Instead we watched this:
- It was about Quebec and I didn't know much about Quebec but thought I should see an overblown epic about the place. Also, it was called Nouvelle France and France is pretty cool.
- I don't know much about my fair neighbors to the east (Canada). Figuring they have seen some American schlock epics like The Patriot and Pearl Harbor, I could do them a solid and watch this.
- I hoped they would speak in French (or Quebecois) so I could activate my French synapses that have been ritualistically killed by Bureaucratspeak.
Well, lets get to it!
We open on the old man in bed confessing to young woman about a misspent life.
We cut to a bearded hairy guy pulling a sled full of fur (I am assuming fur since it wasn't ever discussed) along with a group of Quebec-area First Nations People. They arrive in town and conduct their business. Bearded fur guy, Francois, finds out his land-stealing, soulless slug of a father is dead and now he is in charge of a vast estate comprised entirely of poor people's possessions 'n land. Wandering out onto the street he watches the following scene:
A bunch of tricorned popinjays are chasing a young buckskinned First Nations lady. A fierce street peddler of herbs, love potions, and wisdom fight off the stockinged attackers in defense of the lady. This attracts the attention of this local powdered wig, Vigot (really le Bigot but didn't catch it...played by Vincent Perez he of the Indochine fame and the reason I watched that video at least 35 times per year in high school). Vigot decides he likes this herb merchant defender of the downtrodden and wants her. He puts his mistress on it. This also attracts Francois the virtuous and recently un-bearded, and his friend the treacherous Maya (really Maillard because my french is apparently terrible). Maya has the ultra sexy look of peachfuzz flavor saver and mutton chops.
Our fighting lady has a name, Mary Loup, and a daughter, France. The daughter is around to provide reaction shots and precocious wisdom. They talk about love, the fact that the priest is teaching young France to read because Mary Loup can't, and being poor. Mistress Strange conducts some business with Mary that makes Mary visit her at some chateau (ulterior motive foreshadowing!)
The priest is a patient/friend/letch played by none other than Gerard Depardieu. We meet him first through his West Indian slave who "Touches him to keep the impure thoughts at bay." Mary Loup is an herbalist and colonial naturopath who has been treating the priest for a bout of what I'll call face herpes. It's a super attractive affliction. A coven of black-shrouded rosary-shrews watch Mary Loup with disdain. They delight in being better than her.
Let's sum some things up so far: Folks in town think dear old Mary Loup is a witch. A governor wants Francois to go to Paris to talk about the plight of the Canadians and how France should defend them from the British. There is currently a war between the French and British in Canada. (Tim Roth and Colm Meaney play talky-talky British be-wigged lords so we know that's going on). Maya and Francois wax philosophic about peasants and even if they're hot (like Mary Loup) they are lamers. The french army steals pigs from a peasant. Mary Loup's dad is kind of an asshole and she tells him off. Mistress Strange gave Mary a fancygown to wear to a ball so she can be wrapped like a present for Vincent Perez to rape. Francois (who is pure as the Canadian-driven snow) tries to warn Mary but she ignores him. Catholicism!
Mary Loup arrives at the ball all fancied up. Maya flavor fuzz stares at her and Francois says something about hawt peasants. Mistress Strange spells out what's in store for Mary and warns her, "not to fight with teeth or nails because then Vincent Perez will have them torn out." You guys? That guy is such a catch. Popinjay guards stop Mary from leaving. Francois performs a trick with a spoon and distracts everyone enough for Mary to hide in the Basement. Francois meets her there and they rub faces in that weird slo-mo way that = passion.
They are in luv. Francois brings young France a doll (this is important later). Something happens offscreen and suddenly Francois is not a favored son and he has to leave. He sends a letter to the illiterate Mary Loup, planning their escape. She has the lecher priest read it to her and he lies! Cookbook doublecross of the two lovers. Francois leaves. Mary is sad.
Now were in France! (now I don't need to see a guy on a boat to know he's traveling but it feels like oh, the next day Mr Francois has crossed the Atlantic. Jarring.) Francois is talking to Voltaire (I know) about Canada. He schools Voltaire with Voltaire's only words. Francois is a Parisian-educated Poly Sci major who could only find work in the plentiful furs of Canada.
Then there is a war thing that kills a friend of Mary Loup's. A cannon maybe?
Then Francois is talking to powdered french lady folks about how awesome Canada is and it beats the West Indies. He then realizes he needs to get home to his loved ones. France gave Canada up but the folks can still be Catholic, sez priest facial sore. Poverty abounds, except for where it is depicted in film.
Mary has forgotten Francois (yup) and is dancing in a circle around a table of rustic food to lute music. Maya, who is now a disgraced former french soldier serving for the British, wants to marry Mary. She says ok. Her dad says no but then Maya brings up some awfully convenient black mail about daddy-o's activities that were never even mentioned before this point. Continuity! The two are married by priest sad.
They don't actually consummate their marriage in one of the most ridiculous scenes ever. First, Maya and Mary meet in a barn in their colonial nightshirts. They try to swallow each other's faces for awhile before moving on to slo-mo face rubbing. Young France hauls out her doll and voodoos it in the heart with a pin. Francois wakes up and is transported to the scene of Mary and Maya. At some point Francois replaces Maya. Then Mary starts crying and pushes Maya away. Francois packs some clothes. Young France, satisfied, puts the little pin away.
Maya drinks too much and abuses Mary. He sells a pig at one point. (This movie avoids entire wars in order to save time for the all-important pig selling discussions.)
Francois and Mary Loup are reunited in a very painful 6-minute scene of walking toward each other. They rub faces and we fade out...to Mary storming into church to yell at the priest. She is mad because he used his book-larnin for evil. Poor Gerard, earning a paycheck. Francois and Mary plan to leave and take little France with them. A servant overhears Mary and France plan their escape and tattles. Maya and a unnamed friend, who takes it in the gut with knife, attack Francois. Francois gets trapped in a bear/wolf trap and Maya beats the holy hell out of him with a stick.
Mary and little France return home, sad. Maya returns as well washing his battered face in a barrel. Mary pulls an arrow on him and tries to shoo him off. Maya, with as much menace as his facial hair will allow, threatens to return. Next thing we know he's dead in the barn under mysterious circumstances. Daddy-o and Mary are hauled off to court, right after Mary ships France off to live with some nuns.
But wait! Let's show an eagle soaring as an intro to Francois being nursed back to health by some First Nations folks! (Ok, movie sound guy you win this because you had an actual Bald Eagle sound foley-d over a Bald Eagle good on you.)
The court trial is a total ripoff of the Crucible, complete with fake seizures and all. Mary = Guilty of killing Maya (or is she). Francois, fresh from the bush, tries to convince a lord (?) that he killed Maya, not Mary. He gets sent to prison, but he gets to spend 3 minutes with Mary.
They spend their 3 minutes staring longingly at one another from across the cell. I hate that about movies. Their 3 minutes should translate to 3 minutes on the display of my DVD. We next see Mary with "mental patient" hair. They stick her in some sort of cage and haul her through town to the gallows. They hang her. sob!
Back to old man and woman from the start. It's the priest and a now grown-up France. She confesses to killing Maya with an axe because he was totally going to rape her. Priest paul harveys about this.
We then see the grown up France with Francois. She says "papa" so we know they are family now? I don't know, this movie was really long. Then Celine began wailing. I find it strange that a movie that describes itself on the box as a story about the independence of Quebec, battles between Britain and France, and citizen uprising could not show any of it.
This pretty much sums it up.