Peter Harcourt

Peter Harcourt, CM, teacher, film critic, writer (born 26 July 1931 in Toronto, ON; died 3 July 2014 in Ottawa, ON).

Harcourt, Peter
The Queen's University department of film studies, one of the first in Canada, was established in 1969 with Peter Harcourt at its head (photo courtesy Wyndham Wise).

Peter Harcourt, CM, teacher, film critic, writer (born 26 July 1931 in Toronto, ON; died 3 July 2014 in Ottawa, ON). A leading figure in Canadian film studies, Peter Harcourt began his career with the British Film Institute before heading one of Canada’s first film studies departments at Queen's University. He also taught at York University and Carleton University, publishing numerous books and hundreds of articles. A founding member of the Film Studies Association of Canada, he was a persuasive advocate for a distinctive Canadian film culture. He was a Member of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Early Years and Education

Initially a jazz trumpet player, Harcourt studied music at the University of Toronto before heading to England to complete a BA and an MA in English at Cambridge University. He then worked for the education department of the British Film Institute (BFI) in London from 1962 to 1965, and began a long career in journalism doing film commentary for the BBC while writing articles for Film Quarterly, The London Magazine and Sight & Sound. After the BFI, he joined the film department at Hornsey College of Art and lectured at the London Film School, St. Martin's School of Art and the Royal College of Art.

Canadian Film Studies

Harcourt returned to Canada in 1967 to teach film studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Its department of film studies, one of the first in Canada, was established in 1969 with Harcourt at its head. After he founded Quarry Films as a filmmaking workshop attached to the department, courses in film production were gradually added to the curriculum. He moved on to the film and video department at York University in 1974, and in 1978 he joined the film department at Carleton University, where he remained until his retirement.

Legacy

Harcourt's hundreds of articles and reviews appeared in publications such as Queen's Quarterly, The Canadian Forum, Film Comment, Cinema Canada, CineAction, 24 Images, Canadian Journal of Film Studies and Take One. His books and monographs include Six European Directors: Speculations on the Meaning of Film Style (essays on Ingmar Bergman, Luis Buñuel, Frederico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean Renoir and Sergei Eisenstein), Movies and Mythologies: Towards a National Cinema (compiled from an eight-part CBC Radio series), and the autobiographical A Canadian Journey: Conversations with Time. A festschrift (a collection of essays by former students and colleagues written in his honour) entitled Responses: In Honour of Peter Harcourt was published in 1992.

Writings

Peter Harcourt and Peter Theobald, Film Making in Schools and Colleges (British Film Institute, 1966).

Six European Directors: Essays on the Meaning of Film Style (Penguin Books, 1974).

Movies and Mythologies: Towards a National Cinema (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1977).

Peter Harcourt ed., Jean Pierre Lefebvre (Canadian Film Institute, 1981).

Cinema Québec: A Distinctly Cultural Voice (1983).

A Canadian Journey: Conversations with Time (Oberon Press, 1994).

Jean Pierre Lefebvre: Vidéaste (Toronto International Film Festival, 2001).

Awards

Member, Order of Canada (2004)

Recipient, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Government of Canada (2012)


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