French-speaking Canada at the time of the Quiet Revolution has always fascinated me, for two reasons in particular:
First, it should be recalled that Quebec is the equivalent, for the French, of the Old Commonwealth for the British. Is means the same, to them, or ought to anyway, as the United States, English-speaking Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa means to us. The French should have remained inconsolable after losing what Voltaire snottily described as “quelques arpents de neige.” The reality, however, is that French governments promptly and completely forgot about Canada until General de Gaulle’s 1967 visit.
The second reason for my interest in 1960s French-speaking Canada is the considerable differences between it and France. Even at the end of that transformation, which was effectively over by 1970, Quebec remained a mixture of old and new, a combination of the optimistic and modern American framework and of a form of traditionalism. A combination, in fact, that France never achieved, even in the decade after 1958 when that same General de Gaulle attempted to modernise her while renewing her political institutions on older models. And, even more importantly, the fight between traditionalists and revolutionaries that dominated French politics after 1789 never really took place in French-speaking Canada.
Of course all these trends are only hinted at in C.R.A.Z.Y. But what hints there are I found quite relevant and also quite subtle. Part of the film’s success is probably due to the underlying theme of the Church’s waning influence over the period, which is presented subtly, accurately and with just the right dose of humour.
I also liked the film’s incisive look at the father-son relationship, the dialogues (fortunately subtitled, since a lot of them would otherwise have been incomprehensible): much of seventeenth-century French Norman patois still lives across the Atlantic, the friendly derision occasionally directed at the a large, English-speaking neighbouring country, whose vocabulary is happily made use of without any fear of being assimilated. Fascinating and well worth seeing.