Quebec-based French Canadian documentarist Catherine Martin's nonfiction film L'esprit des Lieux represents a companion piece (and a follow-up) to the infamous work of photographer Gabor Szilasi. Szilasi journeyed throughout Quebec with his camera in the early seventies, and captured haunting images that reveal the last vestiges of tightly-knit bucolic communities, rich with indigenous Quebecois culture, a clearly defined Catholic and ethnic heritage, and <I>pure laine</I> - the local term for ties to the land. Martin returns with a movie camera some three decades later, in the early years of the 21st century, and her film reveals that much of the culture that lay before Szilasi so many years ago has now all but completely dissipated, in favor of mass urbanization, the dissolution of Catholicism, bureaucracy, and sweeping commercialization. Martin actually follows the very same route as Szilasi, conducting interviews with the subjects from photographs to evaluate, first hand, how their lives have been altered as a product of broader social change over the past thirty years. (For example, she speaks with a farmer whose pastures were cross sectioned and transformed into city lots). What emerges is not only the portrait of a quickly dying way of life, but a heartfelt tribute to the locals who cling to their old ways.
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