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Les Plouffe

(The Plouffe Family/Il était une fois des gens heureux les Plouffe)

Year: 1981
Language: French
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 227 min
Director: Gilles Carle
Producer: Justine Héroux
Executive Producer: John Kemeny, Denis Héroux
Writer: Gilles Carle, Roger Lemelin
Cinematographer: François Protat
Editor: Yves Langlois
Sound: Patrick Rousseau
Music: Stéphane Venne, Claude Denjean
Cast: Serge Dupire, Pierre Curzi, Gabriel Arcand, Anne Létourneau, Denise Filiatrault, Gérard Poirier, Paul Berval, Émile Genest, Juliette Huot
Production Company: Ciné London Inc., International Cinema Corporation

Les Plouffe is the story of a Quebec family during the years of the Depression and the Second World War: the father, Théophile (Emile Genest), once a champion cyclist and now a typesetter; his wife Joséphine (Juliette Huot), who raises the children; eldest son Napoléon (Pierre Curzi), who is unemployed; Guillaume (Serge Dupire), a baseball fanatic; Ovide (Gabriel Arcand), an opera buff whose mother wanted him to become a priest; and Cécile (Denise Filiatrault), the only daughter, who works in a shoe factory.

The people around them represent a typical cross-section of Quebec society of the time. Parish priest FolbPche (Gérard Poirier) is a defender of religion and a strong advocate of the significance of language as a source of identity. Rita Toulouse (Anne Létourneau) is a tease pursued by all the young men, including Ovide. Onésime Ménard (Paul Berval), Cécile’s former lover, is frustrated by her refusal to marry him and full of regret over the woman he did marry.

Although the characters from Lemelin’s famous novel had been used in a popular and long-running sitcom on Radio-Canada and CBC in the fifties, Carle’s more direct adaptation takes the characters away from the kitchen table and follows them into the streets, factories and bars. Carle explores the dreams of – and the choices open to – Quebecers in that period, and underlines the importance of the family in Quebec society. The film’s narrative journey is circular, following the various family members out into the world of war, politics and religion, then finally attending their return to the fold.

A five-million-dollar production, Les Plouffe was shot as both a feature film and a six-hour television miniseries; in the movie version, the relationship between the sensitive, repressed son Ovide and Rita is the central focus. Though it sometimes slips into sentimental melodrama, Les Plouffe offers a persuasive portrait of a period during which Quebec society was undergoing radical changes.

During the first four days of its theatrical release in Quebec in April of 1981, the film was shortened by 32 minutes to its current 227-minute running time; two weeks later, a 169-minute subtitled version was released to English-speaking audiences in Toronto. After screening in the Director’s Fortnight programme at the Festival de Cannes and receiving the International Press Award at the Montreal World Film Festival, Les Plouffe scored fourteen Genie Award nominations; it won seven Genies, including Best Picture (Denis Héroux, Justine Héroux), Supporting Actress (Denise Filiatrault), Adapted Screenplay (Carle, Lemelin) and Best Direction (Carle).