Saturday, 2 February 2008

Michèle Cournoyer "Le Chapeau"

It is arguable whether Le Chapeau (The Hat) could have been made by a man. Even in the hands of the talented and experienced director, Michèle Cournoyer, the movie is controversial, powerful, raw. Its subject is the abuse of a young girl and the effect that abuse had on her as an adult. Commencing in a men's club where the dancer parades her body to an accompanying sleezy soundtrack the woman remembers the approach up the stairs of her abuser, wearing the large hat of the title. The ensuing abuse, metamorphosing in a revolving cycle of memory and club routine, is shocking. This is not a movie one easily forgets. The image of the hat is central. The woman wears a hat in her act, the girl's abuser conceals his identity with a hat, the faces in the crowd are hats, as she gyrates on the stage the hat sits on her head, an-ever present scar of her ordeal. As the action becomes ever more graphic, the hat assumes more physical identities, crude, explicit. I wish I could point to a resolution in the movie. Of course there is none. The woman is soiled by her experiences and Michèle too honest a film-maker to mask the corrupting effects her abuse has had on the woman. Her defilement as a child has led to her abasement as an adult. Born in Quebec in 1943, Michèle has an excellent body of work behind her. Although elsewhere using computer aided design, here her technique is simple, black ink on paper, the intimacy of the traditional style suiting a highly charged animation. When, for a moment, the bold stokes of the pen become smudged and the figure of the girl/woman reverts to an infant's sketch the devastation of the abuse is clear, even as the image on the screen is blurred. The composer of the original music, Jean Derome, deserves praise for his soundtrack welds together Michèle's visual graphics with an alternating heavy beat of the club and the should-have-been innocent world of the child. View it at at NFB

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