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Séraphin: Un Homme et son Péché

Séraphin: Heart of Stone

Director:

Charles Binamé

Screenplay

Pierre Billon, Charles Binamé, Antonine Maillet, Lorraine Richard (Based on Claude-Henri Grignon’s novel)

Producers

Lorraine Richard, Vivianne Morin, Louis Laverdière, Guy Gagnon, Patrick Roy

Budget

6.2 M

Locations

Ste-Adèle, Québec, Canada

Language

French

Cast

Pierre Lebeau (Séraphin Poudrier); Roy Dupuis (Alexis Labranche) Karine Vanasse (Donalda Laloge); Rémy Girard (Père Laloge)

Distributor

Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm

Genre

Drama

Duration

128 minutes

Release Date

November 29th , 2002

 

 

He’s back!

Returning from the Nikita years in Anglophone exile (seemingly a cultural divide out of all proportion to the meagre geographical distance), Roy is welcomed back with open arms into the Quebec consciousness, courtesy of Charles Binamé’s much-hyped update of the 1933 ‘classic’ novel by Claude-Henri Grignon, Un homme et son péché.

No modest art-house film this, Séraphin, Un homme et son péché is one of only 3 Quebecois movies with a budget in the 6 million dollar bracket, plus an additional one million for publicity, ensuring a high enough profile to rival, in Montreal at least, the concurrent releases of Harry Potter (Chamber of Secrets) and James Bond (Die Another Day). Two weeks before its release, you couldn’t travel far in the Montreal metro without spotting dozens of the now-familiar posters.

 The ‘star’ of the film is the theme itself, a major rework of the original novel and its subsequent spin-offs of two feature films (1949, 1950), a radio series which lasted 24 years, and a TV series of 495 episodes. Though still a faithful period piece about the early colonists of the Laurentides in the 1890’s, the fresh treatment makes it accessible to 21st century audiences without tarnishing the memory of its predecessors. The heritage was also acknowledged in great style by staging the ‘world’ premiere in tiny Sainte-Adèle, the original setting of the novel, on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, and in the presence of Mme Claire Grignon, the author’s daughter.

 Another major feature of the film is that it’s not just carried by one or two lead actors. Inspired by the multitude of characters developed for the radio series, the cast is a virtual Who’s Who of local talent, which in itself gives it a cachet that will establish it as a modern cinema classic within Quebec. However, with just a couple of hours at their disposal,  director/scriptwriter Charles Binamé and co-writer Pierre Billon have chosen to develop the original theme of the aging miser and his miserable young wife into a substantial love triangle, only hinted at in the novel. The loveless relationship, the marriage of convenience between the two main characters, is transformed into a heart-breaking tale of unrequited passion as the love-match of Donalda and Alexis is crushed by Séraphin’s intervention.

 The three leading roles are played by the best talent Quebec has to offer. Binamé made it a condition of his making the film that Quebec’s most respected stage actor, Pierre Lebeau, played Séraphin. His is a tortured portrayal, his early childhood experiences blighting his personality so that he uses his wife callously and has a literally erotic attachment to his money. Lebeau gives us no reason to sympathise with this despicable character, and his physical appearance compared with le beau Roy (there is just a 10 year difference in their real ages!) compounds our appreciation of Donalda’s tragedy.

 The choice of Karine Vanasse for Donalda meant, unusually, using an actress who is even younger than the part demands. In this her first grown-up role, Karine’s youth evokes the innocence of the period, but she combines it with a modern spirit. Her Donalda is not the meek, uncomplaining ‘saint’ of the book, and she gives up her future happiness with Alexis only under extreme circumstances. Her swift decline from a carefree courtship into misery and illness is all too human.

 And so to Roy. The period and setting might suggest that Alexis is another Ovila, but this is not the case. Far from being the weak character living in the shadow of a wife with greater aspirations, Alexis is the one with the vision and, one suspects, the strength of character to rise above the poverty of his circumstances. Conveniently relieved of his wife and 8 children in this version of the story, but by no means a saint himself, he woos the young Donalda with an assured maturity. Had Séraphin not intervened, you can imagine that they would certainly have had a happy life together. Even after the dreadful outcome of the story, he’s able to move on.

It wouldn’t do justice to Roy’s performance to review it in detail after only a single viewing of the film. That will have to come later, after adequate study! Suffice to say that one of Quebec’s literary heartthrobs was played by their famous prodigal son, and the fatted calf is surely already roasting on the spit. It will be interesting to note if, over the next six months, the success of the film will cause Roy to replace Guy Provost and Gabriel Gascon as the national mental picture of Alexis Labranche, will allow Alexis to replace Ovila Pronovost as the national mental picture of Roy Dupuis, and will enable Séraphin to breach the Francophone border and conquer the English-speaking world through the subtitled version Séraphin, Heart of Stone.

If you'd like to get an idea of the original novel, then read an abridged translation of  Un Homme et Son Péché by Claude-Henri Grignon, here.

 

 

For further information on this production see the various articles in The Library.

Seraphin Gallery - filled with lots of fabulous images!

The Making of Séraphin, Un homme et son péché

Jutra Awards 2003 - captures and video clips

TV Interviews Compilation Video 

Quebec cinema has its own economics; who risks what?

He’s back!

Returning from the Nikita years in Anglophone exile (seemingly a cultural divide out of all proportion to the meagre geographical distance), Roy is welcomed back with open arms into the Quebec consciousness, courtesy of Charles Binamé’s much-hyped update of the 1933 ‘classic’ novel by Claude-Henri Grignon, Un homme et son péché.

 

No modest art-house film this, Séraphin, Un homme et son péché is one of only 3 Quebecois movies with a budget in the 6 million dollar bracket, plus an additional one million for publicity, ensuring a high enough profile to rival, in Montreal at least, the concurrent releases of Harry Potter (Chamber of Secrets) and James Bond (Die Another Day). Two weeks before its release, you couldn’t travel far in the Montreal metro without spotting dozens of the now-familiar posters.

 

The ‘star’ of the film is the theme itself, a major rework of the original novel and its subsequent spin-offs of two feature films (1949, 1950), a radio series which lasted 24 years, and a TV series of 495 episodes. Though still a faithful period piece about the early colonists of the Laurentides in the 1890’s, the fresh treatment makes it accessible to 21st century audiences without tarnishing the memory of its predecessors. The heritage was also acknowledged in great style by staging the ‘world’ premiere in tiny Sainte-Adèle, the original setting of the novel,  on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, and in the presence of Mme Claire Grignon, the author’s daughter.

 

Another major feature of the film is that it’s not just carried by one or two lead actors. Inspired by the multitude of characters developed for the radio series, the cast is a virtual Who’s Who of local talent, which in itself gives it a cachet that will establish it as a modern cinema classic within Quebec. However, with just a couple of hours at their disposal,  director/scriptwriter Charles Binamé and co-writer Pierre Billon have chosen to develop the original theme of the aging miser and his miserable young wife into a substantial love triangle, only hinted at in the novel. The loveless relationship, the marriage of convenience between the two main characters, is transformed into a heart-breaking tale of unrequited passion as the love-match of Donalda and Alexis is crushed by Séraphin’s intervention.

 

The three leading roles are played by the best talent Quebec has to offer. Binamé made it a condition of his making the film that Quebec’s most respected stage actor, Pierre Lebeau, played Séraphin. His is a tortured portrayal, his early childhood experiences blighting his personality so that he uses his wife callously and has a literally erotic attachment to his money. Lebeau gives us no reason to sympathise with this despicable character, and his physical appearance compared with le beau Roy (there is just a 10 year difference in their real ages!) compounds our appreciation of Donalda’s tragedy.

 

The choice of Karine Vanasse for Donalda meant, unusually, using an actress who is even younger than the part demands. In this her first grown-up role, Karine’s youth evokes the innocence of the period, but she combines it with a modern spirit. Her Donalda is not the meek, uncomplaining ‘saint’ of the book, and she gives up her future happiness with Alexis only under extreme circumstances. Her swift decline from a carefree courtship into misery and illness is all too human.

 

And so to Roy. The period and setting might suggest that Alexis is another Ovila, but this is not the case. Far from being the weak character living in the shadow of a wife with greater aspirations, Alexis is the one with the vision and, one suspects, the strength of character to rise above the poverty of his circumstances. Conveniently relieved of his wife and 8 children in this version of the story, but by no means a saint himself, he woos the young Donalda with an assured maturity. Had Séraphin not intervened, you can imagine that they would certainly have had a happy life together. Even after the dreadful outcome of the story, he’s able to move on.

 

It wouldn’t do justice to Roy’s performance to review it in detail after only a single viewing of the film. That will have to come later, after adequate study! Suffice to say that one of Quebec’s literary heartthrobs was played by their famous prodigal son, and the fatted calf is surely already roasting on the spit. It will be interesting to note if, over the next six months, the success of the film will cause Roy to replace Guy Provost and Gabriel Gascon as the national mental picture of Alexis Labranche, will allow Alexis to replace Ovila Pronovost as the national mental picture of Roy Dupuis, and will enable Séraphin to breach the Francophone border and conquer the English-speaking world through the subtitled version Séraphin, Heart of Stone.

If you'd like to get an idea of the original novel, then read an abridged translation of  Un Homme et Son Péché by Claude-Henri Grignon, here.

The History of Alexis Labranche :

Date

Actor

Production

Medium

1939

Albert Duquesne

Un homme et son péché

radio

1949

Guy Provost

Un homme et son péché

Film 1

1950

Guy Provost

Séraphin

Film 2

1956

Gabriel Gascon

Les Belles Histoires des Pays-d’en-Haut

TV series

For further information on this production see the various articles in The Library.

Seraphin Gallery - filled with lots of fabulous images!

The Making of Séraphin, Un homme et son péché

Jutra Awards 2003 - captures and video clips

TV Interviews Compilation Video 

Quebec cinema has its own economics; who risks what?

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