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Gilles Groulx

Director, Screenwriter, Editor, Cinematographer
(b. January 1, 1931 Montreal, Quebec - d. January 1, 1994)

Gilles Groulx was first a poet and painter – and had made a short experimental documentary, Les héritiers (1954, released in 1998) – before he joined the National Film Board (NFB) in the late 1950s, where he worked as a film editor then director.

His first documentary, Les raquetteurs (1958), which he co-directed with Michel Brault, was a seemingly simple reportage on a congress of snowshoeing clubs; however, the film became a landmark in the evolution of direct cinema. The visual style of the film (owing primarily to Brault’s camerawork and use of wide-angle lenses) and its ironic structure (the result of Groulx’s editing) revealed a side of French-Canadian culture that had rarely been acknowledged: the mundane but important rituals and customs that make Quebec unique. In the years immediately following Les raquetteurs, Groulx directed a handful of shorts in direct cinema style, the best of which are Golden Gloves (1961), about an aspiring, unemployed boxer, Voir Miami... (1963), which analyzes Quebeckers’ fascination with and resistance to American culture and Un jeu si simple (1965), a film about hockey.

In late 1963, Groulx was hired by the NFB to direct a documentary on how young people spend their time during the winter. Groulx used the budget to make Le chat dans le sac (1964), a feature length fiction film about the awakenings of nationalist sentiment in a twenty-something French-Canadian man and the disintegration of his relationship with an English-speaking Jewish woman. Groulx blended documentary form with the self-referential approach of new wave filmmaking to examine contemporary issues such as nationalism, feminism and Marxism. Le chat dans le sac became a model for subsequent engagé feature films and, as Peter Harcourt points out in “1964: Beginning of a Beginning” in Self-Portrait: Essays on the Canadian and Quebec Cinema (Canadian Film Institute, 1980), the film is often acknowledged as marking the beginning of modern fiction film in Quebec. Groulx slipped again from documentary to fiction in Où êtes-vous donc? (1968), an experimental narrative on the evils of consumerism. He explores a similar theme in Entre tu et vous (1969), another experimental fiction work.

Groulx returned to a more “traditional” mode of documentary with 24 heures ou plus... (1973), a passionate study of Quebec politics and society in the early 1970s. The film was deemed subversive by NFB commissioner Sydney Newman and was banned from circulation until 1976. After making a commissioned documentary on education, Place de l’équation (1973), he directed a co-production with Mexico in 1977, Première question sur le bonheur/Primera pregunta sobre la felicidad, which recounts the struggle of Mexican farmers against bourgeois landowners.

In all of his films, Groulx criticized capitalist society and the inability of Quebeckers to escape the North American culture saturated with vacuous images and useless products. In 1981, as he was finishing his surrealist fiction film about a selfish businessman, Au pays de Zom (1982), Groulx was involved in a serious automobile accident that ended his career.

In 1995, Richard Brouillette made the documentary Trop c’est assez about Groulx’s life.

Film and video work includes

Les héritiers, 1954 (director; writer; editor)
La chaîne, 1958 (co-editor with Patrick Dauphin, Claude Pelletier)
Le chef de service, 1958 (co-editor with Édouard Davidovici)
Le commis, 1958 (editor)
Les 90 jours, 1959 (co-editor with Marc Beaudet, Victor Jobin)
Il était une guerre, 1959 (co-editor with Victor Jobin, Marc Beaudet, David Mayerovitch)
Normétal, 1959 (director; writer)
Alfred Desrochers, poète, 1960 (editor)
La France sur un caillou, 1961 (co-director with Claude Fournier; editor)
Le vieil age, 1962 (editor)
Jusqu'au cou, 1963 (actor)
Les petits arpents, 1963 (narrator)
Voir Miami, 1963 (director; editor)
Fabienne sans son Jules, 1964 (co-editor with Jacques Godbout)
Un jeu si simple, 1965 (director; editor; narrator)
Québec ... ?, 1967 (actor)
Entre tu et vous, 1969 (director; writer)
24 heures ou plus..., 1973 (director; co-writer with Jean-Marc Piotte; co-editor with Jacques Kasma)
Place de l'équation, 1973 (director; writer)
Première question sur le bonheur/Primera pregunta sobre la felicidad, 1977 (director; co-editor with Jacques Kasma)
Au pays de Zom, 1982 (director; writer; editor)