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Cuisine rouge, la

Year: 1979
Language: French
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 82 min
Director: Paule Baillargeon, Frédérique Collin
Producer: Claude Gagné, Renée Roy
Writer: Paule Baillargeon, Frédérique Collin
Cinematographer: Jean-Charles Tremblay
Editor: Babalou Hamelin
Sound: Jacques Blain, Serge Beauchemin, Esther Auger
Music: Yves Laferrière
Cast: Monique Mercure, Han Masson, Catherine Brunelle, Michèle Mercure, Marie Ouellet, Valérie Déjoie
Production Company: Les Films Anastasie, Ballon Blanc

It is the hottest day of the year, and a marriage has taken place in a courtyard. A group of women gathered in a kitchen reject their imposed role and refuse to work while the men – in a topless bar – await their meal. They get increasingly drunk and angry and engage in debates and arguments. Meanwhile, a young girl rebels, rejects her social situation and leaves, taking with her the seeds of revolution.

This first feature by Paule Baillargeon and Frédérique Collin is a radical feminist work that rejects traditional film narrative and addresses the interrelationship between subjective experience and the larger social context. It draws on a range of alienating devices – long takes, direct speech and a theatrical use of space – in an effort to force the viewer to confront the social issues that are raised, and endeavours to dismantle established codes of sexuality by borrowing from Brechtian epic theatre (Baillargeon was a co-founder of Quebec’s very Brechtian grand cirque ordinaire).

As Brenda Longfellow has observed, the film “employs a flat, minimalist style of representation, anti-natural acting, and long mise en scène sequences with a minimum of editing. Strange it is indeed, but strangeness borne of a very conscious political strategy… [W]e can see La Cuisine rouge as a kind of moral drama whose intent is to produce knowledge of sexual role typing in patriarchal society… The point of [the film’s] theatricality is to foreground the artificiality of representation, and, by analogy, the artificiality of sexual roles themselves.”

By: Andrew McIntosh, Peter Morris