Directed by Paul Almond
Bytowne Cinema, Jan. 20th
1968, Rated PG, 110mins, 35mm print!
dir: Paul Almond, 108mins, 1968, 35mm print (PG)
Starring Geneviève Bujold, Therese Cadorette, Gerard Parkes, Marc Strange, and Al Waxman.
Isabel is an intense and spooky psychological thriller written,
produced, and directed by Paul Almond. It stars the luminously
beautiful Geneviève Bujold as a young woman who returns to her
childhood home in the Gaspé region of Quebec to attend a funeral.
There, she starts experiencing a series of supernatural visions
forcing her to confront the dark secrets of her family's past. Her
co-stars include Therese Cadorette (La Famille Plouffe) as her sister Estelle, Gerard Parkes (The Boondock Saints) as her eccentric uncle Matthew, Marc Strange (The Forest Rangers) as a mysterious stranger, and a young Al Waxman (The King of Kensington) as a creepy childhood
Isabel was the first Canadian feature film funded and distributed by
Paramount Pictures. Upon its release it received mostly stellar
notices and was favorably compared to the works of Ingmar Bergman and
Alfred Hitchcock, both for its stunning, stark photography, and its
dark psychological themes of sexual repression and violence. New York
Magazine film critic Judith Crist called it a "A beautiful and
exciting film...brilliantly cinematic". It won five prizes at the
Canadian Film Awards, including four of the top ones: Best Actress
(Bujold), Best Actor (Gerard Parkes), Best Editing and Best
Photography. The Directors Guild of America also nominated Almond for
their Best Director Award.
At the time of Isabel's release director Almond was best known as a
veteran TV producer and director who had worked in extensively in
Canada, England, and the United States. Over his long career he
directed six feature films and over 130 television TV shows and
teleplays, including a version of MacBeth starring Sean Connery. In
England he was the creator and director of the first film in the "7Up"
documentary series. The production of Isabel in the late 1960's was
his attempt to build a sophisticated art cinema in Canada comparable
to what was going on in Europe. Isabel was the first of a loose
trilogy of films including The Act of the Heart (1970) and Journey
(1972). Almond was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Directors
Guild of Canada in 2007.
During the 1970's Isabel lived on in screenings on CBC, but it slowly
fell into obscurity. Despite its acclaim, it remains unavailable on
streaming services or DVD. This screening will be projected from an
archival 35mm film print from the collection of Library and Archives
Canada, screened with permission from Paramount Pictures and presented
by the Lost Dominion Screening Collective.