French Culture in Downtown Montréal

June 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

One of the most persistent complaints of the linguistic nationalists of Québec is about the fate of the French language in downtown Montréal.  They claim it’s an English centre again, that they can’t get served in their own language anymore.   It’s true to a degree, you hear more English in downtown Montréal than anywhere else in the city, but it’s not just because of the old Anglo business class.  It’s also because downtown Montréal is where the tourists go, along with the old city.  And the tourists, largely Americans, like to be served in their own language.  But you want service in French, it’s there. 

But there is a creeping Anglicisation going on here, culturally-speaking anyway.  The downtown movie theatres don’t show French-language films, and if they do, they’re subtitled in English.  There are no French-language bookstores downtown.  There is an Indigo, a Chapters, a few Coles, and Paragraphe, which, despite its name, is an English-language store.  There was a Renaud-Bray near Concordia University, but it closed a few years back and is now a chicken restaurant.  The big Archambault in the old Eatons store is now a clothing store.  The French-language music section of HMV downtown is wanting.  And French-language DVDs there? Forget about it.

Yesterday, I was on a mission.  I wanted to find a québécois film, le 15 fevrier 1839, about the plight of a few Patriote rebels and their execution in prison by the British on 15 February 1839.  Anyway, this was a big film when it came out a few years back, caused a lot of controversy.  One idiot writing in The Hour even claimed the Patriotes were génocidaires.  So, I thought it would be easy to find.  HMV doesn’t carry French-language films, though it does have a big section of French-language TV DVDs.  The movie store in the Carrefour Industrielle-Alliance, its “Section française” is about 3% of the store.  Indigo, forget about it.  So I walked to the Renaud-Bray in Place-des-Arts.  Nope, its film section is all English-language movies.  So, for sure, the big Archambault at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Berri would have it, correct?  Nope.  Its film section is also about 95% English-language films.  Their québécois section is tiny, and shoved into the back corner of the store.

I don’t get this.  Québécois cinema is the only one in Canada that is actually watched.  People go to québécois films here, they make money, and so on.  But don’t try t0 find québécois films on DVD in downtown Montréal, my friends.  Because they’re not there.  In the end, I had to go up the rue Saint-Denis to Boîte Noîre to find my film.  The Plateau, that is.

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