Friday, February 19, 2016

Claude Jutra's precipitous fall from grace

I'm finding the revelations about Quebec auteur Claude Jutra, and his subsequent precipitous fall from grace, to be salutary, but perhaps slightly suspicious.
Jutra was Canada's first great film director, best known for Mon oncle Antoine and a film version of rhe novel Kamouraska, both dating from the early 1970s. He is almost equally well known for committing suicide by throwing himself off a Montreal bridge in 1986 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Jutra became something of a cause célèbre in his native Montreal, with at least eight streets and parks named after him, as well as the prestigious Jutra Award, which is handed out each year by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television for the best Canadian first feature film. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1972.
All this acclaim and renown ended abruptly this week, though, with the publication of a biography of Jutra by Yves Lever, accusing him of pedophilia, rapidly followed the very next day (coincidence? arrangement?) by a first-hand interview in the Montreal newspaper La Presse with a man claiming to have been sexually abused by Jutra over a 10-year period, beginning at the alarmingly tender age of 6. Within just one more day, the Jutra Award was being renamed, and Jutra's name was being erased throughout Montreal. Fait accompli, as they say in Quebec.
Everyone seems to have taken the allegations at face value, and no one seems to be asking why two damning accusations arrive in one week, 30 years after Jutra's death. Admittedly, some critics have attacked Mr. Lever for making serious allegations based on scant evidence, although he claims in the book that Jutra's taste for young boys was well known and widely tolerated in the industry at the time, and that he (Lever) had confirmed his assertions with at least ten people. I can't help thinking, though, that Jutra seems to have been tried, convicted and sentenced based on a tell-all book and an anonymous interview.
Certainly, Jutra was not alone in his predilections, particularly around that time, even if the reputations of fellow film directors Roman Polanski and Woody Allen don't seem to have suffered any irremediable damage (and pop-stars like David Bowie and Jerry Lee Lewis could be mentioned here too).
One does wonder, though, whether double standards are not at work here.

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