenes!

So, as you realize, C.R.A.Z.Y. wouldn’t be the same without this impressive soundtrack. The film doesn’t contain any original music, but it honestly doesn’t need any. It’s interesting to know that Zac’s look in the 80s is inspired by Sex Pistols’ singer Sid Vicious, and his brother’s Raymond’s look is somehow inspired by Jim Morrison’s one and… his lifestyle too… for better, but especially for worst.

As I mentioned before, C.R.A.Z.Y. screenplay is the result of many years of work and the result is this breathtaking product that is given to us. The story is, of course, developed on 21 years (with times ellipse) and never a faux-pas is committed. The film, yes, contains a dramatic tone, but you’ll also find many comedic elements. It’s that variety of styles that makes it the type of movie everybody loves. Surely, Zac is at the center of the story, but Vallée and Boulay were brilliant enough to give a complete background and to the secondary characters. Of Zac’s brothers, Raymond probably is the one we know the most about and his presence has an important influence on the course of the story.

The film also contains some lines that define perfectly its thematic and the relation between the characters, but also between the characters and the society they live in.  The best dialogue probably being:

Zachary Beaulieu: I want to be like everyone else.

Madame Chose: Thank God, you never will.


As Ingrid Bergman once said, “Be yourself, the world worship the original.”

C.R.A.Z.Y. was mostly filmed in Montreal and its area, but it’s a film that also makes us travel as Zac’s goes to Jerusalem, which has always been one of his mother’s most cherished dreams. However, for security reasons, the scenes had to be shot in Morroco. This part of the film is quite short but is an important transition in Zac’s life. It allows us to see some beautiful desertic spaces and cities.


But the film also makes us travel in the Quebec of the 20th century with yes, the music, the way of life, but also the costumes that can make people of this generation say: “Oh, I remember when  I used dressed like that!”

Finally, The film also has to be praised for its effective editing. I always thought the transition between some of the scenes was brilliantly made, as well as the choice of camera shots. There is an appreciated continuity and a visual dynamism that keeps us at the edge of our seats. And the whole thing is beautifully shaped with a top-notch cinematography.


C.R.A.Z.Y. was THE film of the year here in Quebec in 2005. It won no less than 14 Jutra Awards, plus two special awards for the same ceremony. I sort of feel bad for the other films that were nominated that year haha. But what can I say? Sometimes, you just can’t surpass supreme quality!


There aren’t enough words to express the excellency of C.R.A.Z.Y., but I hope this review convinced you to see it as soon as possible if you haven’t. Meanwhile, take a look at the entertaining trailer. Not the best visual quality, but there are English subtitles!


I wrote this article for the always fun O Canada Blogathon hosted by the ever-enthusiastic Ruth from Silver Screenings and Kristina from Speakeasy. I want to thank both ladies for honouring my native country via this great event!

Don’t miss the other entries:

O Canada Day 1

O Canada Day 2

O Canada Day 3

See you!

I Confess : Hitchcock in Quebec

Today, except from the fact that I was working at 10:30 and really was about to slap someone in the face, today is really one of my most favourite days of the year? Why, because we celebrate what would have been Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. For the occasion, of course, we ought to watch some of his films, but we, movie bloggers, also have the chance to participate to the Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Coffee, Classics, & Craziness.
When I saw the announcement for this blogathon I didn’t hesitate a minute to participate. The hardest part was actually to choose what to write about. Not because there is nothing to say about Hitch (au contraire!), but because there are too many possible subjects. I had already written a tribute to him in my earlier articles, but if I only think of his films, there are so many I want and still have to write about.
Well, I finally decided to take you with me on a trip to the old, charming and very catholic Quebec City of the fifties. I Confess, one of Hitchcock’s most underrated American films, is the one I’m going to explore for the occasion. I’ll convince you that it’s, in a way, one of his best films and one of the most worthy for any Hitchcock’s fans.
I Confess was released in 1953. Apart from Hitch, the movie team was composed of Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter, Karl Malden, Brian Aherne, Roger Dann, Charles Andre, O. E Hasse, Dolly Haas, Judson Pratt, Ovila Légaré and Gilles Pelletier: the actors, George  Tabori and William Archibald: the screenwriters who adapted the play by Paul Anthelme, Dimitri Tiomkin who composed the music, Rudi Fehr who took care of the editing, and Robert Burks, the cinematographer.
I Confess is set (and was filmed) in Quebec City. The main story goes like it: A man has been murdered and his murderer, Otto Keller (O. E Hasse) goes to the church to confess his sin to his “friend” Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift). Because of the “law of silence” Father Logan can’t reveal what he has heard in the confessional. That begins to be problematic when, due to two little girls’ testimony, Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) starts to suspect him to be the murderer. Ruth Grandfort, his ex-girlfriend, is convinced of his innocence and is ready to reveal a lot to save him.
I Confess was described by film critic Sarah Ortiz as being the most Catholic films of Hitchcock’s films. That goes without saying as the religion indeed has a major part to play in the film. Without it, we wouldn’t have any story, and we wouldn’t have this very clever plot element. Think about it. Isn’t that a great idea: a priest who cannot reveal a murder due to the Law of Silence, being even ready to sacrifice his own life. Someone had to think about it. Hitchcock himself had a Catholic education and  understood perfectly how things worked in the world: he couldn’t choose a better place than Quebec City, then very religious and conservative, to set his story. As a matter of fact, most of French-Canadian movies shot during this period all have something very catholic, even if it’s not necessarily the central subject. On a bitter note concerning the Catholicism, the movie was, on its released, ban by the Irish Republic as it showed a priest having a relation with a woman (however, this one has his relation before he becomes a priest…).
But this very Catholic period in Quebec is not often remembered as a good thing. It was indeed very conservative and the province of Quebec was then in a sinister period, being governed by Maurice Duplessis. This period was called in French “La Grande Noirceur” (The Big Darkness). No liberties, except for the church who had an immense power. Fortunately, we managed to run away from it in the 60s with the Révolution Tranquille (The Quiet Revolution). But we can feel this sinister atmosphere in the film. I Confess is indeed one of the less funny Hitchcock’s films, aside from father Benoît and his bicycle. However, in his interview with François Truffaut, Hitchcock admitted that this film should have contained more humour. Maybe it was one of the factors why it wasn’t  a Box Office success… Was it TOO serious?
In an interview with the New-York Time, Hitchcock also revealed that he chose to shoot this film in Quebec City because “in no American city do you find a priest walking down the street in a cassock.” That’s quite true, which, once again, proves the omnipresence of the Catholic Church in the Quebec of the pre-sixties.
The cast for I Confess was quite interesting as it was not a typical Hitchcockian cast. Hitch, indeed, liked the re-use the same actors (James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, etc.). But none of the I Confess actors had starred in one of his films before and would after. Also, he used a “method” actor, Montgomery Clift, for the main character. And we know he wasn’t particularly fond of method actors. To answer your question, yes, he had a difficult time with Monty during the shooting. Anne Baxter, yes, is blond (well, in this film) like Hitchcock liked it, but she isn’t the same blond type as Grace Kelly or Tippi Hedren were. I think the most interesting and relevant part of this cast is the use of two French-Canadian actors: Ovila Légaré and Gilles Pelletier (by the way, the only member of the cast who is still alive today). But we’ll come back to them later.
Montgomery Clift, even if Hitchcock wasn’t too convinced by him, did a great job in the role of Father Logan. His acting game is honest and fine. It is not overshadowed by the other great actors of the cast and he is in perfect harmony with the film itself. The only problem: he’s much too much handsome to be a priest! Ahah! Not that I have any prejudice about priest, but, you know, one can be disappointed. 😉
It’s thanks to this film that Anne Baxter became a very favourite of mine. As a matter of fact, this film is my favourite of hers. She’s just fantastic. She touches you and reaches your heart. She embodies the strongest emotions of the film. I sometimes can’t believe I used, a long time ago, not to care about this actress. Her sad eyes are adorable and her low voice is spellbinding.
It is always a pleasure to see Karl Malden in any films, even if, in this one, he doesn’t have a very sympathetic role. But, whatever the type of character he is, he is always great. We don’t have to wonder if he will be, we know he will. I have to say, he is one of the most convincing actors of the film. Monty Clift is great, but we know he’s acting, pretending. Karl Malden is more natural. He just is what he has to be.
The presence of Brian Aherne, a most intriguing actor, is quite intriguing.  He plays someone who can change very easily due to the circumstances. As a crown prosecutor in court , he will terrify Ruth Grandford, but in his everyday life, he is a friend to her. Brian Aherne is an actor with no pretension who fitted perfectly in the role of Willy Robertson. François Truffaut himself admitted to Hitchcock that Robertson was one of the most interesting characters of the film. Interesting fact: his first wife, actress Joan Fontaine, starred in two Hitchcock’s films: Rebecca and Suspicion.
O. E Hasse, a German actor, was well chosen as a German immigrant. His character is quite dumb and annoying, I have to say, and Hasse succeed to be this way brilliantly. We just really feel sorry for this guy, just like Father Logan does. Dolly Haas, who plays his wife was an American-German actress. The name of her character, Alma Keller, was chosen in remembrance of Alma Reville, due to her physical ressemblance to Hitchcock’s wife. Alma is the most sensible character of the film. She is a good person and, just like father Logan, is ready to sacrifice herself, but this time, really to save someone, not only because of a “law”. If Anne Baxter was very touching, she is too.
I won’t talk about all the actors, but I have to mention the presence of Ovila Légaré and Gilles Pelletier, the two French-Canadian actors who were chosen to star in the film. Imagine the privilege to star in a Hitchcock’s film! They both don’t have a very big part, but those are both important for different reasons. Olivia Légaré plays the role of Villette, the man who has been murdered. We only saw him in the flashback scene, but all the story turns around him. Gilles Pelletier plays the role of Father Benoît, who will make us laugh with his bicycle. He’s probably the most sympathetic character and actor of the lot. To give you some historical facts, Ovila Légaré also was a singer. In the 50s, he also starred in Le Père Chopin, Un homme et son pécher, Le Curé du Village and Le Rossignol et les cloches (as a restorer – my favourite role of his). As for Gilles Pelletier, he is the brother of Denise Pelletier, an important French-Canadian actress. I saw him recently in La grande séduction, which is known as one of the best French-Canadian films.
I Confess‘ cinematography, conducted by Robert Burks, simply is a masterpiece. I have to say, among all black and white Hitchcock’s films, I think this one has the most beautiful cinematography. Curiously, Burks also took care of the cinematography of To Catch a Thief, which is, for me, visually, the most beautiful Hitchcock’s color film. He also was the cinematographer for Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds and Marnie. Hum, I think Hitch appreciated his work. And he was right! Robert Burks won an Oscar for his work in To Catch a Thief (very well deserved).
I Confess is visually stunning. The way Burks shows the old Quebec City to the spectators’ eye is mesmerizing. He creates a dark and mysterious atmosphere by making contrasts with the darkness and the light. He films the church and the crosses in very interesting angles. I Confess has a very “film noir” aesthetic, and it’s probably for this reason that it sometimes is considered to be a noir. The best example of it would be the opening scene. As for the opening credits, those shows us the Château Frontenac, an important symbol of the city, which was an idealistic way to introduce the film.
To add a sonorous ambiance to this mysterious illustrations of Quebec, Dimitri Tiomkin composed an effective musical score. It is not remembered has the most famous score from an Hitchcock’s film (Tiomkin wasn’t Bernard Hermann), but his music does the job and he understood what he had to do.
It’s unfortunate that I Confess didn’t have a bigger success on it’s release. It’s a brilliant an entertaining story. It has an immense suspense like every Hitchcock’s films. Even today, it’s still snubbed by many. What do people need? On a better note, I Confess was a favourite among the directors of the New Wave (that includes François Truffaut, of course). So, it’s a proof that it can be appreciated by people with great tastes. This film, I like it more and more each time I watch it. It’s the kind of film you discover something new every time you watch it. When I saw it for the last time, yesterday, with my mother, this one thought it was an excellent film. And she’s not François Truffaut! So “normal” people can also like/love it.
I had the chance, last winter, to see it on big screen. One word: stunning. It’s thanks to this experience that I realized how it was visually beautiful. Also, the fact that it doesn’t only take place in Quebec, but that it was really filmed there is quite appreciable for someone like me, who has often been there (last time, I was waiting for my parents who were stuck in the traffic – er – not as thrilling as an Hitchcock’s film…). It’s always nice when you watch this film and you recognize the places. But it’s the fact that it was directed by Hitchcock that make the whole lot so special!
Anyway, it’s a film that deserves many more chances! I was here today to honour Hitchcock, but also to honour one of his most underrated films, because it deserved to be.
A big thanks to Coffee Classics and Craziness for hosting this wonderful blogathon.
Don’t forget to read the other entries as well!
Happy heavenly birthday Hitch!