Suburban adventurers

Dubbing dampens film’s joie de vivre

Published: Nov 14 2017, 01:01:am

Tuesday, April 3, 1973.

TWO AMOROUS WOMEN (original title: Deux femmes en or). Co-written by Marie-José Raymond. Music by Robert Charlebois. Co-written, photographed, edited and directed by Claude Fournier. Running time: 106 minutes. Restricted entertainment with the B.C. Classifier's warning: scenes of nudity and sex.
AT LONG LAST, CLAUDE Fournier's three-year-old comedy, Deux femmes en or, has stumbled across the mountains. The movie, made on the usual shoestring budget in Quebec, comes with the reputation of having been a surprise hit on Montreal's version of Theatre Row, a boxoffice winner and the subject of an article in Time Magazine's Canada edition.
    A skin flick, made at the peak of that genre's popularity among Quebec moviemakers, the film's cheeky suburban humour touched a responsive chord among development dwellers in la belle province, and they flocked to it by the theatreful.
    Unfortunately for Vancouverites, the joke seems to have lost something in translation.
    Literally, Deux femmes en or translates as Two Women in Gold (or Two Golden Women). What it means, allowing for linguistic exchange rates, is Two women of Sterling Character.
     That's considered a bit vague for its intended audience, though, hence the English language title: Two Amorous Women.
    At heart it's an epidermal epic, the story of two suburban Montreal housewives who have grown tired of their dull, housebound existence and liberate themselves for a whole series of zestful sexual adventures.
    Fernande Turcot (Monique Mercure) is the instigator. Her husband, Yvon (Marcel Sabourin), is a travelling salesman, and lately he has been arriving home more tired than usual.
    Violette Lamoreux (Louise Turcot) is an angelic-looking blonde whose husband, insurance company bookkeeper Bob (Donald Pilon), spends most of his off hours in the basement   clad in a surgeon's smock tending to a jungle-like collection of plants.
    The die is cast when Yvon takes Bob to the 1969 Grey Cup game and the women catch sight of their men (via TV coverage, in which we glimpse football fan Pierre Trudeau) nuzzling Yvon’s beautiful young mistress.
    In developing his story, Fournier proved adept both at hitting satirical targets and finding excuses to undress his leading lovelies. Montreal audiences undoubtedly responded to the subplot involving Bob’s employers, Canada Life Insurance, and their "search" for a new  image for French Canada.
    They were probably equally delighted to see a reporter from the tabloid Midnight exposing yet another suburban sex scandal.
    Here, the same jokes are just as likely to fall flat. Much of the fault lies with the dubbing. The English-speaking voices on the soundtrack sound distant and uninvolved, giving the film a cheap European feeling.
    Some of the fault is distance. Two Amorous Women proves that it's possible to make a very funny film in Montreal and have it show up in Vancouver as just another skin flick.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1973. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Following its “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s, Québec considered itself a distinct society (la société distincte) in the Canadian federation. This was certainly apparent within the arts, and English Canadians saw it reflected in the movies made in the francophone province. English Canadian filmmakers could only dream of the enthusiastic support that their Québecois colleagues received from the domestic audience. Made for just $218,000, Claude Fournier’s Deux Femmes en or eventually grossed more than $4,000,000, making it a Canadian box-office champion. Writing in 1984, movie historian Peter Morris said that “one out of three Québecois is reported to have seen it.”
    Fournier’s success illustrated the gulf between what was considered acceptable screen fare inside and outside of Québec. Validating its popular credentials were the appearance of a number of familiar faces from the province’s vibrant creative community. Several turned up among the amorous women’s paramours, including comedian Yvon Deschamps (as the telephone repairman), stage actor Gilles Latulippe (a delivery man), pop singer Donald Lautrec (the milkman) and television actor Paul Berval (the carpet cleaner). Each was a Québec celebrity, and a selling point for the feature.
    Released a year after director Denis Héroux's taboo-defying Valérie, Deux femmes en or was a high point in the distinctly Québecois movie genre that the U.S. entertainment trade paper Variety called “maple syrup porn.”  Though it was Fournier’s first fictional feature, he was well established as a National Film Board documentary director. Recognized today as a pioneer of Québec cinema, his subsequent career included such features as the 1974 historical western Alien Thunder  and the award-winning adaptation of Gabrielle Roy’s novel Bonheur d’occasion (The Tin Flute; 1984).  
    Monique Mercure, the star of Deux femmes en or, had 20 years as a serious stage, television and feature film performer before her turn as the self-assured Fernande. In 1977, she twice collected best actress honours for her role in director Jean Beaudin’s J.A. Martin photographe, first at the Canadian Film Awards and again at the Cannes Film Festival. She added Genies to her shelf in 1992 (for David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch) and 1999 (for Piers Haggard’s Conquest). In 1993, shortly after becoming general director of Montreal’s National Theatre School, she received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. She served as NTS artistic director from 1997 to 2000. Monique Mercure turns 87 today (November 14).

See also: In addition to the cultural vitality released by the Quiet Revolution, there were political forces, among them an appetite for Québec sovereignty that found its most extreme expression in the separatist movement. In 1970, a group calling itself the Front de libération de Québec (FLQ) kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner, an act that set off Canada’s October Crisis. That moment in our history is recalled in director Robin Spry’s 1974 documentary feature Action: The October Crisis of 1970. Two other films from 1974 recalling that historic moment are writer-director Jean-Claude Lord's youth-radicalization thriller Bingo, and Michel Brault's documentary-like Les Ordres. Putting a satiric spin on the issue of political separation was writer-director Paul Donovan's 1993 cod war comedy Buried on Sunday.