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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The function of Andre Brassard's film "Il etait une fois dans l'Est" in the context of Michel Tremblay's "Cycle des Belles-soeurs" Loiselle, André


A number of Michel Tremblay's plays are referred to as the "Cycle des Belles-Soeurs". This ensemble of works, bound by a commonness of dialect, characters and milieu, constitutes a coherent dramatic universe. In l973, five years after the premiere of the first play of the Cycle (Les Belles-soeurs). Michel Tremblay and Andre Brassard, who has directed most of Tremblay's plays, temporarily left the stage to prolong the elaboration of the "Cycle des Belles-soeurs" in a film called Il etait une fois dans l'Est. Rather than being an adaptation of one specific work, the film gathers a dozen of Michel Tremblay's characters from six different plays. When it first came out, Il etait une fois dans l'Est was perceived by many critics as a film anthology of Michel Tremblay's plays: a work which points out to, compiles, and summarizes other works but which has little artistic value of its own. Luc Perreault, for instance, wrote in l974 that the film is "une anthologie pure et simple de ce qu'il(M. Tremblay) a deja cree"(l). It is as such -- an anthology of Tremblay's plays --that the film is still often described today. In the l988 edition of the Dictionnaire du cinema quebecois. Michel Coulombe and Marcel Jean call the film an "anthologie anticipee de l'oeuvre de Tremblay".(2) The author of this thesis disagrees with the notion of the film as an anthology of Tremblay's plays. The purpose of this study is thus to demonstrate that Il etait une fois dans l'Est is a work whose function in the Cycle is as genuine, as exclusive and as integrated as that of Hosanna. En pieces detachees or any other play of the ensemble. To study the function of the film in relation to the "Cycle des Belles-soeurs", the author conducts a two-part analysis covering both the dramatic universe of the plays, and its cinematic re-presentation. The first, and main part of this work is devoted to a study of the relationship between the stage characters and their cinematic counterparts. In the second part of the thesis, the author concentrates, first, on a specific analysis of the film, and finally, engages in an overall consideration of the interrelation of the plays and the film in order to establish the organic function of Il etait une fois dans l'Est in the context of Michel Tremblay's "Cycle des Be lles-soeurs". The methodological approach of the author is based on theories of the semlotic of Theatre and Cinema, as well as on some aspects of phenomenological, psychoanalytical and spectator/reader-response criticism. The conclusion drawn at the end of the thesis is the following: The function of Il etait une fois dans l'Est in the context of the "Cycle des Belles-soeurs" is one of demarcation. It indicates the passage of the dramatist from a "Theatre Quebecois" practice, to a mode of writing characterized by a lesser interest in the immediate politics of the nation, and a greater preoccupation with universal themes.

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