Pour la suite du monde

The first Canadian film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault’s elegiac, groundbreaking documentary Pour la suite du monde (1963) is a landmark in Canadian cinema. A re-creation of a traditional beluga whale hunt on Île aux Coudres and an intimate portrait of the people whole live there, this classic film represents the crowning achievement of direct cinema in Québec and is widely considered one of the best Canadian films ever made. In 2016, it was named one of 150 essential works in Canadian cinema history in a poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Perrault (centre left) while filming Pour la suite du monde
The first Canadian film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, the elegiac, groundbreaking documentary Pour la suite du monde recreates a traditional beluga whale hunt on \u00cele aux Coudres.

Background

After pitching the National Film Board (NFB) an idea for a scripted docudrama about a beluga hunt by the people of Île aux Coudres, director Pierre Perrault was introduced to cinematographer Michel Brault, who suggested filming it in the direct cinema documentary style that he had been pioneering at the NFB since the late 1950s. The result was Pour la suite du monde, made with a budget of $80,000.

Synopsis

For centuries, the inhabitants of Île aux Coudres, on a small island in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City, trapped beluga whales by sinking a weir of saplings into the offshore mud at low tide. The practice was abandoned in 1940. In 1962, a team of filmmakers led by Perrault and Brault arrived on the island to make a documentary about the people and their isolated life, and they encouraged the islanders to revive the practice of beluga fishing.

Critical and Audience Reception

The resulting film, photographed with incredible sensitivity by Brault, yielded some stunning imagery. It was hugely popular when it was released in Québec and was met with glowing critical reviews. The original French version ran 105 minutes and was shortened to 83 minutes in its English version, which is variously known as Moontrap; Of Whales, the Moon and Men; and For the Continuation of the World.

Brault (left) and Perrault shooting Pour la suite du monde
Brault and Perrault shooting Pour la suite du monde. Photographed with incredible sensitivity by Michel Brault, Pour la suite du monde yielded some stunning imagery and was hugely popular when it was released in Québec

Île aux Coudres Cycle

Perrault went on to complete a short film and two more feature documentaries which, together with Pour la suite du monde, form a cycle of films about the people of Île aux Coudres: Le Beau plaisir (1968), a short film that provides a detailed description of the beluga trap used in Pour la suite du monde; Le Règne du jour (1967), which follows Alexis Tremblay and other villagers featured in Pour la suite du monde as they visit their ancestral home in France; and Les Voitures d'eau (1968), about the fate of the community’s aging schooners and the process of constructing a new one.

Honours and Legacy

Pour la suite du monde represented a major development in the direct-cinema movement, moving away from simple observation to a more immediate participation and a greater emphasis on the words of the people portrayed. It won the Canadian Film Award for Film of the Year in 1964 and was also given a Special Award in recognition of its visual qualities, perceptions and artistry.

The film has come to be regarded as a classic of Canadian cinema. It has been extensively discussed and analyzed, and is consistently ranked by critics as one of the best Canadian films ever made. It was named one of the Top 10 Canadian films of all time in a poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival in 1984. In 1996, it was one of 10 films honoured with postage stamps by Canada Post to commemorate 100 years of cinema in Canada.

In 2008, Pour la suite du monde became the first Québec film to be designated a “masterpiece” by the Québec news agency Médiafilm. In 2012, Brault travelled to Île aux Coudres to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film with the descendants of its subjects. In October 2016, Pour la suite du monde 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.

See also: Canadian Feature Films; The Cinema of Québec.

Awards

Golden Mikeldi, Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Films (1963)

Film of the Year, Canadian Film Awards (1964)

Special Award, Canadian Film Awards (1964)


Further Reading

  • Pierre Véronneau and Piers Handling, eds., Self Portrait: Essays on the Canadian and Québec Cinemas (1980).

    D.B. Jones, Movies and Memoranda: An Interpretative History of the National Film Board of Canada (Canadian Film Institute, 1981).

    Peter Harcourt, “Pierre Perrault and Le cinéma vécu,” Seth Feldman, ed., Take Two: A Tribute to Film in Canada (Irwin Publishing, 1984).

    Gary Evans, In the National Interest: A Chronicle of the National Film Board of Canada from 1949 to 1989 (University of Toronto Press, 1991).

    Joseph I. Donohoe, Jr., ed., Essays on Québec Cinema (Michigan State University Press, 1991).

    Bill Marshall, Québec National Cinema (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000).

    Christopher Gittings, Canadian National Cinema (Routledge, 2001).

    Wyndham Wise, ed., Take One's Essential Guide to Canadian Film (University of Toronto Press, 2001).

    David Clandfield, Pierre Perrault and the Poetic Documentary (Toronto International Film Festival, 2004).

    Scott Mackenzie, Screening Québec: Québécois Moving Images, National Identity, and the

    Public Sphere (Manchester University Press, 2004).

    George Melnyk, One Hundred Years of Canadian Cinema (University of Toronto Press, 2004).

External Links