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“Notre Valérie Nationale”: The films de fesses as a catalyst of socio-cultural transformation during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution and beyond

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“Notre Valérie Nationale”: The films de fesses as a catalyst of socio-cultural transformation during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution and beyond

Jones, Alan (2017) “Notre Valérie Nationale”: The films de fesses as a catalyst of socio-cultural transformation during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution and beyond. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

The films de fesses are a cycle of French-language sexploitation films produced in Quebec in the late sixties and early seventies. They were an unforeseen consequence of the vast social and political changes that occurred in the 1960s. During this period, Jean Lesage’s Liberal government commenced a period of secularization in the province that became known as the Quiet Revolution. At the same time, the sexual revolution was challenging norms in most of the Western world, including Quebec. Between 1963 and 1967, Quebec went from having the most draconian, punitive censorship regime in Canada to the most liberal and relaxed. The end of this period also marked the creation of the Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC), which financed “commercially-calculated” projects, including sexploitation films.
Firstly, I will examine how the first of these films, Valérie (Denis Héroux, 1969), became a sensation upon its release and invoked sentiments of national pride. The director bragged that he wanted to “ déshabiller la petite québécoise ,” and one television personality started referring to its beauty contest-winning star, Danielle Ouimet, as “ Notre Valérie nationale ,” a sex idol that Quebec could call its own. The film follows the titular character as she is “rescued” from a Catholic orphanage by a man on a motorcycle, until she arrives in Montreal and becomes a sex worker. Promoted as an allegory for Quebec’s maturation, both sexually and politically, the film stoked controversy as conservative members of the press criticized it for its overtly commercialized sexuality. Nevertheless, it was followed by a cycle of films that followed the same narrative and thematic template, pitching young against old, metropolitan against rural, secular against religious.
Secondly, I will explore the high-profile censorship case that emerged in 1971 when a priest from Quebec City filed criminal complaints against Après-ski and Pile ou face , two films de fesses that both featured full frontal nudity (both male and female). These affairs pitched the authority of Quebec’s provincial Bureau de surveillance du cinéma against the federal criminal code, and put fear into the hearts of exhibitors and distributors. Still, it provoked a public debate in Quebec’s tabloids and media which I argue normalized anti-censorship opinions in the province. Overall, I hope to show how seemingly marginal works of art, such as the films de fesses , had an outsized effect on the socio-cultural fabric of the province.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Jones, Alan
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Film Studies
Date:April 2017
Thesis Supervisor(s):Waugh, Thomas
ID Code:982312
Deposited By: ALAN JONES
Deposited On:07 Jun 2017 17:10
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:54
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