Rear Window James Stewart Grace Kelly Film Noir au Canal Montreal

Montreal classic crime cinema series Film Noir au Canal is back

We spoke to series founder Serge Turgeon about this year’s program, offering classic and neo-noir films every Sunday from July 17 to Aug. 21.

At the Square St-Patrick just by the canal, a Sunday summer tradition has emerged in Montreal. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Film Noir au Canal is finally back for a new season returning every Sunday this summer from July 17 to Aug. 21. Featuring live music, lively introductions and immaculate vibes, Film Noir au Canal’s new season launches with the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window this upcoming Sunday. A screen is set up facing east, and for free, filmgoers can enjoy an outdoor screening of classic crime films. 

“It’s a minimalist event organized by volunteers to bring to life the public space,” explains Serge Turgeon, creator and founder of the event. “We take inspiration from the location. If you look around, it feels like a police film setting with the old neon Farine Five Roses in the background, the passing train, and the industrial canal. We keep it simple; a location, a screen, a film expert and a classic police film. We sit in the grass together, enjoying the city’s panorama and culture.” 

Between 2008 and 2015, Turgeon had been working on a variety of projects in his community, like tree planting. “Then, in 2015, I had a bit of vision. I felt a magical connection in my neighbourhood and thought it might be fun to organize a celebratory event, all with the idea of bringing together neighbours. I didn’t want fences or security, and that’s where Film Noir au Canal was born.”

Over the years the festival has played a wide number of films from classic film noir movies like The Killers and To Have and Have Not, contemporary masterpieces including Fargo, Pulp Fiction and Mulholland Drive and more obscure French thrillers like Melville’s Le deuxième souffle and Drôle de drame (1937). While the full lineup every season is kept a secret, it’s worth noting that about half the films are French (with English subtitles) and vice-versa. 

Turgeon can’t reveal the films that are coming up this year. Still, suppose you’re up to solve a mystery. In that case, he has a few clues: there will be two great classics of French cinema, “maybe in the top 10 best of all,” there will be an essential Italian crime film with a very special guest from Rome to present, and as always, the festival will close with an important contemporary crime thriller. 

How to make the best of your Film Noir au Canal experience? Turgeon recommends arriving early, around 6 pm. Find your spot, bring a picnic and enjoy the live music and atmosphere. Some come as a family, others bring a date, but the atmosphere is always warm and inviting. “We’ve done the event over 30 times and never had an incident. It’s an event that showcases what being a good neighbour means, sharing space and experiences,” says Turgeon. 

There’s something bittersweet about the opening film being Hitchcock’s isolation classic Rear Window. In the movie, a wounded James Stewart is confined to a wheelchair and his apartment and spends his days looking into his neighbour’s windows when he believes he has witnessed a murder. After two years locked inside, the movie has uncomfortable parallels to what many of us lived through; perhaps, it’s exactly the catharsis we need. The film will feature an introduction by Quebec filmmaker Louis Bélanger (Gaz Bar Blues) and start around 7:30 p.m. 

“Every year, I tell the audience I’m happy to see them again, and this year I’m even more happy than normal. It feels like a return home,” says Turgeon. With many people looking for things to do to enjoy the summer fully, there are few things as satisfying as enjoying great cinema in the great outdoors at a good price (free) surrounded by your friends and neighbours. ■

Film Noir au Canal takes place every Sunday from July 17 to Aug. 21. For the full program, please click here.

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