J. A. Martin, photographe
(J. A. Martin, Photographer)
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 101 min
National Film Board of Canada
J.A. Martin, photographe, a brilliantly observed film, is one of the best films ever produced by the NFB. It was a critical and commercial success — especially in Quebec.
J.A. Martin (Sabourin) is a photographer in 19th-century Quebec. All year he covers the local community events except when, once a year, he leaves in his wagon to serve his more remote customers. But this year is different: his defiant wife, Rose�€'Aimée (Mercure), decides to leave their five children at home and accompany Martin, despite the scandalized reactions of family and neighbours.
As they travel the narrow lanes, photographing country weddings and family gatherings, stopping at farmhouses and small-town hotels and visiting lumber mills (where they encounter child labour and exploited workers), they rediscover one another and revive a stale, 15�€'year�€'old marriage.
Slow-paced and nearly plotless, the film's evocative staging and imagery are what make it a delight to watch. Both Sabourin and Mercure give extraordinary performances — particularly Mercure, who creates a remarkably convincing portrait of a 19th-century woman quietly but forcefully insisting on her own identity. Her performance won a best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977.