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Robert Morin and Lorraine Dufour

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Video still from <b>Le Voleur vit en enfer/The Thief Lives in Hell</b> by Robert Morin and Lorraine Dufour

Robert Morin and Lorraine Dufour, Le Voleur vit en enfer/The Thief Lives in Hell, (1984), 4:46 min. excerpt from the 19:00 min. original, French with English subtitles

Video still from <b>La Réception/The Reception</b> by Robert Morin and Lorraine Dufour

Robert Morin and Lorraine Dufour, La Réception/The Reception, (1989), 5:57 min. excerpt from the 77:00 min. original, French with English subtitles

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About these works

Le Voleur vit en enfer/The Thief Lives in Hell (1984)
Distributed by Vidéographe.

An unemployed man who has just moved to a poor neighbourhood films his neighbours' lives in order to convince himself that he is not going crazy. "This is a film that was born because I was on welfare and I didn't have enough money to get by, just an old hand-cranked Bolex and a few old bits of film. So I filmed what was going on around me, without any real plan in my head." When we asked Morin where he found the strange triangular house where the main character lived, he burst out laughing: "I lived there, that was really my house. And the neighbour really was my neighbour. And the title comes from some graffiti I saw written on the door! The surroundings are truly documentary. What isn't documentary is the character... Essentially, Le voleur is sort of my own Rear Window. Except that here the disability that keeps the character glued to his window is welfare" (Boyer et al. 161, 163).

In part, Le voleur is an "existential documentary," a life in progress seen from an unusual point of view. The voices we hear are those of Morin and a help-line worker on the phone; the images are casual glances at the street below. We glimpse the subject's confusion, his veering towards desperation, and the non-life of social-assistance existence.

La Réception/The Reception (1989)
Distributed by Vidéographe.

Ten former prison inmates, one of whom is a cameraman, are invited by an absent host to an enormous, isolated house, where one by one they are killed. A thriller in the style of a psychological drama inspired by Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians). "When I made this film I had been asking myself for some time why small-fry filmmakers don't have the right to take famous stories and tell them with 'peanuts'. So I decided to take a well known story and to act it out with people who weren't well known, and to try to go beyond the drama as written by addressing political issues. I wanted to show the soul of a prisoner without it being falsified by prison décor. In other words, I wanted to film the prison in each of us" (Boyer et al. 165).

The excerpt included here shows the dramatic moment of recognition, watching a video cassette found at the house, in which the crime of each character (in fact, the actual crime for which each "actor" had been sentenced to jail) is spelled out for all to know. It is a trigger moment for subsequent interaction of the players and the basis for their mutual mistrust. Christie's "Indians," figurines representing each murder victim in the original story, are replaced by frogs lined up on the mantelpiece, which disappear one by one as characters are killed off. Tension is apparent at once, for we know this is no regular "cast." It's a brilliant device, played out perfectly.

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