Set in cold rural Quebec at Christmas time, we follow the coming of age of a young boy and the life of his family which owns the town's general store and undertaking business. Written by
Steve Richer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A critics poll held once a decade, since 1984, at the Toronto International Film Festival has named this movie the greatest Canadian film of all time 3 decades in a row. See more »
[Benoit and his uncle Antoine try to recover a casket that has fallen off their sleigh. Antoine is in a drunken state]
Don't let go!
I can't, Benoit. Sometimes you just can't.
Yes, you can! My arm's in a cast and I can do it. We're almost there. Don't give up. You can do it.
[Dejectedly, and in a drunken stupor]
What am I doing here, Benoit? I'm not happy. I'm not made for the country. I hate it here. I wanted to buy a hotel in the States. Your aunt wouldn't let me. She says no to everything. I'm...
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The actor who plays the Big Boss is billed as Georges Alexander in the original French language version, but as George Alexander in the dubbed English version. See more »
This film has consistently been voted as the greatest Canadian film ever made in various critics polls over the years. Revered New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael hailed it as a small masterpiece upon original release but it is the sort of slow, intimate, character-based drama that has never achieved the sort of wide appeal (outside of Canada) that more plot focused films have. Watching some of the supplementary material on the Criterion Collection disc, it is also clear that there are many cultural references in the film that will mean more to a Canadian (particularly a French Canadian) than to other viewers.
The film meanders amiably along, capturing in unhurried pace the life of rural 1940's Quebec, in this case an asbestos mining town. The main characters are Benoit, an orphaned boy, the local undertaker Antoine and his assistant Fernand played by the director himself Claude Jutra. Eventually the film reaches its big set-piece, a long, extended night sequence where Benoit and Antoine (covered in furs) must traverse the icy, snow covered landscape via sled to retrieve the body of a boy who has died at a farmhouse.
The director was hailed as the new savior of Canadian cinema at the time of release, but unfortunately never achieved the level of success later on that he did with this film. He mysteriously disappeared one winter and his body was discovered the following spring after the ice had thawed...a simple note attached, "My name is Claude Jutra".
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