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L' Homme aux oiseaux

(The Bird Fancier)

Year: 1955
Language: French
Runtime: 30 min
Director: Jean Palardy, Bernard Devlin
Producer: Guy Glover
Writer: Roger Lemelin
Cinematographer: Grant McLean
Editor: Douglas Tunstell
Sound: Joseph Champagne
Music: Maurice Blackburn
Cast: Maurice Beaupré, Camille Fournier, Annette Leclerc, Charlotte Schreiber, Claude Picher, Roger Lebel, Laurent Gervais
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada

Jos Demontignay (Camille Fournier) prefers taking walks through Quebec City and watching birds to the routines of a daily job. Though he has a wife (Annette Leclerc) and family, he is not really troubled when he is fired. He spends the day talking to friends and considers working in their respective fields – as a guide (Claude Picher), a municipal worker (Roger Lebel), a fireman (Maurice Beaupré) and a longshoreman (Laurent Gervais) – but rejects them all. Meanwhile, motivated by rumours that Jos has been jailed, his wife frantically searches the city for him. He decides to run away to sea, but ends up instead working on the local ferryboat.

This anecdotal drama, written by novelist Roger Lemelin using “typical” Quebec City characters, was an expensive production for the NFB (at about $55,000) and is one of the rare fiction films of the period. It was well received by audiences and won a Canadian Film Award for best theatrical short. Though one might criticize its quaint, folkloric characters and emphasis on the picturesque, its appeal at the time undoubted stemmed from its use of Québécois French and its lightness of touch – both rare characteristics of NFB films of the period.

By: Peter Morris

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