“Bernadette’s true nature”, the only mistress of her destiny

A posteriori le cinema series is an opportunity to celebrate the 7and art by revisiting important titles celebrating important anniversaries.

In the early 1970s, it was very popular to return to the country. The movement was willingly marked by idealism, even romance, and so many city dwellers left the cities in favor of the fields, like the rodents of the fable. The film was released exactly 50 years ago, on May 6, 1972 Bernadette’s true natureby Gilles Carle, takes an entertaining and corrosive look at all of this through a colorful protagonist brilliantly played by Micheline Lanctôt.

Micheline Lanctôt, who in this case was definitely not destined for a career as an actress; rather, she worked with animation.

“Gilles and I had our offices on the same floor on Place Bonaventure. Gilles watched me walk by all the time – I was a little flamboyant at the time,” the actress and filmmaker confided, suppressing a giggle during a video conference interview. “We had a mutual friend, and we all three met for dinner, and Gilles talked about his film, but without trying to interest me. “

Except that at this stage the director is for Leopold Z’s happy life had already started having trouble considering another for the role.

“One day he came into my cubicle and asked me, ‘Have you ever played?’ “Amateur theater,” I replied, then offered to use one screen testand I said, “Yes, why not.” The rest is history. »

That is the case to say.

Open to everything

The film opens with Bernadette, who, tired of her bourgeois life, leaves husband, lawyer and various urban comforts: direction, the landscape. Together with her five-year-old son, she is here installed in a dilapidated farmhouse, which will become the base for marginalized people and old people in the region (to which she pours all sorts of “sweets” out of humanism). And there is the attractive but annoying neighbor, Thomas (Donald Pilon), who challenges the penetration of capitalism into the village.

Her head full of “naturalistic” theories, Bernadette practices free love, and like her namesake from former Lourdes, she will one day have a vision.

In his article byCanadian encyclopedia dedicated to the film, Wyndham Wise writes: “Gilles Carle combines the ridiculous with the sublime; it unites the sacred with the profane. on the other hand, she embodies the Quebec baby boomers of the 1960s and 1970s – who Gilles Carle openly mocks – who blindly believe in a utopian world where you can save your soul by milking a few cows and stirring up manure. “

All things that she admits in all humility, Micheline Lanctôt was completely unaware of when she dived into the adventure. “I was so inside the world of cartooning that I did not have my feet on the ground: I was in a completely offbeat world. I had no film references, so the only thing I remember about my reaction to the script was that I was open to anything. “

This was without a doubt the ideal state of mind as it corresponded to that of the instructor. Author of the book Interviews with Gilles Carle. The film’s secret pathMichel Coulombe explained about this on the air of ICI Première, as part of the program Gilles Carle’s life and work told “He made films about life, about what inspired him. For example, the return to earth that interested him: it gave The males and Bernadette’s true nature. But he took the other side of things. He was very careful with clichés. So he had this, this extremely open view of the world […] Bernadette’s true nature, it is his way of talking about the themes of the time. »

Find your grades

Micheline Lanctôt keeps happy memories of the filming: “The fun what we had! I see myself playing chess with Donald Pilon until midnight … I see Gilles and Willie Lamothe again … So funny, unstoppable, the two … I saw them a lot, Donald Pilon too, to learn from them when I did not know anything about that world. »

“One thing that helped me was the animated feature I was just working on, Tiki-Tikiwhich was in 2.35: 1 aspect ratio (or Panavision widescreen). true nature was it too, and it made it so that I could find my bearings in front of the camera; I had this understanding of the format used, which gives a lot of page space. I was able to visualize the space and move around the plane. Gilles used the format well: there are several very beautiful shots in the film. »

In fact, with his photography director René Verzier (A lumberjack dead), the filmmaker managed to combine rustic realism and bucolic poetry in a unique blend.

When asked if Gilles Carle was more direct towards her than towards the others, given her inexperience as an actress, Micheline Lanctôt answers without hesitation: “He was not an actor’s director; he let us go. But if I was worried – and if I did not think I was good – I went to see him in his motel room at night, and there he could have incredible, almost feminine intuitions. He had an understanding of women that he honored. So he sometimes had the kind of intuitions that flash … “

In the same breath, Micheline Lanctôt talks about a free filmmaker. Besides, Bernadette’s true nature is an eminently free-toned film that fluently shifts from sharp social satire to skewed farce, from unbridled fantasy to lead-heavy tragedy.

A memorable heroine

The film was selected for the Cannes Film Festival and was a real success in France with more than 300,000 registrations: unheard of for a production in Quebec.

“My most striking memory associated with the film is for the story that took place in France,” says Micheline Lanctôt. I accompanied Ted there [Kotcheff, son conjoint d’alors]which I had made Duddy Kravitz’s Apprenticeshipand who spun there Who is killing Europe’s great chefs? with Jean Rochefort, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Philippe Noiret … One night Ted arrived late and I had to go and greet Jean Rochefort alone, I who was so shy. I arrive at the hotel lobby, I introduce myself, but immediately he gets up and exclaims, “But I know who you are, Bernadette!” And to explain to me that Cassel, Noiret and him had gone to see Bernadette’s true nature together at the end and that they had fallen in love with the character. »

We understand them. “In France it was dithyrambic, but here we did not make a case for the film.”

The observation is not bitter, though Micheline Lanctôt believes her friend was generally treated unfairly.

Gilles, during his career, he was criticized for two things: making caricatures and giving roles to his girlfriends, Carole Laure and Chloé Sainte-Marie. But what we did not say was how ingenious a cartoonist he was and how many great roles he wrote for his girls. Quebec directors who imagined such heroines with such a constancy, there was no one else. »

By taking her life into her own hands and becoming the only mistress of her destiny, Bernadette is in this respect one of the most memorable heroines in Gilles Carle’s cinema. And Quebec cinema, period.

The movie Bernadette’s true nature is available in VOD on the Illico and iTunes platforms.

To watch in video

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