In “The Shoemaker”, the devil is in the details
Photo: Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir The actress Rose-Marie Perreault did not hesitate long before accepting this first major role at the big screen. “Victoire Du Sault is a visionary, a feminist before her time, unknown to the general public. We talk a lot about the men who founded our company. I wanted to defend this woman who established an empire…”
The Dufresne family, whose castle, located in the Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough, is now a museum and historic heritage site, changed the face of Montreal at the start of the 20th century. However, few know that his story first took shape in Mauricie, on the shores of Lake Saint-Pierre.
It was there that Oscar's mother, Victoire Du Sault, the first shoemaker in history of Quebec, created, manufactured and sold her first models of shoes, before founding, with her husband and a partner, Dufresne and Locke, a major factory which in 1900 had more than 500 workers and which became the first North American company to export its products to Egypt.
The story of this pioneer is at the heart of the film The Shoemaker, inspired by the series of novels of the same name (1998-2003), written by Pauline Gill. But more than his extraordinary career, it is the torments of his soul and his amorous passions that form the fabric of this great melodrama, in the tradition of Séraphin. A Man and His Sin (2002) and New France (2004). On the menu: forbidden loves, love triangles, betrayals and heartbreaks.
“I was fascinated from the first reading of the script by this passionate, but disturbing and disturbing love story, carried by strong, honest and complex characters, says François Bouvier. There is a whole universe that is created around the relationship that each of them has with love, whether unfailing, secret, filial or carnal. That's what seduced me. »
A great melodrama
The first version of the screenplay had been lying in Sylvain Guy's chest of drawers for 18 years, after an order from producer Lorraine Richard fell through. “At the time, I read the four volumes of the Pauline Gill series, and by pure chance, I understood that it was about my family. Victoire Du Sault is my great-great-grandmother,” says the latter. Years later, a viewing of the film La passion d'Augustine (2015) reignited his flame for the project.
This is not the first time that Sylvain Guy , screenwriter of Louis Cyr (2013) and Monica la mitraille (2004), lends herself to the game of writing for the screen the tumultuous lives of people who really existed. The challenge, however, was different, since rather than biographies and archives, he chose this time to use only works of fiction as source material.
“I focused on the first two, where we follow Victoire Du Sault from her teenage years to her mid-thirties. The difficulty was to condense, to target the narrative arc, to find my story in there. I decided to make a melodrama, a term often connoted in a pejorative way. Yes, there is sentimental outpouring, but it is the plot, above all, which is melodramatic. The story of The Shoemaker is full of twists and turns, and it is this, more than the passion of love, that provokes great emotions in the viewer. »
Interiority and character
The director and the screenwriter both had an actress in mind to play this ambitious and passionate woman. “We didn't have to fight for long. We had thought of the same person”, launches the latter.
“We needed an actress who could show great economy of play, who could carry within her the inner truth of a woman invaded by her secrets. Rose-Marie Perreault is in a class of her own. She is extraordinary,” adds François Bouvier.
The main interested party did not hesitate long before accepting this proposal, which also represents her first major role on the big screen. “Victoire Du Sault is a visionary, a feminist before her time, unknown to the general public. We talk a lot about the men who founded our company. I wanted to defend this woman who established an empire, and who applied the same intensity in her career as in her love life. She allowed herself, at a time when women were considered minors, to live out her desires and her passions.
To step into the shoes of this 19th-century craftswoman, Rose-Marie Perreault — who describes herself as “not very manual” — observed shoemakers who still use tools period, in addition to being guided by a consultant on the set to learn how to handle them. “I saw Victoire as someone physical, very concrete in her intelligence. I wanted it to show in everything I did. »
The actress also worked with the costume and makeup teams to make the character's aging on screen believable. “I play the cobbler from 17 to 38, and it would have been easy to fall into caricature. I wanted to find out how a person ages in their body, their gaze, their voice. »
The make-up artist, Marie-France Guy, accentuated certain facial expressions of Rose-Marie Perreault, to age her, but above all to show the sum of the disappointments and worries that make up the heroine. From how to wear the corset to the choice of shoes, everything was combed through to allow the actress to find the right tone, even if the film was shot out of order.
The the technical team has also done a colossal job to ensure that every detail of the decor and staging is faithful to the era represented. “This is a project that required a lot of logistical work. First, we were shooting in two different cities. We therefore had to film the shots and reverse shots of the same scene two weeks apart. Then, did you know that cows in the past still had horns? They were difficult to find, laughs François Bouvier. But the specialists around me have done an incredible job. On set, all I had to do was shout “Action!”, and do what really excites me: directing the actors. »
The film The Shoemaker will be released in theaters on March 17.