The following #EyesonVU program titled "Beautiful Losers" has been curated by Yes Mccan (aka Jean-François Ruel), a musician and a founding member of the quebecois hip hop group the Dead Obies. His selection for VUCAVU includes a collection of works that explores and challenges conventional ideas about status, creativity and success.

 


Yes Mccan

Musician and Founding Member of the
Hip Hop Group Dead Obies


"Beautiful Losers"
Film Selection and Essay by Yes Mccan

 

 

Jean-François Ruel, better known as Yes Mccan, is a founding member of Quebec hip-hop band the Dead Obies. A presence on the local and international scenes since 2012, the band is known for its seamless mix of French and English lyrics (“Frenglish”) that puts a new spin on the Quebec identity debate. Jean-François is also an avid cinephile and has agreed to select five films available on VUCAVU to bring the platform to the attention of movie buffs in Quebec and Canada.

Beautiful losers

For my selection, I’ve brought together five films around the theme of the “beautiful loser”: the winner who never quite wins all, the loser who still has something left. Enjoy!
 

Miron: A Man Returned from Outside the World – Simon Beaulieu

Me voici en moi comme un homme dans une maison qui s'est faite en son absence. This quote opens Gaston Miron’s L’homme rapaillé, a collection of poems published in 1970 that went on to achieve cult status and made Miron’s writing style, known as abracadabrant (roughly translated as “phantasmagorical”), one of the most imitated by subsequent generations of writers. 
 

And it is precisely this notion of absence that haunts Simon Beaulieu’s hour-long film through its mashup of archival footage. There’s the absence of the poet himself, of course, but also that of the future he and so many of his generation had worked toward—this mirage of national independence, forever in the distance, never attained. Then you have their combined presence in their absence: Miron and Quebec, Quebeckers through the words of their poet, the poet through his people, “returned from outside the world” and brought back together.
 

I caught this film for the first time in the summer of 2014 at an outdoor screening in Montréal’s Parc Laurier. I remember being struck by the raw poetic power generated by juxtaposing Miron’s words with the selected clips, tracing not just Miron’s personal history but also the history of modern Quebec and our cultural heritage, enshrined in the national treasure that is the National Film Board.
 

If every biopic is to some extent riddled with ghosts—a sound-and-image evocation of someone who is no longer there, giving presence to absence—then Miron: A Man Returned From Outside the World (“ Miron : un homme revenu d’en dehors du monde ”) is one of the most ghost-ridden biopics I’ve ever seen. A spirit from beyond the land of the living, he and all those so magnificently invoked by Beaulieu return for one last look upon the “house built in their absence.” Perhaps they will find it in the viewer’s gaze, two spectres staring at each other until they are all but unrecognizable in the other’s eyes.

it is precisely this notion of "absence" that haunts Simon Beaulieu’s hour-long film through its mashup of archival footage. There’s the absence of the poet himself, of course, but also that of the future he and so many of his generation had worked toward...

Ceci est un message de l'indéologie dominanteMichel Sénécal and Michel Van de Walle

Before browsing VUCAVU’s platform, I’d never heard of this short film. What attracted me to it was its title and the short synopsis: “[translation] Based on 10 episodes from Quebecois soap opera Rue des Pignons, this video analyzes the bourgeois ideology for which television and the mass media are the main vehicles.”
 

Simply put, it’s a little gem, reminiscent of the films of Guy Debord with all the essential ingredients: deadpan narration; class struggle under scrutiny; the sacred cows of popular culture sampled and hijacked with a godly dose of irony.
 

I tried to find out more about the film and filmmakers, but came up with nothing except a link to the National Gallery of Canada listing the work as part of its collection. This kind of cinema is so necessary today; it’s really too bad there’s nobody left who will do things like that. Further proof that excellence and relevance are no guard against oblivion . . . I hope that, through VUCAVU, many will have a chance to discover this unique film.

Further proof that excellence and relevance are no guard against oblivion . . .

Those who step lightly, die without leaving a trace (" Ceux qui ont le pas léger meurent sans laisser de trace "), Bernard Émond

Bernard Émond, pre-Élise Guilbault. Pierre Falardeau as narrator. The Plateau-Mont-Royal/Hochelaga in the early 1990s. These elements underpin this haunting documentary on the trail of an anonymous man, a figure whose shadowy outline takes shape through interviews with people he had encountered at random: the local hairdresser, the butcher, the waiter from diner on the corner.
 

In his charismatic narration, Falardeau takes the “talking head” trope to a whole new level, broadening the film’s scope for interpretation with poetry and grace: Et vous vous dites qu’il y a une certaine justice à faire l’histoire des hommes à partir de ce qu’ils jugent sans valeur (“And you realize there is a certain justice in telling people’s stories based on what they consider worthless”). 
 

The film succeeds in transcending the anecdotal and questioning the notion of history, the traces we leave and the complex relationships between individual and community. Who do we have the right to forget, and why?

Who do we have the right to forget, and why?
Still image from "Those Who Step Lightly, Die Without Leaving A Trace" ("Ceux qui ont le pas léger meurent sans laisser de trace"), Bernard Émond,

Still image from "Those Who Step Lightly, Die Without Leaving A Trace" ("Ceux qui ont le pas léger meurent sans laisser de trace"), Bernard Émond, 1992 (F3M)

 

 

My Name is Denis Gagnon – Khoa Lê

A more-or-less conventional portrait of one of Quebec’s most celebrated couturiers, this 47-minute documentary chronicles the designer as he pulls together his catwalk show for the 2009 Montréal Fashion Week. The camera follows Gagnon on a visit to his hometown, using it as a pretext to probe his origins in the lead-up to the runway event. Two things in particular, though, make this documentary stand out.
 

The first is that it was shot in 2009, a year before Gagnon became the first Quebec (and Canadian) designer to feature their work at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. For the viewer, this affords a glimpse of the artist at a critical juncture. He excels in his field, is recognized by his peers, but as he enters his 50s, he remains marginal, plagued by anxiety and financial woes; he has no car, no house, no valuables and crafts his acclaimed-but-unsaleable creations with remnants rummaged from the surplus bins. Khoa Lê’s film thus bears eloquent witness to the perpetual hardship threatening the majority of Quebec artists whose work is driven by passion rather than the desire for commercial profitability.
 

The film’s other strong point—the strongest, in my opinion—is clearly the presence of Gagnon: a luminous persona who gives himself over freely to the camera. Drinking with his family in Alma, wracked by anxiety in the wee hours, passionate and unrestrained, stomping about and cracking jokes to loosen things up before the runway show: My Name is Denis Gagnon provides us with a privileged access to a true Quebec cultural icon.

Lê’s film thus bears eloquent witness to the perpetual hardship threatening the majority of Quebec artists whose work is driven by passion rather than the desire for commercial profitability.
Still image from "My Name is Denis Gagnon"

Still image from "My Name is Denis Gagnon", Khoa Lê, 2009 (F3M)

Pute No. 2 - Juliette Gosselin

This short film is really cool. An Anglophone actress rehearses for an audition. She’s to play a character referred to only as “Whore No.2” (Pute no.2). Her accent is too strong for the casting director; she can’t be prettier than the lead; and so on. The film soon comes to a point, transcending its context to metaphorically muse on what society expects from the individual, particularly (as in this case) women.  
 

Besides its stunning photography, Pute No. 2 is striking in its structure: we hear the audition, but never see it. Watching the actress learning her lines, alone in her room, we get a sense of having a front-row view of the intricacies of the power games of contemporary society. 

Watching the actress learning her lines, alone in her room, we get a sense of having a front-row view of the intricacies of the power games of contemporary society.
Still image from "Pute No. 2", Juliette Gosselin, 2014 (SPIRA)

Still image from "Pute No. 2", Juliette Gosselin, 2014 (SPIRA)