Jutra, Claude

 Claude Jutra, director (b at Montréal 11 March 1930; d at Cap-Santé, Que 5 Nov 1986). This doctor who never practised medicine is especially known for having produced in 1984 MON ONCLE ANTOINE (1971), classified as the best Canadian film of all time. After an amateur debut with his friend Michel BRAULT, he joined the NATIONAL FILM BOARD (NFB) in 1956, and there directed several short films, including some for television. He also collaborated with Norman MCLAREN on A Chairy Tale (1957). His first feature film, Les Mains nettes, dates from 1958. In 1959, he left for Europe, striking up friendships with François Truffaut, who helped in the production of Anna la bonne (1959), and Jean Rouch, who encouraged him to shoot Le Niger, jeune république (1961), in Africa. Once back, he returned to his job with the NFB's French crew and participated in the first steps of direct cinema notably with La Lutte (co-directed with M. Brault, Marcel Carrière, Claude Fournier, 1961) and Québec U.S.A. ou l'invasion pacifique (co-dir. M. Brault, 1962).

Jutra then left the NFB to tackle his first independent full-length feature À TOUT PRENDRE (1963). This autobiography in fictional guise broached such subjects as interracial love, homosexuality, and bohemian life, and launched the new Quebec cinema. After shooting several shorts and a full-length feature, Wow (1969), all at the NFB, he directed Mon oncle Antoine, which takes place in a small mining town in the late 1950s, on Christmas Eve, and sensitively presents a young man approaching adulthood. The film was the recipient of numerous prizes that earned Jutra a solid reputation as a filmmaker. He then tackled a far-reaching co-production, Kamouraska (1973), based on Anne HÉBERT's novel, but it failed to meet expectations, and did not satisfy the director. In 1983, Jutra would remake a long version that conformed to his wishes. Following this disappointment, Jutra shot Pour le meilleur et pour le pire (1975), a comedy about marriage. His plans did not materialize, and Jutra left to work for the English network of Radio-Canada. His films Ada (1977), Dreamspeaker (1977), Seer Was Here (1978) and The Wordsmith (1979) rank among the best Canadian films for TV.

He returned to cinema with Surfacing (1980), from the novel by Margaret ATWOOD, and By Design (1981), shot in Vancouver. In this humorous portrayal of two lesbians, his enthusiasm, sensitivity and irony showed through. He returned to Québec to direct La Dame en couleurs (1984), which took place in a 1940s orphanage. That year he won the prix Albert-tessier. Likely suffering from the Alzheimer's disease that had undermined him for several years, he took his own life in 1986, and his body was found in the St Lawrence River at Cap-Santé (Québec) on 19 April 1987. Jutra occupies a major place in Québec cinema, as much for the originality of his work as for his fate, and several locations in Québec and Canada, as well as prizes and scholarships bear his name.