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Le Règne du jour

(The Times that Are)

Year: 1966
Language: French
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 118 min
Director: Pierre Perrault
Producer: Guy Coté, Jacques Bobet
Cinematographer: Jean-Claude Labrecque, Bernard Gosselin
Editor: Yves Leduc, Jean Lepage
Sound: Alain Dostie, Serge Beauchemin
Music: Jean-Marie Cloutier
Cast: Louis Harvey, Alexis Tremblay, Léopold Tremblay, Marcellin Tremblay, Diane Tremblay, Jean-Paul Tremblay, Louis Lemarchand, Carleton Ray, Françoise Montagne, Marie Tremblay, Marie-Paule Tremblay
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada

Le Règne du jour is the second film in Pierre Perrault’s remarkable documentary trilogy chronicling the Tremblay family of Île-aux-Coudres that began with Pour la suite du monde (1963) and ended with Les Voitures d’eau (1968). Alexis Tremblay, his wife Marie, their son Léopold and daughter-in-law Marie-Paule travel to Western France, the land of their ancestors, for thirty-two days. Their experiences are varied and their reactions decidedly mixed. In Paris, Marie goes to the hairdresser for the first time. In Brittany, the family visits the farm that belonged to the first Tremblay and Alexis is shown the parish document that records the marriage in 1623 of his ancestor, Pierre Tremblay.

But, hoping to find the roots of his own values, Alexis is disappointed. The nation he finds does not conform to the ideals of the France he believes in so passionately. While Marie enjoys their trip, it constitutes little more than a series of disappointments and defeats for her husband. But even as the experience of participating in the film diminishes Alexis’s faith, the film itself confirmed and renewed the collective faith of the Quebec nation. It could no longer be seen as an offshoot of the old country – the film revealed Quebec as a nation unto itself, with its own distinct language, customs and beliefs.

Le Règne du jour marked a major development in Perrault’s use of direct cinema: the central event of the story, the trip to France, was entirely initiated by him. The film is refreshing and warmly funny and features exceptionally beautiful cinematography, but its real strength is the masterful editing which brilliantly frames the Tremblay family’s discussion of their travels and the actual visit itself. The film contributed to the ongoing debate about the validity of the cinéma-vérité technique as the last word in realism, once it became apparent that the people being photographed were aware of the camera and modulated their behaviour accordingly – in some cases, starting to act for the cameras.

La Règne du jour was extensively analyzed in France as a major new development in direct cinema and was widely praised in Quebec as a profound expression of Quebec reality. It was screened at international festivals and won two Canadian Film Awards for Black-and-White Cinematography (Bernard Gosselin) and Overall Sound (Serge Beauchemin, Alain Dostie).