C.R.A.Z.Y. is the story of a young Montréal man’s coming of age and coming out during the Quiet Revolution, a time of great social change in Québec. Bursting with raw vitality and heartfelt performances, the film became a critical and commercial smash hit. It won 10 Genie Awards and 12 Jutra Awards (now Prix Iris) — including best picture, director, screenplay and actor at both galas — as well as the Golden Reel Award and the Billet d’Or as the year’s top-grossing domestic film in Canada and Québec, respectively. It was named one of the Top 10 Canadian films of all time in a poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2015, and one of 150 essential works in Canadian cinema history in a similar poll in 2016.
Following his successful debut feature, Liste noire (1995), director Jean-Marc Vallée became disheartened by the vacuous projects that were being offered to him. He began working on an idea pitched to him by his friend, François Boulay, about his experience growing up gay in Québec during the 1960s and 1970s. Vallée and Boulay drew from their childhood experiences for the script, but Vallée intended to pitch it to Hollywood producers, so they originally centred the story on a Catholic family in Boston. Michel Côté, who starred in Liste noire, convinced Vallée to set the film in Québec and shoot it in French — a feat that took a number of years to realize. Vallée was so determined to achieve a particular tone and style that he voluntarily deferred his director and co-producer fees, totalling around $600,000, to accommodate the substantial cost of music rights in the film’s $6.5 million budget.
In a working-class Montréal suburb, Zach (played by Émile Vallée as a young boy and Marc-André Grondin as a teenager) is the second-youngest son in a family of five boys overseen by an overbearing father, Gervais (Michel Côté), and a religious mother, Laurianne (Danielle Proulx). The mother believes her cherished son, born on the same day as Christ, has magical healing powers and is destined for greatness. Zach, however, is merely trying to survive his rough-and-tumble brothers (whose names form the anagram of the title) as he struggles to come to terms with his homosexuality and his disapproving father, whom he loves dearly. Zach travels as far away as Jerusalem to "find" his father's love and respect, and finds solace in the music of David Bowie, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones.
Directed with considerable verve and ingenuity by Vallée, C.R.A.Z.Y. is brimming with humour, insight and bittersweet drama. Both epic and intimate, personal and populist, the film’s engagingly nostalgic script, superb acting, remarkable soundtrack and sure-handed direction made C.R.A.Z.Y. that rarest of things — a highly entertaining and accessible movie that reflects a relatable, real-life Canadian experience.
Critical and Audience Reception
C.R.A.Z.Y. was a critical and commercial success in Canada and abroad, particularly in France, where it sold more than 400,000 tickets (and was shown with French subtitles to ease viewers’ understanding of Joual). It grossed nearly $6 million in Canada during its theatrical release, earning it the Golden Reel Award as the top-grossing Canadian film of the year and the Billet d’Or Jutra Award as the top-grossing Québec film. It also won the Jutra Award (now Prix Iris) for Most Successful Film Outside Québec two years in a row.
The Hollywood Reporter called it “a boundlessly energetic coming-of-age story,” while Rick Groen of the Globe and Mail said it was “a full-to-bursting picture that shouts and whispers and darts and meanders and fascinates and frustrates and teems at the seams with raw vitality.” Susan Walker of the Toronto Star wrote that “the subject matter may be deep and the family conflicts serious, but Vallée leavens his story with gentle satire and outright humour.” The Miami Herald echoed that sentiment, calling the film “an exuberant, disarming entertainment, [that] makes a familiar story seem new all over again through its sheer showmanship, sharp humor and a wise, profound understanding of the highs and lows of family ties.”
The Paris weekly L’Obs praised the film’s “beautifully sketched characters by remarkable performers,” while Le Figaroscope called it “a tender comedy, full of emotion.” Le Devoir’s Martin Bilodeau called it “an ambitious and magical work” that depicts “the seismic curve of a changing country,” and Premiere magazine in France said, “beyond the simple artistic success, C.R.A.Z.Y. develops fundamental themes (parentage, sexuality, tolerance) that go beyond fiction to question us personally.”
Honours and Legacy
C.R.A.Z.Y. is one of the most popular Québec films of all time. In addition to 10 Genie Awards and 12 Jutra Awards (now Prix Iris), it won the award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and was selected as Canada’s official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. A collector’s edition DVD with three behind-the-scenes documentaries was released in 2007. In 2015, it was named one of the Top 10 Canadian films of all time in a poll conducted by TIFF. In 2016, it was named one of 150 essential works in Canadian cinema history in a poll of 200 media professionals conducted by TIFF, Library and Archives Canada, the Cinémathèque québécoise and The Cinematheque in Vancouver in anticipation of the Canada 150 celebrations in 2017.
2005 Genie Awards
Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design (Patrice Vermette)
Achievement in Costume Design (Ginette Magny)
Achievement in Direction (Jean-Marc Vallée)
Achievement in Editing (Paul Jutras)
Achievement in Overall Sound (Daniel Bisson, Yvon Benoît, Bernard Gariépy Strobl, Luc Boudrias)
Achievement in Sound Editing (Mira Mailhot, Jean-François Sauvé, Simon Meilleur, Mireille Morin, Martin Pinsonnault)
Best Motion Picture (Pierre Even, Jean-Marc Vallée)
Original Screenplay (François Boulay, Jean-Marc Vallée)
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Michel Côté)
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Danielle Proulx)
Golden Reel Award (Pierre Even, Jean-Marc Vallée)
2006 Jutra Awards
Best Hairstyling (Réjean Goderre)
Best Makeup (Micheline Trépanier)
Best Costume Design (Ginette Magny)
Best Editing (Paul Jutras)
Best Sound (Daniel Bisson, Yvon Benoît, Martin Pinsonnault, Jean-François Sauvé, Mira Mailhot, Simon Meilleur, Mireille Morin, Bernard Gariépy Strobl, Luc Boudrias)
Best Art Direction (Patrice Vermette)
Best Supporting Actor (Michel Côté)
Best Supporting Actress (Danielle Proulx)
Best Actor (Marc-André Grondin)
Best Director (Jean-Marc Vallée)
Best Film (Pierre Even, Jean-Marc Vallée)
Most Successful Film Outside Québec (Jean-Marc Vallée)
Billet d’Or (Pierre Even)
Best Canadian Feature Film, Toronto International Film Festival (2005)
Audience Award, Atlantic Film Festival (2005)
Audience Award, AFI Film Festival (2005)
Best Art Direction (Patrice Vermette), Gijón International Film Festival (2005)
Best Director (Jean-Marc Vallée), Gijón International Film Festival (2005)
Best Screenplay (François Boulay, Jean-Marc Vallée), Gijón International Film Festival (2005)
Special Prize of the Young Jury, Best Feature, Gijón International Film Festival (2005)
Special Jury Award, Marrakech International Film Festival (2005)
Best Canadian Film, Vancouver Film Critics Circle (2006)
Best Actor in a Canadian Film, Vancouver Film Critics Circle (2006)
Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film, Vancouver Film Critics Circle (2006)
Best Supporting Actress in a Canadian Film, Vancouver Film Critics Circle (2006)
Most Successful Film Outside Québec, Jutra Awards (2007)
Michel Coulombe and Marcel Jean, ed., Le dictionnaire du cinéma québécois, 4th ed. (Boréal, 2006).
David L. Pike, Canadian Cinema Since the 1980s: At the Heart of the World (University of Toronto Press, 2012).
Robert Schwartzwald, C.R.A.Z.Y.: A Queer Film Classic (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015).