Pierre Perrault and the Poetic Documentary


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by David Clandfield
270 pages
Published by the Toronto International Film Festival

One of the great exponents of the direct cinema style, Quebecois poet, essayist, and filmmaker Pierre Perrault (1927-1999) began his documentary career in radio before working with the more traditional Rene Bonniere on a series of short films that documented the geography and people of the St. Lawrence River area. In the 1960s he joined the National Film Board of Canada to shoot films in the new direct style, taking a small two-man crew into communities, revealing their beliefs and allegiances as they coped with social change. His legendary trilogy on the Ile-aux-Coudres opened with his most famous work, Pour la suite du monde (1963). Ostensibly a look at the local people's effort to revive a traditional beluga hunt, it is actually the beginning of a lifelong inquiry into the relationship between community and national identity. Pierre Perrault and the Poetic Documentary discusses not only the world that Perrault's cinema revealed, but a revolution in filmmaking from a great poet, whose solidarity with Indigenous communities is revealed in the exquisite matches of the spoken word of their inhabitants with the images of a camera ever attentive to the decisive moment and the ironic juxtaposition. The book features contributions from scholar Jerry White, as well as translations of some of Perrault's writings on film, available for the first time in English.