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by Xavier Dolan May 25, 2012
“Because I think it’s a very pitiful spectacle when our family squabbles are exposed at the Cannes international festival. “
-Isabelle Maréchal, Le carré de la honte, Journal de Québec : http://www.journaldequebec.com/2012/05/20/le-carre-de-la-honte
The sad state of affairs that Isabelle Maréchal decried in her last column concerns me as much as it concerns her. She minimizes the “social conflict” or current “social crisis”, in favour of more objective language, choosing “family squabbles,” perfecting illustrating the linguistic tendency that some people of her generation, and other generations come to think of it , have about the broader social debate about tuition fees: it’s a minor increase instrumentalized by the awful anarchists, or rather spoiled brats, as a pretext to indulge in civil disorder and recreative shit distrurbing. Thus, it is unacceptable for Quebecers to wear the red square in Cannes because Quebec appears ridiculous when sporting the colors of communism or the Red Brigades, highlighting the carelessness and ignorance of its belligerent youth, and so Isabelle Maréchal wants to assure our political enlightenment.
Of course not: Quebec should to stay prone, nose in it’s piss, inhaling deeply, without air holes or skylights, playing the ostrich; washing the dirty laundry in the privacy of the family as they say [it’s a french proverb], bickering at the table with closed windows. Provided that we don’t say anything about ourselves, no one will think ill of us, Lord, have mercy! provided that the world does not make fun of us, we will not be ashamed. The great “world” which Isabelle speaks of, the world, with a capital letter “W”, for whom we must look good for. Like the government, want us to. The Government has a nice outfit, get your own: stand-up straight, tame the crazy horses, prune the overgrown hedges, hammer the nails, assume our responsibilities and walk straight ahead, with sleeping-gas induced individualism, blinded by the danger of Bronca nights and the terror of broken windows at Payless Shoes. Or maybe worse Isabelle? Acne caused by tear gas residue dispersed in the air conditioning of 98.5 FM on de la Gauchetière Street - that place where two years ago, you asked me, thinking you had trapped me, if the homosexual themes recurring in my movies was a theme dear to me because maybe I was not heterosexual? And you thought you were a polemicist of the morning show, lifting the veil on an unfathomable mystery.
Polemicist in the morning, columnist in the evening, invested with the duty of uncovering “the Truth” or firebrand sensationalism. It is up to you to shed light on the true nature of things, a perspective we sorely lack, those of us stuck in that black hole with Amir, Claude Legault, Guy A. and Christian Bégin … we, daring personalities who scolded the state who funds us, the ungrateful, the whiners who lacking good old common sense, stand backstage at Saturday Night Life with dripping shrimp cocktail sauce smeared across the mouth like Arcade Fire did, the sweaty necked Roederer at a festive and outrageous Cannes where, yes, we are fooling people like Thierry Fremaux, artistic director of the Cannes Film Festival and the Institut Lumière, and the director of the affiliated World Cinema Foundation of Martin Scorsese; “The poor boss of the Festival “who was” left with a “hot potato” on the jacket “, to quote you directly. Indeed, the poor Frémaux was not able to ask one question [about the square] before I pinned his the symbol to his lapel and before he displayed it to the international press? Come on! This symbol, moreover, that defiles the memory of the “colonies” - as Maréchal refers to it, as she puffs up her text with blustering opportunisim – through violence?
It’s like being at the neighbours, when you realize your home isn’t as nice. The protocol in Quebec, or perhaps, the protocol of the “people with class” requires gratitude and silence. Thank heavens! We are not dead, we breathe, we see, smell, have shelter, and a career, thanks world and thanks especially for the kick in the ass! This is how you build a country: when we look around, we excuse ourselves, when we compare ourselves, we do so to take comfort. And if anyone thinks otherwise, if someone wants to fight for their convictions, if he believes in free education – like in Finland, Austria, Romania, Burundi, Benin and Brazil – well, one believes in an ideology, yes, well one should not complain when one’s belly is full. That’s it, and that’s all.
Spitting in the soup
In her article, Isabelle Maréchal used a priori some big assumptions for her arguments. I already mentioned the most popular: the artist who bites the hand that feeds them and the presumptiousness of the Printemps Érable being compared to the Arab Spring, which is part of a social revolution to counter the various Middle Eastern autocracies and overthrow their dictators.
First, I doublt anyone, except the resolute meglomaniac, thinks the struggle for life and the fight against rising tutions fees are one in the same. I admit the idea of the “Maple Spring” is a bit embarassing. That being said. Then … well then …
“Too bad the young Dolan did not realize” Maréchal writes, “at the pinnacle of his genius, that he spits in the soup he eats. Booing the capitalist models, while snacking on the cinematic icing of the cake, is that not a bit anti-red square?” Bingo! Isabelle shoots and scores! And a double! What a shot!
Two conclusions – Quebec youth, to follow her metaphors and style - here’s the first: in Quebec, when the state provides funding, it is sheer indecency, the most reckless disregard, to contradict the government and not endorse all its laws, even those laws that alienate the right to demonstrate, an integral part of any neo-liberal democracy, and then not to promote them, even worse, display – oh what audacity! – one’s true “colors”. In Quebec, when an artist receives pesos from the princess, there is a commitment to eat the soup and swallow the governmental garnish of parsley without saying anything! This is what is called the bisque Stalinist! Bon appetit, comrades!
Second conclusion: when you make money, when you go to Cannes, when you sit your ass down in caviar, we must renounce the same time an ideology, and its principles. Otherwise, it is contradictory and in such bad taste! It becomes this self-righteous left who doesn’t really have the right to talk the talk. In my case, I will answer Isabelle. I paid for my first film from my own pocket with the help of my magnanimous family, my friends, my colleagues, and some good people who believed in me. I paid for the following film from the meager profits of the former – without government funding (though not by choice) - and through generous investors to whom I am still in debt . The third, after two invitations to Cannes, received state support which I must say was substantial. But I have invested part of my salary in this work again, I have paid taxes on it, like everyone else. I’ve got 13 00 dollars in my pocket until my next contract actor or director. I don’t have the financial stability of a daily hosting on the radio, but I stand by the choice I made, and lead a comfortable lifestyle. It never prevents me, oh, will never, never prevent me from taking to the streets to defend an idea under the pretext of being a little too rich for thinking, or speaking out , or screaming. And if at forty years, this is how Maréchal sees her political and social duty, that’s good for her. She can stay in her living room and she can call the pigs when she thinks the singing is too loud. Because as the Jacques Brel song goes, “when Isabella sleeps, nothing moves.”
Neither yes or no
As I read Maréchal text, I wanted to meet her, but more than that I wanted to send her a vengeful response, here, I’ve mostly been able to write what radios, television shows have left me itchy to say, but haven’t due to a lack of time on one hand, and a lack of preparation on the other, and also because I do not have the expertise to speak officially.
When I took to the street, I did it as the feeling of taking part in something larger than a protest against the tuition issues. I took to the street, to give my support to students, but also to demonstrate against the Jean Charest government, and without being opportunistic or appropriating - support what is a justified political stance. Let them fire all cylinders so we understand the importance of the conflict.
It is high time, I think, for some columnists, reporters and editorialists to heed to duty and conscience and cease once and for all (regardless of their own position, they have their own prerogative) to stop writing in the manner that Maréchal adresses me in her article, with condescension, demagogy and maternalism, (since I’m only 23 years), when writing about student leaders, and most importantly when writing about the students. Don’t write they are bums, troublemakers, child-kings, and stop denying it, admit that the crisis in Quebec is real and important. One which, although has not rested exclusively, focused on its origins – for or against the hikes – now provides a common rallying point: what do we want for Quebec of tomorrow? Because nothing is certain about the Québec of tomorrow, the one we are bullied, slapped, beaten, kettled, suffer arbitrary and barbourous arrests, from a purely impulsive law enforcement who faces the chaos of a significant minority whose patience has reached its limits. It’s not only the patience of insomniac Montrealers hidden in the turret of his house on Doctor Penfield that will be proven.
In fact, citizens of the middle and upper classes, who are more or less concerned with the hike, gnawed away by the precariousness of imaginary happiness, are rarely complletly scotomized, and most should understand that the tuition increase is only the tip of the iceberg, a hypothetical iceberg that reveals that a majority of people are opening the door this one time to a most subtle style of facism.
The Journal de Montreal surveys and the very interesting, comedic article by Jean-Marc Leger of the Journal de Québec entitled “A law that divides”, tells the readership that the sampled Quebec is: angry, exasperated by demonstations and of the violence, enraged by the radical nature of the special law, and fatalistic as to its possible effectiveness, discouraged by all the leaders of all the political parties and by the incompetence of the Charest government, prefers the more moderate student associations , expects that the government and the students to get back to the neogitiation table, and in the down times conduct highwire poltics – a private conclusion.
Victor Hugo said: “Wisdom is not created by collecting the various residues of different human philosophies just as we do not heal by swallowing all the leftovers from old perscription drugs. “
True. Also true that before the next election, we need an idea. It should be, in Quebecois, to connect, and consider the election of the “least bad”. I suggest in this sense - we criticize the people of all talk and no action, so, I suggest, I suggest! – choosing a social project by choosing a head of state. I suggest that Quebec acknowledges that this shift is a serious offense, and follows the direction it was headed when Quebec specifically, and massively, rejected Harper last election.
I suggest that Quebec doesn’t give up. I suggest that Quebec stands tall, without hesitation. I suggest that Quebec is proud, and while it may not be ready to say YES [to Quebec’s independence], it at least is ready to say NO.
- Xavier Dolan, Friday, May 25, 2012
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.