2018, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
Jump Cut, No. 58, winter, 2017-2018
“Do you like boys?”
Claude Jutra’s disappearances: confession, courage, cowardice
by Thomas Waugh
“Dedicated to all victims of intolerance.” [open endnotes in new window]
“Moral Valuation: Centered on an adulterous relationship, this unhealthy film complacently showcases the disturbances of its heroes. To be banned.”
(Re: À tout prendre. Office catholique national des techniques de diffusion [National Catholic Office of Dissemination Techniques (Quebec)].1964)
“The Jutra affair” of 2016 is of interest to all Jump Cut readers concerned not only with archives and national cinemas but also with sexual representation and queer identities in film history and cultural theory. Moreover, in the wake of the roller-coaster peripeteias of the careers of Woody Allen and Nate Parker, not to mention D.W. Griffith and Leni Riefenstahl, it would be useful to reflect more deeply on the dynamics of blame, rectitude, canonization, and redemption in cultural historiography.
In the meantime, in this essay about Quebec founding filmmaker Claude Jutra (1930-1986) I would like first to update a paper on Jutra’s “new wave” autocinema masterpiece, À tout prendre (1963), which I had presented at the Cinémathèque québécoise in November 2015 (the 50th anniversary of the release of this groundbreaking film). This happened a few months prior to the appearance of Yves Lever’s incriminating biography of the director, a book that would unleash Jutra’s well known “disappearance” and the surrounding turbulence of 2016 that have sparked this Jump Cut special section on Jutra.
Thereafter I would like to skim and wander back and forth across Jutra’s prolific oeuvre like a detective, beguiled and bewitched, in search of the pedophile who burst into the spotlight three decades after his first disappearance (by suicide in 1986)—and now has been “disappeared” a second time through media, institutional and cultural symbolic violence thirty years later. I would like to briefly re-examine six of Jutra’s films that are most relevant to the issue of pedophilia, searching for the secret and the courage as well as the poetry and the erotics. In conclusion, prodded by these textual pleasures, challenges and dilemmas, I will ponder the ethical and political responsibility of the queer film historian—in 2006 and in 2017—in the exploration of the queer [film] archive, in the modulation or defense or subversion of the queer [or national] canon.
I have been writing about Claude Jutra for most of my career, and once heard through mutual friends that he had been happy that I had called him the E.M. Forster of Quebec cinema (because of his lifelong silence following his youthful confessional À tout prendre) in a piece I published about lesbian and gay images in Quebec cinema in 1981. I have continued to honor and respect him as one of the two “founding queens” of Canadian and Quebec cinema (along with his mentor-collaborator Norman McLaren, 1914-1987). In The Romance of Transgression in Canada, my 2006 monograph on Canadian queer cinema, I devoted 35 or so pages to the more than 30 films of this “ancestor, enigma, and martyr of queer cinema in Canada” and thought that I had finally got Jutra out of my system. I was wrong. Now, thanks to the scandal, Jutra has acquired even more symbolic importance as an unlikely protagonist in the resistance to a neo-liberal empire shored up in equal part by two “wars”—the war on terrorists and migrants, and the war on sex offenders. I will explain.
As I observed in my 2006 book in great detail but without once using forensic trigger labels (out of cowardice?), a singular sensibility that I will call pedophile is perceptible in almost all Jutra’s films, whether in a major way in a film like Mon oncle Antoine (1971) or in a minor way in À tout prendre. It is never explicit, it goes without saying, but rather is translated or channeled in glowing iconographies of boys’ bodies, faces and gestures, and in highly empathetic narrative themes of coming of age, pedagogy, suffering, ageing, discovery, corporeal pleasure, sociality, etc. This sensibility fuels a creative energy that has not lost its power over the generations. I respectfully explored the intergenerational discourses in Jutra’s oeuvre in 2006, and have not changed my mind in the last decade nor since the scandal, not one syllable. Who would or could disappear Jutra from the highest-echelon list of world filmmakers from Jean Vigo to Satyajit Ray to François Truffaut and Céline Sciamma who have bequeathed to us movies brilliantly capturing the subjectivity and agency of kids?
The traces of pedophile desire in Jutra’s oeuvre have often been innocently inventoried by critics but without ever being pushed towards what are for me their obvious biographical meanings. In my book and elsewhere I explored these iconographies and themes with a neutral tone, with respect. I did so without blame, without moralization, without the attitude of the lyncher, inquisitor or morality squad, having grown up like Jutra in a society where my desires were criminal. My treatment of Jutra was I hope in the open, neutral spirit of my idols, from Hirschfeld to Kinsey to Gayle Rubin, from Pasolini to Foucault…
Accordingly, I treated this tendency as artistic sensibility rather than forensic proof. In doing so, I was knowingly following a widespread tradition within queer and proto-queer communities over the last centuries, that is to say a tolerance or rather an acceptance of a whole “benign” spectrum of orientations, fantasies and consensual behaviors, all the while denouncing all forms of non-consensual assault, sexual or otherwise. Otherwise, on a similar topic, I would co-write four years after Romance on another very beautiful Quebec film, in English this time, that asks the question of intergenerational relations somewhat more directly: Frank Vitale’s English-language Montreal Main (1974) that also falls under the radar it seems of Quebec film critics and scholars (Waugh and Garrison 2010).
Romance engages with Jutra the pedophile, discreetly but empathetically. I described in passing elements of his films as “calfcake… striptease… scopophilic fantasies… obliqueness… tentative and contradictory confessions and disavowals, steps back and forth on the cultural continuums that span from homosocial male bonding to same-sex genital exchange, from parental love through same-sex mentorship to intergenerational eros.” I concluded,
“Jutra the poet of youthful learning cannot be separated from the Jutra whose erotic fulfilment derives from engagement in that process. This is the essence of Jutra’s work. Here is the terror it has held for critics and film historians, here are the secret and the courage that his closest collaborators couldn’t face.”
This discussion of obliqueness and ambiguity was too oblique and ambiguous for the 2016 biographer Yves Lever and the journalists that buzzed around the scandal that his biography sparked. With regard to my phrase, “intergenerational eros,” Matthew Hays, my ex-student and ongoing collaborator, helpfully deciphered it publicly on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “That's a film academic's way of suggesting Jutra's work had pedophilic overtones.” Journalists still did not understand such ambiguities, much less my empathy or my discretion. This podium is a chance to dot some i’s.
I have chosen a visual format, not only because Jutra was first and foremost a visual artist, but also because his images are all the more urgently important in the wake of his forced invisibility in 2016, his “disappearance” from the Canadian and Québécois public spheres. These images are important as well because of the blinkers of film scholars and critics in the face of what Jutra placed in front of them on the cinema screen over almost four decades (1948-1985). This format retains in any case the spirit of my audiovisual presentations both pre- and post-scandal, and reminds us of its work-in-progress status.
“[The cinema] makes things move fast and it makes the views that we have on life change and most certainly all the laws concerning sexuality have been reformed, in part due to film which was the strongest, most efficient vehicle of eroticism. So we have a sexual revolution; …I think probably film has been the strongest instrument in the sexual revolution, that’s one thing…. And sexually , people are much less driven than they used to be when it was forbidden…. I went to a psychiatrist and I found a lot of gratification in that and the great, great relief of talking about things that I didn’t even dare think about before and, consciously, it’s all related to guilt of sorts. A lot of guilt about sexual things and a lot of guilt about other people and all of a sudden being able to talk freely about something; that I was paying somebody to listen to me and knowing that it would not affect me directly. It was not threatening at all to speak about that. Nobody was going to punish me; it was not like confessing a crime that I could be punished for. Or in church, yes. And there was no guilt. I mean, there was, but I mean I was freeing myself of a lot of guilt and that was very relieving. But then, after a while I got bored listening to me saying all those horror stories…. [P]robably to be an actor and to step on the stage and be watched by a thousand people is a way, is probably one of the best ways of concealing what you really are to yourself and to the people closest to you. So these two different tendencies in me – secrecy and vanity….”
— Claude Jutra, 1979
My update on À tout prendre, hopefully among other things, is a challenge to the way international movie lovers somehow remain complicit in a canonization process, thanks to Netflix and the rest, that shoves minor cinemas to the peripheries and “disappears” their great treasures and artists. This opening section, taken from my original 2015 powerpoint, has been elaborated in the light of Jutra’s second disappearance.
I began my presentation with this beautiful erotic self-portrait taken around the time of the À tout prendre shoot – rather bold, it goes without saying, for 1963. This tender and open gaze into the still camera reinforces a theme dear to my heart, confession and confessionality (Waugh and Arroyo, 2018). Recent ongoing research on first person and autobiographical queer cinemas and their sexual utterances has dramatically emphasized for me Jutra’s unrecognized historical role in pioneering in À tout prendre the transcultural current over the last several generations of what Alisa Lebow has termed “the cinema of me.” (Lebow 2012) (I will come back to Jutra’s role on the international stage in Part II. For now, as an aside, I was deeply moved when that November a man from the audience, whose name I’ve forgotten, came up to me after my presentation and confided in me that the small star tattoo on Jutra’s bicep had as if through an epidermal confessional utterance enabled the identification of his body, recovered from the St. Lawrence River the following spring, several months after his first disappearance in November 1986.)
Not only the best portrait of Jutra that I know, this image reminds us that the thirtysomething filmmaker was very comfortable with his body and with representations of that body, erotic as well as undraped. (As the leading man in his own film À tout prendre, he reveals himself naked in the opening bathing scene before meeting Johanne, as well as brazenly in the sex scenes with her–and that’s without counting several other films where he had cast himself [e.g. Pour le Meilleur et pour le pire] or performed for his director friends) It is not surprising that the cinematographer Jean-Claude Labrecque had characterized his friend’s movie as a “toilet film” (Houle and Julien 1978, 2-3).
It is important to situate this portrait historically in the mid-60s when the Quiet Revolution brushed up against the sexual revolution, a period when Montreal film culture gravitated increasingly around images of the body (especially the male body but sometimes the female body). Native son Leonard Cohen acknowledged as much in the documentary about him that was released the year after Jutra`s film: “a man has allowed a number of strangers into his bathroom… Here in 1964 a man has invited a group of strangers to observe him cleaning his body.” But Jutra went even further, even if for his two main onscreen corporeal performances of the 1950s, Pierrot des bois (1956) and A Chairy Tale (1957), his agile and supple body is clothed in stylized costumes and makeup, not nude….
Before continuing, let me comment on my title’s ambiguities, taken from the famous question that Johanne had posed to “my love” in À tout prendre. The question “Do you like boys (“Aimes-tu les garçons?”) made the character Claude “confess the unconfessable.” But it must be stressed that in the context of the idiomatic French spoken in Montreal’s lively early 1960s bohemia frequented by the characters of the film as well as the real-life Jutra and Harrelle, “boys” obviously meant “men,” and not children or even adolescents. All the more so since Claude is seen immediately after this bedroom scene on his film set, busy flirting with his adult male leading man (played by an actor then 25 years old), exchanging intense and steady looks. But what shivers this question and my title would have sparked at the height of the scandal in 2016 only a few months after my original presentation, what rich irony! All the more so since this feature is scattered, like almost all Jutra’s films, with visual and dramatic traces, more or less discreet, of pedophile desire! How else, for example, are we to interpret the character’s (and the director’s?) masochist fantasy in one scene where a boy playing cowboy fires on Jutra through his street-level apartment’s open window during his most intimate embrace with Johanne?
Let me return to À tout prendre, one of Jutra’s least pedophile films but perhaps, paradoxically, his most confessional (please see attached synopsis and description). This low-budget indie is indeed chock full of confessions: Claude to his mother; Claude to a priest confidant; Johanne to Claude. But above all Claude to the spectator, and not to Johanne with whom he has a strikingly non-confessional relationship, even to the extent of eventually dumping her without any warning by telephone!
In Claude’s big confessional moment, Johanne caresses his forehead, eyebrows and hair and whispers in his ear: “My love, do you like boys?” Claude seems surprised by the question and asks Johanne to repeat it. She does so, but in an offscreen voice, with amplified resonance, punctuated by the sound of breaking glass.
“Claude (voice off): I don’t say yes any more than I say no. In this way has escaped the secret that I’ve kept inside me even longer than I can remember. Johanne has done that. With her woman’s hands, she has lifted up the heaviest part of my burdens. She has made me confess the unconfessable and I was not ashamed and I had no hurt. And now everything is changed, for that driving desire that was never satisfied, that torment, has taken took the form of a ray of hope.”
It is essential that Claude`s secret is unconfessable: his torment is so traumatic that he does not confess his secret to Johanne in the diegetic world of the film, but as an autofictive character – and as filmmaker-actor-scriptwriter – only to the spectator ensconced in the darkened cinema, and this thanks to postproduction in the closed and isolated sound editing studio. (It is also significant that the sequence was shot with a spring-wound Bolex, and thus by a negligible or minimal crew).
Claude says he is not ashamed, but he lies: in fact he is ashamed, compounding his shame with his dishonesty to both himself and his confessor. But it’s the shame that unleashes the personal and artistic transformation visible both in the film and especially around the film, a shame that Eve Sedgwick, founder of queer theory, often evokes. (Sedgwick, 2003, 35-65). It matters little if Claude the autofictive character and Jutra the author, if we have to categorize them, are confessing a bisexual orientation, literally speaking: the criminal code and Catholic culture did not and do not condemn orientations but rather acts, and 1960s bohemia was coolly in step. (Something to think about in the twenty-first century!)
In the special section published on the fiftieth anniversary of À tout prendre and of its equally pioneering companion film of the following year Le Chat dans le sac (Gilles Groulx, NFB, 2014) in Montreal film magazine 24 Images, lesbian filmmaker Jeanne Crépeau was the only contributor to get into detail on this sequence of confession and shame despite its centrality to the film:
“This story of the capricious petty seducer, sympathetic but a bit cowardly, Claude himself without being wholly himself, moves me because, beyond his affectedness, Jutra offers us, at the height of the Quiet Revolution, a tragic epic of the intimate instead of a political pamphlet. In 1964, you can drive around on a Vespa without a helmet, but homosexuality is a criminal offense. As for Johanne she sings and dances, then as if it’s nothing delicately comes to liberate Claude: “My love, do you like boys?” These characters, one a mirror of the other, touch me in their desire to invent stories that they try to believe: himself hetero, herself a Haitian princess; when the real is too painful, the fiction of the self confronts the fiction of the other” (Crépeau 2014).
Nathalie Saint-Pierre is also perceptive:
“Claude oscillating between love and hate of self (and of others), through his programmed [self-] destruction of different characters living in him (the punk, the killer, [whiteface harlequin] Pierrot), right up to the insatiable lover, flitting like a butterfly among three women but all the while ignoring his deeper desires…” (Saint-Pierre 2014).
But she doesn’t unpack a certain confession that calls into question those flittings….
Next, after the truncated conversation between Claude and Johanne, come heavily histrionic lines about the delusions of romantic love recited by an actor and actress to each other on the set of Claude’s shoot, then the same-sex seduction already mentioned, and finally we hear off screen Claude’s exclamation “Finally!”
What a commotion around the film’s single extra-diegetic confession! Not only zooms and noisy sound effects offscreen, not only a histrionic and conventional heteroromantic foil, but also, according to Martin Knelman, when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation cut this extraordinary moment from its broadcast of the English version of the film, this censorship provoked an “atrocious tribulation” for the filmmaker (Knelman 1977, 60).
Confession requires a voice. It is meaningful that Claude’s is offscreen, and that his voice, accompanied by frenetic, even perturbed, visual and sound effects, is foregrounded. Sophie Deraspe comments:
“Looking recently at the two films, one of their major characteristics became apparent: enunciation. The look at the camera. Speech addressed directly to the spectator. This is no longer about identification, but about exchange. We participate… [the film] creates the desire to act… By dismantling the fourth wall, the author engages in a relationship with the spectator who can no longer be a simple voyeur since his/her presence is recognized. The cinema machine, which ordinarily operates through identification, calls this time for sharing and communication. Jutra confesses….” (Deraspe 2014).
I will come back later to relationships and sharing.
Is there such a thing as geographical confession? À tout prendre is one of a dozen or so great films on the Montreal metropolitan geography. Can we see its treatment of urban space, its way of living urban space, of moving about urban space, also as a kind of confession? The city is Jutra’s set, celebrating modernity, diversity, and the turbulence of sexual, cultural and political alterities, identities, relationships and discourses. Like Denys Arcand twenty years later in The Decline of the American Empire (1986), Jutra recognizes Parc Mont-Royal (“the Mountain”) as a high-altitude sexual underground, bustling with furtive eroticism… even in winter. This recognition is surely personal for Jutra who resided at the time barely ten minutes on foot from the upper Peel Street entrance to the park, its snowy stairway represented in the film. In contrast, Arcand was, as we shall see shortly, very perturbed at the time by the spectrum of identitary and sexual difference.
Jutra’s evocation of the legendary Afro-Canadian jazz club Rockhead’s Paradise is not very different, stamped like the Mountain with histories of sexual subcultures and transgressive desire (this time heteronormative). And this is not to speak of urban walls covered with nationalist graffiti that subversively signal both a suppressed history and an uncertain future.
Let’s back up a bit to the historical and cultural context of À tout prendre, in order to see how Jutra went against the grain of certain tendencies, above all with regard both to the direct cinema movement with which he is often tied, and to the sexual revolution in full effervescence at the same moment. in the context of the documentary and documentary fiction hybrids of the first half of the 1960s, as Crépeau observes, this film is almost unique for its claims to a politics of sexuality, its resistance to censorship. Looking at Canadian direct cinema of the 1960s (francophone, anglophone and cross-pollinated), we can acknowledge several general binaries in the 1960s, corresponding roughly to Quebec and English Canada respectively: on one side the preoccupation with public space, on the other with intimacy; on one side the collective subject and on the other the individual; one was expressing itself through irony and the other through intensity; one derives from the state studio the National Film Board of Canada, the other from precarious indie infrastructures (this last formulation is admittedly slightly more complicated than my rhetorically heightened opposition implies…).
Nevertheless, for the two linguistic/cinematic cultures, sexuality was a battlefield, most obviously in respect to the decade-long resistance to censorship. But between Hiroshima mon amour (slashed in Quebec in 1960, with 17 cuts adding up to 13 minutes) and Après-Ski (a soft core sexploitation pic convicted of criminal “obscenity” in 1973), a whole generation of Quebec documentarists from cineaste laureate Pierre Perrault to Denys Arcand evinced hardly any interest in the sexual revolution that was battering down the doors. Jutra was the exception to this chaste, sober and collective cinema: he took risks that the others did not dare and this exception took primarily the form of hybridity (fiction and direct cinema) and autofiction (confession). Arcand wanted to reproach his colleague for his abstention from the day’s collective ethos but instead expressed rather his own upset towards difference (which would increasingly feel like racism and homophobia looking back in the decades to come):
“Why can Claude have a valid relationship only with this foreign Johanne whom he wants to make even stranger? There are after all “everyday” Québécois women all around him… both on-screen and psychologically. À tout prendre doesn’t succeed in getting close in tenderness and satisfaction to real everyday women. And in that, the hero is like lots of 30-year-old French Canadians, sensitive and cultivated, who have to have women who are black, yellow or red, in any case “foreign,” in order to have their intoxicating affairs. There is here, it seems, an unconscious refusal to coincide with his collective self, at the same time as an unquenchable thirst to perfect oneself in a mythic exteriority that arises from the global situation of our people…”
“… Nothing very surprising that at that point the film seems to claim the right to homosexuality… Nothing very new or very immoral in that. The only question is to know to what extent homosexuality is a solid form of sexual activity and in what manner it has a special state of self-affirmation, given our global context of existence in relation to artistic expression.” (Arcand 1964, 35-37)
Nothing very surprising that few documentarists addressed issues of sexuality in an intellectual atmosphere that allowed such attacks! In this charged context, the singularity of the author of so many films resonating with sensuous hybridities, censorship and autocensorship, corporeal performances and claims to sexual liberation, underground spaces, subtexts and obliquities, is all the more remarkable.
But Jutra’s confession has its exemplary stature all the same, and I’d like to theorize a little more around confession as I conclude this section on À tout prendre. I am thinking briefly of the concept of confession that Foucault developed in the 1980s as an action, an ethical, political and affective relationship with the other. As Tom Roach explains, Foucault was preoccupied with the difference between Catholic confession and parrhesia, its precurseur practiced by the ancients. According to Roach, parrhesia has a subjectifying, transformative performativity:
Foucault’s model is an ethos that
“privileges self-transformation over self-knowledge/decipherment. It takes as its objective neither self-exegesis/renunciation nor the recovery of a lost, whole identity, but rather the self-to-self relation. … Self-knowledge is of value only when it can produce an ethos, a change in the subject’s being…. Knowledge is measured only in its practicality, in its ability to move the body, to make decisions, or, to respond to various challenges. Self-knowledge should advance the subject toward a more autonomous relation to the self; it is truthful to the extent to which it becomes ethical action…. If the confession engenders dependence on another and requires the objectification of the self to speak its truth, parrhesia operates along more immanentist lines: The self is not objectified but subjectivated, the self becomes the subject of true discourse and is transformed in the truth`s enunciation…. friendship becomes not merely a relation but a practice: part of a regimen of self-care…. an ethics of friendship….” (Roach 2012, 25-26, 28, 34).
Stéphane Pujol adds: “…if parrhesia is the speech of truth, it is not supposed to arise either from a strategy of demonstration, nor from an art of persuasion, nor from a pedagogy. But there is parrhesia when an act of truth-telling opens for him/her who utters it a space of risk.” (Pujol 2015, 118).
Claude, that is to say the fictional character in the film, does not assume this risk of self-transformation. In exchanging his confession with Johanne – a partial and truncated exchange as we have seen (“I don’t say yes any more than I say no”) – he distances himself from her, buys her out, betrays her, and flies off to Africa at the end, his final cowardice. (Was Arcand right on this general point of cowardice, even if his rendering of the details confuses the character with the artist and is offensive to the extreme?) Yet the cowardice of the autofictional character Claude was scripted, directed and performed by Jutra the artist, and I stand in awe of his courage in confessing to the contradictory and masochistic welter of affirmation and affect that that film articulates in the 1963 context of Canadian legal and international cinematic precarity. Jutra the artist also wrote a sardonic short text in 1967, “How not to make a Canadian film.” His first response to his own question synthesizes the reception he had got for À tout prendre: “Choose a non-commercial subject, so personal as to be indecent, banal, futile, immoral, sordid, etc.” (Pâquet 1967). This bitterness may have been due in large part to the hurt he felt after the public disguised queerbaiting he faced, not only from critics and Arcand, but also from his collaborators in the decade after coming out in À tout prendre, his only venture in explicit autobiography.
He continued to follow precisely his own bitter and ironic advice for the rest of his career, but never at the level and on the scale of À tout prendre.We can never know to what extent this bitterness was colored by his awareness of the monstrosity with which society would brand the erotic sensibility he expressed on celluloid, a closet within a closet, a closet that was not to be decriminalized by the Omnibus Bill the following year, 1969, with its emphasis on “adult” sexuality. Disappeared for the first time thirty years ago, Jutra the cowardly bisexual, the banal pedophile, the immoral artist, the inventive and brave man who confessed and still confesses, maintains this ethical relationship with us, the confessor spectator, in the wake of his second disappearance. We must take up this great responsibility toward his burden, his shame and his hope.
Before moving on to a direct focus on Jutra`s other films, let`s pause to reconnoiter in very general terms the other essential international context—and intertext—of À tout prendre. Jutra was plugged in transculturally better than any other Quebec filmmaker (alongside the film’s dedicatee and his mentor, the androphile gay animator McLaren). This most cosmopolitan of Quebec filmmakers belonged to two international tendencies that I would like to foreground.
In the postwar period, the filming of oneself was a proliferating trope within art cinema on both sides of the Atlantic and even elsewhere. In the work of young filmmakers of the new waves here and there (as well as with some more established artists like another of Jutra’s mentors, the French filmmaker Jean Cocteau [1889–1963]), one often runs into more or less veiled confessionality, autobiography, self-portraiture, diaries and autofiction. À tout prendre is the only example that comes to mind, other than Cocteau’s 1960 Le Testament d’Orphée, released three years before his acolyte Jutra’s film, where the director is also the scriptwriter and the main actor (two decades after Citizen Kane [Orson Welles, 1941] and almost five before J’ai tué ma mère [Xavier Dolan, 2009]). We cannot afford to forget that the discreet avowal to desire for other men in Jutra’s film, as with contemporary and friend Kenneth Anger, also amounted to self-criminalization (six years before the decriminalizing Omnibus bill in Canada, five decades before decriminalization in the U.S.!): Critics and commentators of the period for the most part avoided reference to the homo scandal of À tout prendre,all the more since the transgression of same-sex eroticism was adroitly camouflaged by extramarital and interracial heterosexuality, abortion and other micro-transgressions (like the adulterous groping of brave actress Monique Mercure’s breasts, for example).
The series of surrogate suicide fantasies that punctuates the À tout prendre reminds us also that this kind of self-referential cinema is often also a cinema not only of shame but also of alienation and despair. It reminds us that Jutra’s self-reflexive tropes of sublimated desire and self-inflicted violence are common throughout his entire generation of thirty-something male filmmakers – and occasionally female filmmakers – who were doggedly struggling to make work within the various national new waves emerging within several cultures around the planet at this time.
These dogged artistic struggles were inextricable from the context of the sexual revolution and the contribution of the international new waves to the dismantling of the U.S.-based Production Code, as I argued in 2006. Like Schlesinger, Anderson, Godard, Pasolini, Makavejev, Rocha, Oshima, and others, Jutra hiply and self-consciously deployed the familiar sexual tropes that expressed a range of affects from celebration to revolt to alienation. In tropes identifiable with male-authored art cinema of the sexual revolution, Jutra riffed on nudity, sexual gestures and behaviors and language, even sacrilege. Like his peers within the embryonic Canadian art cinema graphically caught up, in the “anti-repressive struggle” of the sexual revolution, Jutra welcomed the extension of cinematic language and the reinvention of audience and social implication that the sexual revolution implied. Jutra’s generation articulated a fierce attraction to the risks of sexual freedom, couching them as much in the safe exoticism of American iconography as in the stakes of domestic struggle, and yet figured them politically in terms of radical oppositionality and youth revolt. At the same time Jutra and the others seemed to recognize the failures of traditional patriarchal masculinity, albeit with great tenderness and complicity for the wounded phallus, and to implicitly critique the inherited sex-gender system, offering an incipient problematization of women’s relation to the sexual revolution, and even posing the question of women’s sexual enfranchisement, autonomy and pleasure. Dehistoricized and allegorized, the heterosexual couple is indulged but ultimately bypassed by Jutra.
At the same time Jutra and some others offered explicit flashes or subtextual hints of the sexual diversity then assuming increasing visibility in the public and cinematic spheres. Yet, instead of the defensive hyperbole of pornography, the euphoria of the avant-garde, or the blinkered opportunism and hesitation stampede of the commercial popular cinema, we find in this art cinema a cautious ambivalence. Historically positioned as young middle class male intelligentsia in the West of the sixties, ambivalent about the promise of sexual liberation, art cinema directors were often surprisingly restrained, just as concerned about the altered regulatory regimes as about the accompanying sexual shifts. Their work vacillated between utopian and dystopian visions, between the normalization and destabilization of the hegemonic heterosexual couple, between a self-critical awareness of the cinema’s centrality in the deployment of sexuality within modernity and a blinkered complicity in it. Collectively, their works exude a cinematic confidence that the sexual revolution is an ongoing, perhaps asymptotic process rather than a static fait accompli, an incomplete perverse implantation, a curve with inflection still being formed, a process where power and the body will continue to answer each other back. As with his proto-queer contemporaries like Anderson, Pasolini and Schlesinger, Jutra’s discreet queer subjectivity is much more direct in probing that trouble and in envisioning the space or spaces it opens for alternatives, a slate as open as these directors’ enigmatic art film endings.
This leads me to the second international tendency that bears brief mention, the already gestating proto-queer cinema – even in the provincial backwaters of Montreal and Toronto!
From this point of view, Jutra is not so cowardly at all, taking risks in step with this international intertext of proto-queer experimental and art cinemas emerging at the start of the 1960s, pre-Stonewall prophetic articulations of forbidden cinematic fantasy and everyday life. Claude’s confession, his moment of truth, echoes those of dozens of tortured young protagonists from these years, evoked by the film posters that I cite. The “coming out” ritual must be seen not only as a well-known narrative trope but also of course as a performative political ritual in the real world, always according to Sedgwick, having an “immense potency,” the trigger of a “flow of power.” (1990, 76-77) Except that we must clarify that Claude is not so much a “flaming creature,” a biker, a prisoner, a queen, a hustler or an Orpheus, as a nervous young man, a “slightly cowardly” cisgendered middle-class bohemian, a real or pretend bisexual, garbed in a neat suit and a narrow tie, just like Guy (Farley Granger) in Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock, 1950)… which Jutra in fact cites! Jutra transforms Hitchcock’s sequence where Guy climbs the stairs in the dark towards the bedroom of the “father” into the sequence, which Arcand rightly considers oedipal, where Claude climbs towards his castrating mother’s bedroom to confess; Jutra also borrows also from Strangers on a Train the frightening incident where the protagonist is fired upon by a child cowboy. No more than Guy, Claude would not exactly become a retroactive positive role model for queer activist cinephiles of the turn of the century!
“I don`t know anybody who has been as happy I`ve been. And when I start describing “happiness”, the amplitude and prolonged periods of happiness that I’ve known, especially in my teens – people don’t believe that. I was so happy that it made me dizzy… …There are recurrent themes in my films and one of them being certainly the idea of youth. Well, I just realized that. I told you before I had such a happy youth, maybe I’m still longing for it…. by making the films, I’m trying to go back to that period or to that – not so much that period – but to that way of being; the way it was to be young, which I enjoyed so much. And so those themes come back.… the loss of youth. And Mon oncle Antoine and Wow and Dreamspeaker is very much about that…. There are obvious things [that inspire me]. Like sexual things, my libido, and it drives me and if you can call that inspiration.… [C]ertainly my libido drives me to put things in films and there are things there that are quite clear to me and some not… , [sexuality]'s one of the most enjoyable things in life and if I have one regret in my life, well it is and it's not, is that I didn't enjoy it more when I was in my prime and when I should have been sexually, when I physiologically more active. But , I'm mak ing up for that, I think, now. Now that all the guilt has gone. [I]t seems that I appreciate it that much because I knew what it was to be deprived from it because I knew how it was when it was forbidden and I knew what it was when every little satisfaction was counter-balanced by unbearable guilt, and all that. And, there again, [now] it comes too easy.…it's much too good for the kids. They don't know what they have in their hands; no pun intended.”
— Claude Jutra, 1979.
A year after the 2016 scandal and Jutra’s second disappearance, a special Jutra section of another Quebec film magazine Séquences appeared: the tide had turned slightly.
Jutra’s name may well have disappeared from film awards in both Toronto and Montreal, and from Quebec topography, but in fact a more measured conversation has ensued and his films are more available than ever (not an easy challenge for feature films of the 1960s and 70s). Interestingly the word “lynching” continues to turn up, in both the section and independently online, for example in the voices of the film historian Heinz Weinmann and inveterate feminist playwright Denise Boucher (Weinmann; Cloutier). The 2017 authors however did not address the scandal in detail, as if it was time to move on, rather revisited certain Jutra films in a not very interesting way. However, they made sure alongside Jutra’s online defenders to disavow complicity with pedophilia of course. Of course. For the rest of this article I would like to think about my “of course.”
My point is not to question the veracity of the testimonies of the two survivor individuals who came forward in the initial media brouhaha. I take them at face value in the spirit of the times and what I hope is our steady collective political growth around sexual violence since the 1970s. Rather, I would like to revisit certain of Jutra’s actual films that can be read as linked to the disappearance in order to illuminate them in the light of the fast-moving conversation.
As I observed in my book in great detail without ever having recourse to criminalizing labels, the pedophile sensibility is perceivable in almost all his films, in major ways in four works made in the key mid-career decade of the sexual revolution, ironically all produced for the state studios the NFB and the CBC respectively, and in two independent films I call the book-end films, produced at the very start and very end of his career.
First a breakdown of these six films in chronological order:
i) Le Dément du lac Jean-Jeunes (The Madman of Lake Jean-Jeunes, 1948). Jutra the teenager made this astonishing 40-minute fiction with his new birthday Bolex, his beloved scout troop, and his lifelong cameraman collaborator Michel Brault (two years his senior). Neglected by critics and largely unavailable, presumably as “immature” juvenilia, Madman offers a gorgeously photographed and accomplished narrative of a scout troop camping in the woods. The opening credits declare the film to be a campfire melodrama for scouts and it certainly is that, a child abuse melodrama. The scouts discover an isolated cabin where a strange drunken hermit figure is holed up in an abusive relationship with his son. Then the film's first person narrator, a 12 or 13-year-old scout, leads the troop’s rescue of the boy from the father who eventually falls to his death from a cliff, pursued by the troop who have become a vigilante mob of astonishing violence.
The film is also a lyrical black-and-white essay on the summer forest and on teenage male bonding and socialization, punctuated by not one but three collective bathing sequences, deliriously long and sensual, the Lord of the Flies going Boys in the Sand…. If we cannot call such a sophisticated amateur film naïve, we can perhaps use the word “uninhibited,” for the beefcake – or should I say calfcake? – is blatant with the scouts rushing into the forest streams for ritual baptismal communion at the blow of a whistle, even in the midst of orphan rescue (the narrator/protagonist performs his own striptease for the camera early on, throwing each garment in turn from off camera into the frame).
The abusive family (the abuse is physical violence, not spelled out as sexual) is a demonic opposite of this idealized scout troop, that same-sex parental substitute and institution of male socialization, but the narrator's voice-over reference to the passive son-victim muddies the neatness of the opposition: "He must be his son, he seemed to love him even if he was brutal." At the end, their mission of normalization completed, the scouts abandon their now domesticated orphan at a foster home of stultifying tranquility.
ii) Rouli-roulant (The Devil’s Toy, 1966). This documentary short about teen skateboarders in Montreal is a wry and self-reflexive nonfiction essay on the phenomenon, especially the adolescent protagonists facing the cops who are reinforcing municipal regulations banning the devices from sidewalks and roads (but who are on their best behavior in front of the cameras). Despite the a brief self-parodic demonstration of the construction and uses of the object that was just then being popularized beyond the boundaries of California, there is very little exposition in this gorgeously lyrical, even balletic, poem to homosocial agility and grace (several girlfriends and female skateboarders are in the picture without undermining the overwhelmingly male-gendered character of this world) – accompanied by a catchy song crooned by Jutra’s friend Geneviève Bujold (12 years his junior, soon to be the star of his most ambitious film, the historical epic Kamouraska, 1973). The film’s epigraph, borrowed at the start of this article, literally applied to the processions of athletic, handsome, entitled youths floating through the streets and parklands of the wealthy enclave of Westmount, might also be an echo of the youth culture and impending “summer of love” that Jutra had certainly encountered in a recent teaching stint at UCLA (where he taught Jim Morrison!), and might of course stretch far beyond such narrow “between-the-lines” readings to embrace a more autobiographical register.
iii) Wow (1969). In this hybrid feature Jutra facilitated Québécois teens to direct dramatized cinematic narratives of their own fantasies about their lives and the world, interspersed with grave black-and-white interviews with the subjects about the world, sex and drugs and authority. Jutra’s most focused work on the 1960s youth rebellion, Wow has its predictable share of beefcake of course – even its public flaunting. The poster notwithstanding, male subjects outnumber female subjects six to three (and also predictably in this [upper?] middle-class universe, no class or ethnic diversity enters the picture). Wow diverges from its predominantly ephebocentric focus in only one climactic episode where pot-smoking Pierre fondly remembers his childhood encounter with a pet porcupine. The reminiscence is dramatized in sensuous black and white with the camera caressing an underwear-clad boy, perhaps five or six, as he caresses the animal on a gleaming hardwood floor.
iv) Mon Oncle Antoine (1971) is the best known and most loved of Jutra`s work. This stature is due in part to its circulation in both languages, well managed by the NFB for almost a half century, in contrast to the erratic handling of the independent features À tout prendre and Kamouraska. Accessibility ensured in no small way that it would remain firmly entrenched for decades as number one on all-time Canadian ten best lists. This period feature follows a male teen coming of age in rural industrial Quebec within an extended non-consanguineal family that runs the local general store/undertaker salon. Silent, voyeuristic Benoît awakens to mortality and adult perfidy, but most importantly to sexual desire, feelings, and relations, whose complexity suddenly brings tears to his playmate Carmen`s eyes.
v) Dreamspeaker (1975) is the least known of Jutra’s major works, especially in Quebec, partly because it is in English, but mostly because this 75-minute made-for-television feature has been unavailable in either language for decades. Another melodrama, this Vancouver Island yarn follows Peter, an emotionally disturbed and orphaned blond pubescent boy who escapes his juvenile “facility” to spend a northwoods idyll with an indigenous elder-storyteller and his twenty-something adopted “son,” a friendly, mute woodcarver-muscleman. This mentor pair is an idealized alternative all-male family who feed and clothe the boy, pump up his self-worth, teach him therapeutic native lore and take him skinnydipping. Of course it can’t last, the trio are denounced by an urban handicraft dealer and the Mounties burst in to puncture their rhapsody. While the justice system may well recognize the men as Peter’s “natural parent” equivalents for visiting privileges in the “facility,” the elder dies of a broken heart after the boy is taken away and the other two younger ones follow him violently by their own hands.
White settler writer Cam Hubert, also known as Anne Cameron, responsible for the Dreamspeaker script and novelization, was married to the magnificent indigenous actor Jacques Hubert who played the mute woodcarver. If we needed to diagnose the lamentable current unfamiliarity of this work, one would have to attribute it less to its now-evident risqué undercurrents, than to the willful negligence of its institutional rights-owner the CBC (it has been totally unavailable since the NFB dropped it from its 16mm catalogue over three decades ago at least) and perhaps even to the slight embarrassment that could be sparked by its settler-authored indigenous narrative (which however needs no defense in its original context in my opinion).
vi) La Dame en couleurs (The Lady of Colors), 1984. Jutra’s last film is a period melodrama set in the same vague dark past of Quebec history – before revolutions both quiet and sexual – as Mon oncle Antoine. Another troop, this time not scouts but boy and girl orphans sequestered in an asylum run by nuns, seek freedom in the tunnels beneath the fortress-like institution. There they bond with an adult inmate, a kind of resident artist, a “dabbler” who has filled the underground with Chagall-esque murals – a part Jutra had written for himself but which the producers refused to allow him to perform for lack of star-power and growing evidence of his illness. The children are even more precocious sexually than Benoît and Carmen, and their ringleader, 15-year-old Agnès, even tries to seduce her own special nun-mentor by reading to her from The Song of Solomon! All eventually escape except for Agnès.
When I say that these six films are Jutra the pedophile’s most “explicit,” I mean that textual analysis for all six readily isolates idealizing, eroticizing, empathizing constructions of their frankly beautiful heroes (pubescent male heroes, that is, or post-pubescent in the case of Wow, and both male and female in all the films except those two taking place in homosocial woodland worlds, Madman and Dreamspeaker). Jutra explores the kids’ corporeal and moral agency and autonomy, their struggles against a harsh, violent and oppressive world as they mature, their engagements with learning and sharing within surrogate families and complex non-familial adult-child relations – in the context of tragic, rich, beautiful, complex, enduring and yes ambiguous narratives of nurturing and betrayal, abuse and revolt, resilience and mortality.
Bathing and other corporeal rituals are plentiful. The skinny-dipping sequence in Dreamspeaker in which the hero Peter, slightly younger than Benoît, frolics with his twenty-something mute muscleman mentor, endlessly splashing and leaping in the idyllic sylvan pool, urged on by both characters’ elder mentor onshore, astonishes the post-1980 viewer. Its bold, lush and unstinting frankness would not be allowed over the last generations: its sacramental role leads to it being reprised at the end of the film as a postmortem flashback (all three characters die with gruesome explicitness), anticipating other melodramas climaxing in “Lazarus endings” where the dead come back to life and party with the living, from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) to Longtime Companion (1989) to Paris is Burning (1990) to Les Misérables (2012). One might make similar reflections on the fascination in all six Jutra pedophile films with same-sex play, combat and pursuit, the rituals of suffering and awakening of the growing and learning child.
Clearly all these films’ scopophilic fantasies privilege male subject/objects, most blatantly for example the graceful, agile skateboarders. I say subject-objects because the characters inevitably return the gaze, caught up in voyeuristic engagement with the adult world, the filmmaker in intense and complacent identification with their look. Benoît, altarboy and general store and funeral parlor errand-boy, whose shortness and prettiness makes him more boylike than his recently changed voice might imply and allow him to get away with more transgressions than most, not only plays sexual games with his peer Carmen, another castoff from the nuclear family who is an inmate of the establishment, but also spies on all of the adults in his world, the adulterers, the drunks, the blasphemers, the local bourgeoisie, both anglophone (the capitalist bosses, racist and patronizing) and francophone (the wife of the notary, treated like royalty by the storekeepers because she indulgently buys the most expensive corset in the catalogue and tries it on on the other side of the keyhole from lecherous Benoît). As the sexual revolution made its impact increasingly, and the walls of censorship crumbled, the films became increasingly astonishingly frank about childhood and adolescent erotic agency, and sexuality in general.
Adult mentorship had been a benign, even positive trope in Jutra`s earlier documentaries about education like Jeunesse musicale (1956) and Comment savoir (1966), aligning the idealist openness of children and teenagers with the beneficient nurturing of adults. The trope would be increasingly problematized as the director matured.The Age of Aquarius and the sexual revolution increasingly ushered in the utter incompetence or blind destructiveness of adult authority, for example the cops who clamp down on the idealized Westmount skateboarders in Devil’s Toy, or the range of authority figures excoriated in Wow, legal, religious, law enforcement, educational, parental and so on. Benoît is stuck with a drunken and incapacitated guardian uncle and a frivolous other adult male role model Fernand (played interestingly by Jutra, and constructed as a perfidious adulterer and creepy voyeur in a process of unfiltered brash confessionality). Male adult mentorship in Dreamspeaker is loving, wise, and supportive but also futile, so much so that the set at the end of the film is littered with almost as many bodies as Hamlet, the boy hero and his adult non-consanguineal kin succumbing bloodily to the scriptwriter’s nowhere-else-to-go.
Jutra’s kids always thrive, as least for a time, in their heterotopic world, whether sylvan or urban or underground, with multiple variations of mentorial or familial mentorship both good and failed/oppressive, and with tropes of rescue and failed rescue: Dreamspeaker shows by far the bleakest failure, but La Dame en couleurs with its doomed heroine Agnès is close behind (her nun mentor has escaped to the secular world, but the once vibrant teenager is sentenced to lifetime incarceration in the asylum).
In this broader view of the documentaries and features as complementary visions of these same processes of growth, education, and socialization, one thing is incontrovertible: Jutra's sense of these processes, the most profound within two Canadian national cinemas in which youth films have long been a privileged genre, is channeled and deepened through the physicality of his pubescent heroes and through his eroticization of their pedagogic interactivity – and through Jutra’s way of inevitably annulling and shattering the idealizations he has so lovingly crafted.
Jutra’s bookend films, Le dément du lac Jean-Jeunes and La Dame en couleurs, situated at the very start and the very end of his filmography thirty-five years apart, both melodramas about kids and their elders, deal with touching directness in not-so-coincidental symmetry and felicitousness with pubescent sociality and desire and juvenile sexual agency. I am sure that the impressionable young Jutra like everyone else had seen the most successful play in 20th century Quebec theatre, La Petite Aurore enfant martyre. This over-the-top pop melodrama told the famous story a motherless girl tortured to death by her evil stepmother, which never left the boards in Quebec between 1921 and 1951 and was soon adapted into the biggest feature film hit (1952) of the pre-Quiet Revolution grande noirceur (Great Darkness) period. Did the evil stepmother transmutate, on some unconscious level, into the vicious yet tragic abusive hermit father in Madman?
In his interviews Jutra almost always remembered an intense and blissful childhood (see epigraph). Surely this affect of nostalgia and loss explains the rich complexity of his portraits of kids coming of age, his erotic apperception of their growing bodies deepened by an intense identification with them. Perhaps this complexity explains how the erotic dimension of Jutra’s portraits and narratives could be disavowed by generations of critics.
Disavowal and avoidance also characterize the literature on Jutra to this day – even in the wake of the scandal, as we have seen. Both the English and the French literature, for all their instrumentalism in quietly maintaining the heritage, are selective in touching on the themes that interest me in this article, continuing to avoid what is on the screen. The only monograph in English, Jim Leach’s Claude Jutra Filmmaker (1999), is so subsumed by the Quebec national problematic of this Montreal filmmaker who made as many as eight English-language films in English Canada and was far from the most vocal spokesperson for the indépendantiste cause, is so perfunctory in treating the oeuvre’s queerness, that its readers must have felt especially blindsided by the eruption 17 years later.
In conclusion, I would like to think about canon, archive and empire, or the political responsibility of the queer film historian – in 2017. The last queer film critic to use the word “responsibility” in a title of an article was Robin Wood in 1977, and this is the 40th anniversary (Wood, 1977). Robin’s argument is grounded mostly in this article in an auteurist tweaking of the canon, and Renoir, Hawks, and Bergman are all seen through brave, rose-colored glasses. My undeniable focus on the auteur – the oeuvre and the scandal who were Jutra – may seem to build on Wood`s heritage. Like Wood, I am prodded by textual pleasures, challenges and dilemmas, and ponder the ethical and political responsibility of the queer film historian – in 2006 and in 2017 – in the maintenance of the living [film] archive, in the modulation or defense or subversion of the queer [or national] canon.
But let’s get to the point, let’s go further: it is my responsibility to pierce what Jon Davies has called the “black hole into which any measured speech about consent, pleasure, and desire in intergenerational relationships seem to vanish” (Davies 2007) and I have done my best through the above largely textual operations. Even more importantly it is my responsibility – and all of our responsibilities – to situate these textual operations within a vision of a larger project of societal "liberation," as with Wood, and to call for, to engage in, to insist on, a far-ranging cultural and political conversation about intergenerational love, refusing the black hole. This conversation will engage with the meanings of sex, sex work and the criminalization thereof, sexual assault, sexual harassment, consent and age of consent, the sexual child, juvenile sexual agency, the queer child, sexual mentorship and pedagogy, sex education, the regulation, suppression and punishment of dissident sexuality in our culture, witch hunts and sex panics, the prison industrial complex and the carceral state, the war on sex offenders, and along the way the genocidal campaign against pedophiles and boylover culture.
In short, the time has come to tell the truth, to take off the gloves, to shine light into the culture`s black holes, to lose the delicacy and nuance and irrelevance of academic insider address… and defiantly use the word “pedophilia” – not as symptom or forensic evidence – but as artistic dynamic intrinsic to Jutra’s and many others’ work, as intrinsic to our battle to maintain Jutra’s canonical status within Canadian, Quebec, queer and postwar international new wave/art/documentary cinemas. The time has come to do so – not in spite of(as in Griffith’s white supremacism or Heidegger’s anti-semitism or Polanski’s and Nate Parker’s sexual assault conviction or non-conviction) – but, as with Plato/Socrates, Abu Nuwas, Lewis Carroll, J.M. Barrie, André Gide, Benjamin Britten, Hakim Bey, and Michael Jackson, etc., etc., … because of.
1. I am borrowing as my epigraph the dedication used by Claude Jutra for his short documentary Rouli-roulant (The Devil’s Toy, 1966). [return to text]
2. All translations from the French in this article are by the author unless otherwise noted.
3. I am aware of the sensitivity around grafting this term onto this situation, away from its historic context, and do so simply to evoke the post-scandal French-language debates in Quebec, which frequently heard the late filmmaker’s defenders use “lynchage” figuratively to denounce the hasty extirpation of Jutra’s name and reputation from the culture.
4. I was 21 in 1969, already a criminal, when Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre initiated the decriminalization of sodomy between two adults of 21 years or more in private; I was 40 in 1988 when another Liberal government lowered the age of consent for homosexual relations from 21 to 18 (in comparison to the heterosexual age of consent then in effect of 14 years). The 1988 change of the age of consent retroactively decriminalized my primary relation of the day with a man born in 1962 who had become my partner at the age of 20, a relationship to which he could not legally consent.
5. To use a term borrowed from Dr. Kinsey by Gayle Rubin (1984).
6. Here is not the place to comment on that contradiction in Canadian film culture, which dictated that no francophone [or anglophone?] intervener in the Jutra affair had read my full analysis, rather only a fragmentary excerpt that had been translated into French in the online journal Nouvelles vues sur le cinéma québécois and cited in the incriminating biography (Waugh 2004,
7. I am grateful to Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Frank Sommers for having provided an ambitious and lengthy interview he conducted in English with Jutra about his creative process in 1979, from which I have excerpted my two epigraphs of that year. © Dr. Frank Sommers, 360 Bloor St. West, Toronto.
8. See the amazingly prophetic and risqué proto-feminist short essay film La beauté même by the NFB editor Monique Fortier, 1964. Available for streaming on the French-language NFB site https://www.onf.ca/film/beaute_meme/.
I encourage even readers who cannot follow the French narration to explore this amazing film.
9. The bilingual Leonard Cohen (1934-2016), Jutra`s contemporary fellow habitué of Montreal bohemia, then known principally as a poet, took on the job of versioning À tout prendre in English.
10. Thanks to the Cinémathèque québécoise site for this bit of synopsis: http://www.cinematheque.qc.ca/tout-prendre
11. My translation is taken from the original French version. Leonard Cohen’s 1965 English version is abbreviated and slightly loose: “I do not say yes but I do not deny it either. With those woman’s hands of hers, Johanne unfolded my confession and I gave her that secret ancient as my first memories, without pain, without shame. And so this longing imperial and unsatisfied longing has taken at last the form of hope.”
12. In this argument, and occasionally elsewhere I am self-cannibalizing my 2006 analysis.
13. I am of course using the concepts introduced by Foucault in his brief and dismissive discussions of the sexual revolution (Foucault 1979).
14. I am greatful to Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Frank Sommers for having provided an ambitious and lengthy interview he conducted in English with Jutra about his creative process in 1979, from which I have excerpted my two epigraphs. © Dr. Frank Sommers, 360 Bloor St. West, Toronto.
15. The Cinematheque québécoise, the organization that holds the rights for À tout prendre offers a very rich online focus on this film (collections.cinematheque.qc.ca/en/dossiers/a-tout-prendre/) and in August 2017, 18 months after removing Jutra’s name and photo from their main screening room, penitently offered a summer screening selection of five Jutra features (À tout prendre, Mon oncle Antoine, Comment savoir…, Pour le meilleur et pour le pire, La dame en couleurs). For access to Jutra’s oeuvre consult the accompanying note to this special section.
16. Weinmann (2016) also used the term “mémoricide.”
17. Of these, one, the anonymous “Jean,” alleged continual sexual assault for a decade beginning at the age of 6, facilitated by Jutra’s friendship with his family, and causally linked this experience to his dysfunctional and troubled adulthood; the non-anonymous other, Bernard Dansereau, alleged to have received Jutra’s advances at the age of 11 or 12 but to have successfully rebuffed them, and then to have gone on to collaborate as an adult filmmaker with his erstwhile would-be abuser (Pilon-Larose 2016a, 2016b).
18. Contact the author for “advice” on accessing this film for research purposes.
19. In response to the query in solidarity of a friend/colleague as to whether the word “genocidal” here might be “misplaced,” I offered a tirade about “concentration camps, permanent sex offender registries, civil commitments with no time limit, chemical castrations, erasure of history and identity, destruction of archives, vigilante mobs, forced clandestinity and exile, violation of rights of freedom of assembly and speech etc.” This footnote was spawned to justify my word choice. In contrast to the ample archives of genocide kept by the Nazis, the Turks and the Canadian Indian Residential School system, documentation of this genocide is de facto and de jure largely absent because it is illegal. However, readers seeking further information may begin by consulting Thomas K Hubbard and Beert Verstraete, eds., Censoring Sex Research: The Debate over Male Intergenerational Relations (Routledge 2013). For accounts of the destruction of archives and U.S. resistance to sex offender legal abuse, see these online clippings: https://www.ipce.info/ipceweb/Library/guide_brong_01feb_eng.htm and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reform_Sex_Offender_Laws,_Inc.
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