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Year: 1975
Language: French
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 95 min
Director: Denys Arcand
Producer: Pierre Lamy
Executive Producer: Luc Lamy
Writer: Denys Arcand
Cinematographer: Alain Dostie
Editor: Denys Arcand
Sound: Serge Beauchemin
Music: Michel Pagliaro, Benny Barbara, Gabriel Arcand
Cast: Paule Baillargeon, Serge Thériault, Frédérique Collin, Claude Blanchard, Gabriel Arcand, Céline Lomez
Production Company: Les Productions Carle-Lamy Ltée

Gina (Céline Lomez), a Montreal striptease dancer, is sent by her agency to small-town Louisville to give a show at a local hotel. Also arriving in Louisville that same day are Bob Sauvageau (Claude Blanchard), leader of a gang of snowmobilers known as “Les Pinguins,” and a director (Gabriel Arcand) and a small crew of filmmakers from the Office National du Cinéma who are making a film on the oppressive working conditions at the local textile factory (a reference to Arcand’s own NFB-banned documentary On est au coton). The friendly relationship that is established between Gina and the filmmakers upsets the snowmobilers, while the filmmakers, having persuaded the manager of the factory to allow them to film, are discovering a long history of alienation and submission among the workers.

In the evening, as Gina gives her first performance, tension grows between her and the snowmobilers. That night Gina is alone in her room when one of the snowmobilers breaks in and rapes her. She decides to answer violence with violence and with the help of her manager and his friends she attacks the snowmobilers. After gaining violent retribution, she returns to Montreal, then flies to Mexico. Meanwhile, the filmmakers have been taken off the film by their producer following protests by the company and end up making a police thriller.

Denys Arcand’s extraordinary fatalistic dirge on life in Quebec might well have been subtitled “victimization as the inevitable condition of society.” Less overtly political than Réjeanne Padovani (1973), though equally about powerlessness, Gina draws ironic parallels between the documentary and fiction modes and between various kinds of alienation, defeat and submissiveness. An incisive indictment of class divisions in Quebec society, it speaks of humanity’s shared servitude, and offers no hope of a political solution. Gina has been aptly called “the most underrated of Arcand’s films” by NOW magazine film critic John Harkness, but also marked a turning point in Arcand’s career – he turned away from personal fiction films for the next ten years. The film’s spectacular violent denouement, which might seem reminiscent of the work of Sam Peckinpah, reflects Arcand’s view that violence is inevitable in a senselessly brutal society.

By: Peter Morris