Christmas Movies II

film 21 of 25

The Jolifou Inn

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 23, 2015

This film is about Cornelius Krieghoff’s paintings of rural Quebec in the mid 19th century. Paintings and film alike share a nice, picturesque quality. Director Colin Low is an anglo-Albertan. Those so inclined might sense a hint of condescension, even colonialism in his production. Fair question, and a multi-faceted one too. Is this the case? If so, are these qualities a fault in the film, or are they a kind of fidelity to the source, reflecting a fault in the original material?

There might be some truth to all that, or maybe some oversensitivity. The problem with an aggressively ideological critical orientation is that it can miss the subtleties of the thing, and much of its substance besides. It can even occasionally miss the whole point.

There’s a striking idea, an amazing insight nestled right in the middle of The Jolifou Inn. According to these period images, and the period sentiments that support them, winter in those good, hard old days came almost completely as a relief and a respite. Not near as much farm work to do! Also, since this Anglo-Albertan director was on the brink of becoming as major as it is possible for a filmmaker to be, look at that imagery! Cameras fly across that painted canvas surface, nearly to the point of dropping right inside. Not great, but with seeds of greatness—here comes City of Gold.

The film:

The film that followed (watch for how they render the photographs!):

A non-Quebecois, speaking for Quebeckers? Unless you’re Robbie Burns, and the dialect is (sort of) your own, then dialect poetry doesn’t seem to pass muster anymore. William Henry Drummond, an Anglo-Irish emigrant to Canada, demonstrates why we might want to revisit that assumption. Dear, devoted—The Habitant and other French-Canadian Poems (1897):