Contemporary Candian Film and Literature (Fall, 1999)
La Sarrasine
by Paul Tana

Character List Alphonse Lamoureux: 

Felicite Lemieux: Alphonse's daughter 

Giuseppe Moschella: Alphonse's tailor and friend

Ninetta Moschella: Giuseppe's wife

Pasquale Lopinto: the musician who has an argument with Theo, Felicite's husband. 

and his words
Paul Tana--born in Italy in 1947; came to Quebec in 1958

Tana not only subscribed to the aesthetic of daily life so characteristic of Quebec cinema, he also made it his own by using immigrant characters.

[Tana's words]
For the Italians of Quebec, the growing of fig trees is one way to tame a country which is still not entirely theirs--appropriate this land by transplanting here something familiar to them...

We have placed Ninetta Morchella, our Saracen, in the blinding white snow of this land; she seems but a black stain--on herself, on us.

  • set in Montreal, 1904
  • based on a real story
  • What has the story to do with the story within the story; What does the title of the film mean?
story within the story--the puppet play

Trancred, battled against Saracen warrior, fatally wounding him. In raising the warrior's helmet, Tancred discovered Clorinda, the woman he loved.

 Issues for iscussion
  • The presentation of Montreal at the turn of the century: with a bar, muddy and unpaved road, some houses, called a cesspool
  • Race relations: 
    • between Alphonse and Giuseppe: business relationship, friendship, jokes, letters.
    • between Pasquale and Theo: lack of understanding of the customs, 
    • racial stereotypes: "from Sing Sing to Canada"; the habit of keeping guns, music in the wedding ceremony, "macaroni"
    • institutionalized racism: the court trial; ten witnesses on the victim's side

  • the Italian as a minority group then--their customs (the puppet show, pignolata), different sorts of Italians
    • the general(?) 
    • the boarders--who cannot speak French
    • Giuseppe's brother
    • the places they appear: e.g. Giuseppe's house
  • Gender relations
    • between Ninetta and Giuseppe -- 
      • before the tragedy -- about the boarders, the joke
      • and after
    • between Felicite and the Catholic father
    • between Felicite and Ninetta -- survival
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