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Un Zoo la nuit

(Night Zoo)

Year: 1987
Language: French
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 115 min
Director: Jean-Claude Lauzon
Producer: Pierre Gendron, Roger Frappier
Writer: Jean-Claude Lauzon
Cinematographer: Guy Dufaux
Editor: Michel Arcand
Sound: Yvon Benoît
Music: Jean Corriveau
Cast: Germain Houde, Corrado Mastropasqua, Gilles Maheu, Lynne Adams, Jerry Snell, Roger Bel, Lorne Brass, Denys Arcand
Production Company: Les Productions OZ Inc.

Un zoo la nuit is a violent, contemporary story about an ex-con, Marcel (Maheu), who tries to rebuild his life. It contrasts the brutality of the urban underworld with the traditional, rural morality of Marcel’s dying father (Le Bel).

Marcel, who has recently been released from prison, goes to retrieve the money he stashed away before his incarceration. He quickly discovers that he’s not the only one after the cash; two crooked cops have been waiting for their piece of the action. Marcel is also met with the strain of both his passionate, demanding relationship with his girlfriend, Julie, and his father’s failing health.

Struggling to find a sense of equilibrium, Marcel reunites with his father who thinks he has been on an extended trip. Together, they retreat deep into the woods to fish and hunt, restoring their profound bond — but the respite for both is temporary. Marcel’s father is hospitalized when his heart gives out, which prompts Marcel to plan one last hunting trip.

Un zoo la nuit was Jean-Claude Lauzon’s debut feature; his remarkably assured direction and challenging screenplay rendered the film an immediate critical success across Canada and internationally. It was invited to open the prestigious Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, where it received a standing ovation upon its conclusion. Un zoo la nuit also won 13 Genies (including best picture, director, screenplay, cinematography and editing), which was an all-time record.

Like Marcel’s struggle between his two worlds, watching Un zoo la nuit feels like seeing two films at once, an impression that is amplified by Guy Dufaux’s vivid cinematography. Lauzon said, “I ended up making a high contrast film, with two rhythms and two styles.” This powerful dialectic is at the centre of Un zoo la nuit’sboldness and originality.

Source: Take One's Essential Guide to Canadian Film; 1987 Festival of Festivals program book