With A Respectable Woman, the director of Against All Hope adapts a short story by Luigi Pirandello and transposes the action to the Quebec of the 1930s. A story full of nuances and lace.

Agnostic, nationalist and polemicist, Bernard Émond is attached to the humanist values ​​of the past and to our religious heritage. For more than 30 years, both in his films and in his books, the director has explored hope and human kindness. By painting the halftones and reverses of these virtues.

For his new feature film, Une femme respectacle, he was inspired by a short story by Luigi Pirandello (All life, heart in pain). The screenwriter adapted it by setting it in Trois-Rivières in the winter of 1931, during the Great Depression. We follow the journey of Rose (Hélène Florent), a wealthy woman in her forties, separated for 11 years from her worker husband (Martin Dubreuil). At the request of the priest of her parish, she agrees to take him home, with her three children, on the death of her illegitimate.

The film is about loneliness, faith and charity. A priest played by Paul Savoie acts as a guide and scout of conscience for Rose. “He would be a psychologist today”, remarks the filmmaker, when I tell him that it is rare today that we give a good role to the priests of yesteryear…

“I am very attached to the Christian heritage, although I am not a believer,” he explains. Despite the many and terrible abuses, not all priests were pedophiles. »

Despite the differences in social class, the injustices, Bernard Émond brings nuances to the current discourse, to the morality of our time which he finds Manichean and simplistic:

“Injustice! We only have this word in our mouths these days. We only talk about the victims, but life is more complicated, and more interesting than that, argues the director. Not all immigrants lead a life of misery. Not all women have been raped. My family comes from Hochelaga. My uncles, my aunts worked hard, with pride, to feed their children. Despite poverty, they lived a dignified life. When, for example, I see people vote Québec solidaire and send their children to the Ursulines, it makes me laugh.

“It’s tricky to say that today…

– I do not care ! I can’t take this time when everyone sees themselves as a victim, he replies immediately. Of these people who want to show at all costs how good, perfect, not racist they are, and to clear their conscience. Often people are neither good nor bad, or both. »

When reading Pirandello’s short story, Bernard Émond liked the fact that we are shown very different, nuanced, troubled characters. With their desires and their fears. “These characters don’t know what they want at all, as they often do in love,” he explains. Pirandello exposes human truth in its contradictions. We are far from the Manichaeism of our time. »

A Respectable Woman will (probably) be the last film by Bernard Émond, who turns 72 in September. “I don’t have any projects in my machine,” he says. It becomes difficult to finance a film in Quebec. We closed the budget of this one [3 million] by the skin of the buttocks. But I’m not complaining, I’m not a victim [laughs]! I have been privileged to have a producer who has believed in and supported my films for over 30 years. »

Bernadette Payeur is indeed faithful to the filmmaker. She has produced several very personal films by Quebec filmmakers. “For me, it’s not just box office success that determines the value of a film,” the producer said in an interview. It is important that an intimate, personal work also find its audience, in Quebec or at festivals abroad. »

Bernadette Payeur met Émond in 1989, on the set of the film Le party, by Pierre Falardeau, which she was producing. “Bernard came to see Pierre to have him read a script. The two men loved each other very much, she said, even though their personalities and works are different. These two anthropologists shared the spirit, values ​​and pride of the Quebec people. »

What does she like about The Drinking Woman director’s films?

Like several works by Émond, Une femme respectable exposes the destiny of a courageous female character who takes her destiny into her own hands. “These women are at the heart of my work,” notes the filmmaker. I love the complexity, the humanity and the courage they express. There is in their faces and in their gestures, in what they show as much as in what they hide, one of the raison d’être of my cinema. »

After having directed the Élise Guilbault, Guylaine Tremblay, Luc Picard and Patrick Drolet, the director works for the first time with a superb duo of actors: Martin Dubreuil and Hélène Florent. Actors with great interiority. In the film, all the emotion passes through the close-ups, the faces, the looks… “It’s the opposite of non-playing, explains Hélène Florent. There are many subtexts, things left unsaid. There is nothing improvised. But it’s a precise, polished, crafted game; like little lace centerpieces. »

Like the films of Bernard Émond, a filmmaker who embroiders the fine contours and chiaroscuro of human feelings.