Pierre Elliot Trudeau:

By Collin Gallant

When Hugh MacLennan penned Two Solitudes, a defining work of literature on Canada’s identity problem, was it any coincidence he used human relationships to parallel the two founding cultures of our nation?

This is the psychology behind the inaugural effort of Canadian director Catherine Annua, Just Watch Me: Trudeau and the ’70s generation.

It is not a documentary about Trudeau’s life, rather an exploration of how the people coming into their own today viewed the world, and added to the intense mystery that is Canada’s identity crisis. The film revolves around eight 30-year-olds, mostly academics, who were inspired by Trudeau’s idealism and who took part in a federal exchange program to be immersed in the opposite founding culture.

The lack of opposition to Trudeau’s great ideal may be unsettling to some, especially if you grew up in a household in which discussions of Trudeau always ended with talk of murder. It may be a clever ploy not to be bogged down in the usual ideological hubbub, Annua assumes Trudeau’s point of view and goes from there. In fact, the flamboyant Prime Minister receives little mention in the second half of the movie.

At the start, the Anglos discuss how a yearning for adventure spurred them to go on the exchanges to learn how to drink and have love affairs in erotic splendor. The Quebecois discuss a need to examine their own culture, which seems to them inclusionary. The romance seems a little one sided, until Quebécois Jocelyne Perrier reveals, with a grin that melts all previous testimony, that when she hears Anglos speak French she finds it "très très Sexy."

The idea of the two language groups acting as lovers is not new. Idealistically, the two groups can explore one another, work with and contrary to one another, while creating a passion and openness which produces a total greater then the sum of its two parts. Thankfully, the concept is played out with enough subtlety that it remains unspoken. Even when John Duffy, a Toronto consultant, parallels the ’95 referendum with his own dissolving marriage, the point is made and the film quickly moves on.

For some, the referendum is the end of the romance. The obvious flipside of adventurous lovers and happy newlyweds is, of course, bitter divorcees we’ve all come to know through today’s headlines.

One by one, starting with Duffy, the group’s bigotries begin to show through. At times, he felt betrayed and tired of putting so much in and receiving so little in return. Another can’t stand the idea of having her child grow up with an accent unlike hers.

Perhaps infatuation is too fleeting. Perhaps few of us have the openness to proceed to the next great step, the stalwart dedication to ideals or each other, that there is little hope.

That would be the impression left if not for the different hope found by some. In the end, some stay out of love, a few remain in love, and a few find reminiscent new love. But all relate their present situation to Trudeau’s ideal, either pro or con, and their present views are defined either through or against it.

In the end, it is the story of Marois and McDonald, who met and became partners on an exchange, and who watched the ’95 referendum over a pregnant stomach together, who accepted the results and who rejected their place in the argument, which provide a victory on the smallest and largest of scales.

The film intricately intertwines the eight story lines in a fresh manner. In this respect, the content out- performs the cinematography but then again, every saga needs a landscape.

Just Watch Me: Trudeau and the ’70s generation plays one time only at the Plaza Theatre Sat., Oct. 30. Actor/University of Calgary student Evan Adamson will be in attendance and Dean of Fine Arts Maurice Yakowar will mediate a discussion on the film. Admission is free. Call 283-3636 for more information.


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