Quebec-Montreal | Twenty years later, on 20

Twenty years ago, on August 2, 2002, the first feature film directed by Ricardo Trogi was released, Quebec-Montreal. A scathing comedy about man-woman relationships, shot in five cars on Highway 20, from the capital to the metropolis. A critical and popular success (1.4 million in earnings), it was crowned with four Jutra awards in 2003, including best screenplay, best director and best film. A look in the rearview mirror with two of his co-authors, Ricardo Trogi and Patrice Robitaille.

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In the summer of 1999, on the basis of a dozen short films and a notable participation in The World Destination RaceRicardo Trogi should produce a mockumentary for Télé-Québec with his friends Patrice Robitaille and Jean-Philippe Pearson. But after seeing the first images of a makeshift montage, the producer immediately thanked the three friends…

Stuck in the water without a contract for the summer, the trio decided to dust off a concept from Robitaille for an experimental feature film they envisioned being shot in real time in a single car between Quebec and Montreal.


PHOTO MICHEL KIES, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Creation of the film Quebec-Montreal, in August 2001

“I saw it as a sequence shot around a screen with a camera in the car and an improvised scenario. The boys would have gone to pee in Drummondville and we would have continued filming in the car without them! ‘ the actor recalls with a laugh.

“When he first told me about it, I didn’t turn on the light. Being trapped in a tank didn’t make me dream visually for a first film,” admits Ricardo Trogi, who I met last week on Radio-Canada, the location of our very first interview in 1994 the race (the subject of the next film in the series Nineteen eighty-one).

But it was Trogi who brought the project back to life, imagining ellipses and stories that could be told simultaneously. The trio got down to business, exchanging ideas, lines and crackers. At that time, Robitaille and Trogi were practically neighbors, rue de Rouen. In autumn 1999 the first draft of the screenplay for Quebec-Montreal was ready.

“We had written stories for 17 cars, but we reduced that to 5 because we saw that the idea wasn’t viable! says Trogi. He and his co-authors wanted to see themselves in the cinema. Hearing the language and concerns of his then 25-30 year old generation on the big screen.

“We often wrote this film in response to what we saw and heard in the Quebec cinema,” he says. It was often in international French. The films were made to be shown in Europe, while the language is not spoken in Europe. It was nonsense. We wanted to showcase the language we speak every day. Our great warhorse, that was it. »





A critical and public success

The trio offered their screenplay to producer Nicole Robert (GO Films), with whom Trogi had worked on the aborted project to adapt the novel The sand eater by Stephane Bourguignon. “Dealers were not very interested in our project,” recalls Patrice Robitaille. In my memory, Nicole had made an arrangement with a distributor and offered him a starred film that was selling better. In return, the distributor agreed to take on this project from young unknown creators. »

These young creators should not be unknown for long. Quebec-Montreal, critically acclaimed for its boldness and inventiveness, grossed 1.4 million at the box office. The next film, written by Trogi, Robitaille and Pearson, Biological clockwhich hit theaters exactly three years later, grossed a whopping $4.4 million.

Beyond his success Quebec-Montreal most notably, revealed a generation of talented artists (actors, authors, playwrights, directors) who have had a profound impact on Quebec’s popular culture over the past two decades. Whether Trogi’s projects on TV (The Simones) and in the cinema (1981, 1987, 1991), the work of Robitaille on stage and screen, and the plays and series of François Létourneau (The unconquerables, Black episode, That’s how I love you), who plays one of the main roles in the film.

They were mostly between 26 and 32 years old when the film came out and taking their first steps in cinema: Trogi, Robitaille, Pearson, Létourneau, Pierre-François Legendre, Julie Le Breton, Stéphane Breton. Isabelle Blais, who won the Jutra award for Best Supporting Actress, was barely experienced and Benoît Gouin, the film’s famous “Michel Gauvin / Mike Gauvin”, came into the picture after completing his medical studies.

We discovered the “Quebec Gang”. Some, like Robitaille and Létourneau, had known each other since CEGEP, where they had acted. Most of them, including Trogi, Pearson, Legendre (and others like Rémi-Pierre Paquin), met at Laval University where they improvised.

“I didn’t hire strangers,” says Trogi. I knew Isabelle Blais because she was studying with Patrice at the conservatory. Rémi-Pierre, Martin Laroche, who were also in our gang, auditioned for roles if I remember correctly. I was glad that people liked the actors even if they weren’t well known. »


PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, PRESS ARCHIVE

Isabelle Blais after winning the Best Supporting Actress award at the Jutra evening in 2003

In fact, they were all very good, even in the supporting roles (Catherine-Anne Toupin and Geneviève Rochette in particular). “It’s good luck to have met talented people. But I also feel that there is something stimulating about being surrounded by talented people. All the better if what we did had resonated,” says Patrice Robitaille, who I reached by phone when he was on his way to pick up his children from the summer camp in the Quebec region where they had spent the week.

“It’s like in That’s how I love you ! says Robaille. At the same time, François Létourneau, author of this insane Radio Canada series, made the same journey from Montreal to Quebec to find his own children in the same camp. You can’t make that up.

What has aged badly

What has aged less well than acting is the visuals Quebec-Montreal. The film was shot on MiniDV, like previous Trogi shorts, including It happened near us, about a serial seducer (Robitaille) who tells of his conquests. “If I had to do it again, I would do it differently,” admits the filmmaker. “It’s the technical support we had with few resources. It’s outdated, but that’s life,” adds Patrice Robitaille. The film cannot be found on any distribution platform, only on DVD.

Has the subject aged significantly? The film stages male characters who are not at their best, a constant in the collective work of the “Quebec Gang” (both in Quebec-Montreal theBiological clock Where The unconquerablesfor example).


PHOTO SARAH MONGEAU-BIRKETT, THE PRESS

Director Ricardo Trogi for the 20th anniversary of Quebec-Montreal

Her discourse would probably go down less well with young people today. They don’t see things the same way. I’m not sure I want to delve into the reaction this might evoke!

Ricardo Trogi, on the male characters of the time

Twenty years ago, the film was primarily hailed as a breath of fresh air in Quebec’s film landscape, with its incisive and frank, funny and scathing dialogue that spoke of both an era and a generation. It’s not for nothing Quebec-Montreal was the big winner of the Jutra evening 2003.

“I feel like we welcomed the boldness and courage to speak our minds,” says Patrice Robitaille of the awards the film won. We weren’t really aware of it and that was a good thing. Otherwise speaking would have been a bit forced and I don’t like that much. We wanted to say things, but the message wasn’t too frontal to use a fashionable expression. »

The actor also believes, with good reason, that this comedy was “the bridge between the popular and the most intellectual.” We remember some memorable scenes.

My favorite is the one in which the character of Pierre-François Legendre wants to go to the “Indian” where gasoline is cheaper, which causes his girlfriend (Julie Le Breton) to despair, a breakdown and the breakup of his couple.

“I pretend to believe that Quebec-Montreal has given some authors a taste for writing in their own language, says Ricardo Trogi. It’s a tone I later found elsewhere. But I have no other claim! »

After her two films written with six hands, Ricardo Trogi switched to solo projects, Patrice Robitaille was in demand as an actor and Jean-Philippe Pearson settled in the Florence area of ​​Italy, where he still lives. “We just wrote to each other last week,” Robaille said.

The trio had no concrete plans to work on another script together. “We could have bet more on ourselves, but we wanted to see what the others could offer us,” said Trogi. That said, I’m sure if we do a sequel, the audience of Quebec-Montreal would be present! That goes without saying.

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