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Chantal Renaud, Landry's girlfriend, runs to the campaign bus.

À Hauteur d'homme is a Quebec political documentary directed in 2003 by Jean-Claude Labrecque about Bernard Landry and the 2003 general election in Quebec, Canada. It won a Jutra award for Best Documentary (ex aqueo) in 2004. Its style belongs to the Quebec cinéma direct school of filmmaking.

Contents

Synopsis

À Hauteur d'homme is a political documentary film revolving first around one man, Bernard Landry, leader of the Parti Québécois, and second around the re-election campaign of his party in 2003. The movie shows an intimate, never-before-seen look at the works of an election campaign. The finality of the story, the defeat of the party, gives this work a mood of tragedy, but with final acceptance. It also features, amongst others, Landry's girlfriend, Chantal Renaud, and press attaché Hubert Bolduc.

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Bernard Landry walks out of a meeting.
Landry smiles as he jokes with the press.
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Landry smiles as he jokes with the press.
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The team gathers for a Leaders' Debate rehearsal.
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A metaphor of the political struggle can be seen in Landry's daily walk.
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In the bus next to Chantal on the eve of a vote with a predictable outcome, Landry looks down.
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The customary concession phone call to the victor.
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Chantal and Bernard look at the outcome of the night.
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Bernard Landry is comforted by loved ones and colleagues on the night of defeat.

Landry, the protagonist, is an independentist, social democrat, Québécois premier, fighting for the re-election of the Parti Québécois (PQ) in the hope of obtaining the his life's dream: the independence of Quebec from Canada. His opponents in the election, Jean Charest of the Parti Libéral du Québec (PLQ) and Mario Dumont of the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), are rarely seen in the film.

Along with his team, he goes through an intense experience in two periods. The first half of the campaign goes smoothly: Landry is relaxed and confident. After having fought for its very life, the party is popular again and leads the polls. The televised Leaders' Debate is the turning point. During the debate, Charest confronts Landry with a quotation (said that very day and soon to become controversial) of Jacques Parizeau, former PQ premier. This sparks in the following days a controversy that will be know as the Parizeau Affair. From then on, a second period begins. The PQ loses some steam. Charest slowly surpasses him in the polls.

Often trapped by insistent, forceful questions by reporters, he expresses to the team his impression that journalists are unjust to and harassing him and the party's campaign. After being, in turn, anxious, choleric, and sometimes melancholic, he accepts the coming ineluctable defeat with serenity, but with much emotion, with the comfort of his loved ones and colleagues.

Context

Main article: Quebec general election, 2003

In 2002, the poll numbers for the Parti Québécois fell sharply. The PQ government had been in power for two mandates and was seen as worn-out by some. An important part of the PQ's support went to the Action Démocratique du Québec and its young leader, Mario Dumont, and some to the Liberal Party of Quebec. It is under this dramatic situation for the PQ followers that Landry underwent a revitalization of the party and its image. The PQ was aided by the fall popularity of the ADQ's ideas as their conservative nature was uncovered, and by social democratic measures taken by the PQ government like the passing of the Act to combat poverty and social exclusion. The Parti Québécois succeeded in gaining back popularity in the beginning of 2004 to take the lead in the public opinion plls again. The PQ felt confident again to take upon a singular task: to become the first Quebec government in more than forty years to win a third mandate.

It is at the time of the downfall of 2002 that Jean-Claude Labrecque decided to work on bringing about a movie about the coming election. He stated that, for this election, he believed the PQ had a lot to win if it succeeded, and a lot to lose if it did not: the reelection of the party could bring Quebec to independence, while a loss had the potential of hurting the sovereigntist movement, perhaps halting it for years.

The 2003 Quebec election itself happened over the backdrop of the war in Iraq. The principal battles in that war took place during the first half of the campaign, diverting the attention of the media and the population. Bernard Landry became known for his custom of wearing the white ribbon worn by Quebecois in favour of peace. This custom was shortly followed by the two other main party leaders, Jean Charest and Mario Dumont.

Despite an impressive PQ comeback, Charest presented himself as a viable alternative for people in desire of change, especially during the Leaders' Debate. Also, the Parizeau Affair is said to have harmed Landry's campaign up to election day. The PQ lead vanished mid-campaign. The Parti Québécois won a respectable number of seats, but the Parti Libéral won the election.

Impact

A week before its theatre opening, À Hauteur d'homme gained much media attention. The animosity between Landry and the press within the movie, along with the occasional swearing of Landry in Quebec joual, was noted by many journalists. Some reporters considered Landry's reactions to the attitude of the press to be excessive. Also, the few swear words of Landry from the movie were played in loop on news channels.

The publicity acquired by the initial controversy partly assured the movie an immense success in theatres. In its first days, at the Ex-Centris theater, where it was first shown in Montreal, the movie was often sold-out several hours before presentation. After it had opened, the consensus of the viewing public (along with the opinion of some critics and other journalists) was that the initial media presentation of the movie was misrepresentative of the complete work. The movie managed to spark public debate in the media about the (often described as unfair and aggressive) attitudes of Quebec journalists towards politicians and politics (and vice versa).

The movie also inscribed a catch phrase into Quebec pop culture: Audi alteram partem. During the movie, the sentence, Latin for listen to the other side, was repeatedly uttered by Landry to counteract the barrage of questions from reporters about the Parizeau Affair. It was meant to tell the reporters not to judge Parizeau before hearing his side (he was to give a press conference later that day) and to signify that he wished to wait for Parizeau to speak before making himself hasty comments. Landry studied Latin in college and has a reputation of liking to quote Latin phrases.

The way Bernard Landry acts in this movie surprised many. Landry is seen as a man of pride and high culture by many Quebecers, something that sometimes puts a distance between a public figure and the people in Quebec. Rather than hurting his reputation, his Quebecois swearing broke that bourgeois image in some ways. Also, his sense of humour and humanity throughout the movie was felt by many viewers. Those seldom before seen aspects of the man subsequently inspired a popular wave of sympathy for him.

Production

Critics praised the work for its evocative, classy musical ambiance, and its lavish visual style.

General

For months, Bernard Landry was filmed everywhere he went, up to voting day. The fact that a political man had accepted to be filmed in such privacy impressed many and was therefore seen as an historical feat: few other movies have had such access to a political figure before.

Audio

These two previously existing (that is to say that they were not created for the movie soundtrack) musical compositions of the soundtrack are the backbone of the musical backdrop of the film. Audio excerpts from Amazon.com.

  • Facades by Philip Glass returns in leitmotiv throughout the movie. It was chosen by Labrecque, the director, for its repetitive nature, representative of the 2003 political campaign in some ways. (listen (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0000025MW/104-4713009-6703142))
  • Fur Alina by Arvo Pärt and its very melancholic ambiance graces the final dramatic scene where Landry gives his customary call of concession to the victor and is comforted by the people close to him. (listen (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000024HL1/qid=1094457952/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_1/104-4713009-6703142))

Visuals

It is rare for such emphasis be placed on attention to visual beauty in a documentary, especially a political one. This has brought much admiration for the work. It can be stated that Labrecque made it a point to show Landry as a human being with often very intimate, tight shots, breaking the over-used standard of the news channel waist shot or talking heads type of clips that politicians are mostly seen through.

Other version

Labrecque has always said that his favourite version of the film was the cut of over three hours (this version is 104 minutes long). He has stated that he plans to one day send this version to the wide screen.

Similar works

See also

External links

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