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Le Confort et l'indifference

(Comfort and Indifference)

Year: 1981
Language: French
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 109 min
Director: Denys Arcand
Producer: Jean Dansereau, Roger Frappier
Cinematographer: Jacques Godbout, Alain Dostie, Pierre Perrault, Gilles Groulx, Jacques Bensimon, Tahani Rached, Bernard Gosselin
Editor: Pierre Bernier
Sound: Serge Beauchemin, Jean-Pierre Joutel
Cast: Jean-Pierre Ronfard
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada
Le Confort et l’indifference is Denys Arcand’s analysis of why the Parti Québécois lost the referendum on independence in May, 1980. Sequences shot by nearly a dozen National Film Board filmmakers are juxtaposed with the historical character of Niccolb Machiavelli (Jean-Pierre Ronfard), who looks down on Montreal from an office at the top of a skyscraper. Reciting excerpts from his famous political treatise, The Prince, he passes judgment on Quebec history and society.

Machiavelli’s principles, which frame each segment of the film, are used to examine the approach each political leader took in trying to sway the voters leading up to the referendum. Pierre Trudeau is presented as a man who understood a cynical reading of politics and achieved his political goals by knowing how to manage the people. René Lévesque comes across as a naive leader who had confidence in the open-mindedness of the people and gambled on an appeal to their deepest values, only to lose his bet.

Both cruel and funny, the film is a characteristically gloomy Arcand vision of a people ruled by their fear: incapable of challenging their own destiny, even in the face of sweeping change, they choose comfort and indifference over their birthrights.