15 février 1839 [February 15, 1839] (2001)

<strong class="MovieTitle">15 février 1839</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">February 15, 1839</strong>] (2001)

(In French, On TV, January 2019) As the legend goes, 15 février 1839 is the movie that the lowest-common-denominator comedy Elvis Gratton 2 paid for: Writer/director Pierre Falardeau wanted to make this historical drama but couldn’t scrape together the financing for the project considering its unrepentant separatist viewpoint, and made an audience-friendly film to gather the money to help finance the production of his more serious film. Despite my own objections to Falardeau’s political views, I have to admit that this slightly redeems Elvis Gratton 2. Oh, there is no doubt that 15 février 1839 is a hard-core separatist movie. It studies a politically charged moment in Canadian history, builds an argument about the illegitimacy of English-Canadian rule over Québec and makes martyrs out of its French-speaking characters killed by les anglais. It takes place in a prison over 24 hours, as participants in the failed 1937–1938 rebellion are awaiting execution by hanging. The conclusion being forgone, what remains are scenes examining characters as they face their own impending death. The political argument remains central—as the characters explain why British rule over Québec is illegitimate, they spout the same arguments that twentieth century indépendantistes would re-use to justify the separation movement. But the political argument isn’t the only thing about 15 février 1839, and the film’s finest moments are when we’re back to the characters saying goodbye to the world, talking to their spouses, discussing with their Anglophone jailers and so on. Luc Picard is very good in the leading role, with some assistance by Sylvie Drapeau and Falardeau collaborator Julien Poulin. No matter his ideological conviction, Falardeau directs well and manages some good moments along the way—the execution itself is shot with grace and dignity. I expected the worst from 15 février 1839 and actually got something tolerable, which is more than I would have expected.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *