14 March 2021

Claude Jutra's Wow (1969)


Wow is something of an oddity, and not a linear one at that: nine teenagers are given pseudonyms, questioned on subjects such as sex, the future and friendship, and note their dreams which are conveyed by film. Often they want to return to a past, and they are certainly unhappy with the present. What we have here is a French Canadian counterculture. But what that culture amounts to is difficult to fathom, apart from refusal to accept society's norms, lack of ambition, a love of sex, music and smoking cannabis. A violent future is forseen, and obviously these young people are living under the shadow of the bomb, but they seem powerless to do anything about it. Politics are absent because there is a general feeling of impotence: what can they do? Absent too are 'underground' magazines so prevalent in American and English (and, significantly, French) society: there seems to be no sense of group solidarity.

Evidently, even though he was almost thirty, Jutra (who never really considered himself to have grown up) seems to have to some extent identified with these people, although he saw Wow as a reversal of À tout prendre in that his first feature had strong autobiographical elements, whereas this doesn't. Or does it? Do these young people represent young French Canada in general, young Montréal, a countercultural cross section, or a vision of Jutra's? And in what way does that relate to the young people blowing up bourgeois homes in the beginning: a wish to begin again? And like the dream sequences, these explosions are in colour, but the rest of the film in black and white: the imaginary world and the documentary world, that of fantasy and that of a kind of reality.

No comments: