Daily | Michael Brault, 1928 – 2013

Michel Brault

Michel Brault

“Acclaimed Quebec filmmaker Michel Brault, in the midst of weekend honors for his influential work as both director and cinematographer, has died at age 85,” reports Peter Howell in the Toronto Star. “Brault succumbed to a heart attack Saturday afternoon while traveling on Highway 400 to the Film North festival in Huntsville, Ont. He was to receive the Bull’s Eye Lifetime Achievement Award for an award-winning career that included directing the 1974 October Crisis docudrama Les ordres and lensing [Claude Jutra‘s] 1971 coming-of-age drama Mon oncle Antoine.”

Last year, when Hot Docs presented its Outstanding Achievement Award to Brault, Scott Birdwise wrote in POV Magazine:

Having begun filmmaking in the late 1940s, Brault was crucial to the development of that international explosion of documentary production in the late 1950s and early ’60s broadly, and often contentiously, referred to as cinema verité…. As a member of ‘l’équipe française’ at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in the late ’50s, Brault was intimately involved as director, cinematographer, and often both in the making of a number of crucial pioneering achievements in cinéma direct (the Québécois term for cinema verité).” Jean Rouch “invited him to come to Paris in 1960 to work as the cinematographer on his and sociologist Edgar Morin’s Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer, 1961), which is now regarded as the classic cinema verité film. Brault brought to the production his radically gestural, handheld camera work.


In a passionate response to being unable to film the actual events of the October Crisis of 1970, when Prime Minister Trudeau put into effect the War Measures Act after the FLQ’s (Front de libération du Québec) abduction of a British diplomat and a Quebec cabinet minister, Brault turned to fiction…. The end result, one of the most important Canadian films of all time and winner of the Best Director prize at Cannes in 1975, Les ordres (The Orders) is a haunting representation of that specific national trauma when the military imprisoned approximately 450 people in one night in Montreal and subjected them to a number of terrifying and humiliating experiences.

TIFF’s Canadian Film Encyclopedia notes that Brault “undertook two important series” in the ’70s, Le son des français d’Amérique (1974–1976, 13 episodes; 1977–1980, 14 episodes), “about the traditional music of French-speaking people throughout North America,” and La belle ouvrage (1977–1980, 22 episodes), focusing on “nearly obsolete occupations and traditional customs.” Brault, “who was active in feature length fiction since his collaboration with Claude Jutra on À tout prendre (1963), slowly gave up his documentary practice. His interest shifted to fiction, a form he embraced because it ‘doesn’t pretend to be the truth and therefore is not a lie.'”

Viewing (24’01”). Ray Pride‘s posted Brault’s wrestling documentary La Lutte (1961), co-directed with Claude Fournier, Claude Jutra and Marcel Carrière.

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