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Claude is a middle-class French-Canadian filmmaker in his thirties from a good family and with a number of accomplishments. Uncertain about his life and the choices he has made, his family, his career, and his relationships are always under scrutiny by the the group of narcissistic intellectual friends and acquaintances he mingles with. His life is further complicated when he meets Johanne, a black fashion model. He falls in love with her and they build a relationship together, but Claude continues to sleep with other women. When Johanne makes two discoveries simultaneously and tells Claude about them - that she is pregnant and that Claude is gay - Claude is unable to handle the responsibility and the implications and decides to escape from his problems in any way that he can... Written by
It is such a treat to look back on Canadian cinema circa 1963 to 1970. There is a fresh edginess in this period of our film history-- sort of a gentle blend between The French New Wave and American Independent Cinema. Everyone considers Claude Jutra's MON ONCLE ANTOINE to be his best film. Actually, his masterpiece is the full version of KAMOURASKA. But my favourite of his works is this delightful maiden effort about the hot and cold romance between a white bohemian boy and a black model.
In my summary, I compared it to John Cassavetes' SHADOWS (one of my favourite films). I mean this comparison less in terms of the interracial bohemian romance than how both of these pictures seem to make cinema young again. A TOUT PRENDRE was filmed with a volunteer crew and borrowed equipment (and perhaps not enough lights-- some scenes are dangerously underlit, yet almost pass as Neo-Realist). 40 years later, it remains an inspiring piece; this picture made me want to make my own movies more than, say, PULP FICTION did. It is so refreshing to see a guerilla picture that is so playful and jammed with energetic young ideas. Why does so much so-called Independent Film (whatever that term means any more...) have to be so nihilistic?
That said, however, A TOUT PRENDRE nonetheless ends on a melancholy note, as the young man walks off a pier and drowns. It is filmed so plainly; the act is thus even more shocking. Considering that Jutra himself is also the lead actor, and that nearly 25 years later he ended his own life by drowning, this scene is even more creepy.
But even so, what leaves the most impression is the bouncy energy that pervades this film. It is a pleasant reminder of when our film industry had so much promise. Even the finest directors of this period (Jutra, Paul Almond, Don Shebib, Allan King, etc.) ended up doing some of that horrible self-conscious tax shelter crap in the 1970's, which forever gave Canadian viewers a stigma about their own filmmaking. A TOUT PRENDRE still has a beguiling youthfulness inside it.
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