Vive La Canadienne

The man holds the purse while the woman beats up the bullies, set to the original Canadian national anthem, Vive La Canadienne: in praise of Canadian women.

Creative team

Writer/director/producer: Joe Cobden

Filmmaker’s statement

I found the version of this classic chanson (sung by Andre Trottier, Emile Lamarre, Jules Jacob and Roger Filiatrault) on the Virtual Gramophone, an incredible online archive of musical Canadiana.

I always start with a song. I liked the song very much (V’la L’bon Vent is another gem by this quartet) and daydreamed about making a film with it for a year or more.

I wanted to work with Louise Michel-Jackson, the lead actor. I had seen her perform with Hanako Hashimi-Caines in a piece called Little Bang Theory.

Hanako and I had made another film called Slow Dance, another dance-fight, which was quite successful. I thought I’d try one with Louise as a kind of ‘sister film’ to Slow Dance. I’d been thinking a lot about a generation of men who don’t know how to be men. And ass-kicking women.

I met with Louise in a park. She said she was down to do the film but that she wanted to look tough in it. I played her the song and we had a laugh about the idea of her kung fu fighting with this song playing.

The lyrics sigh about “their pretty eyes” and “their beautiful finery” and basically paint a portrait of a sweet little girl. Louise is a machine gun. So it seemed like a good fit.

Process and intention are so important to me and I wanted to play with nostalgia and sentimentality so it made sense to mirror that in the actual making of the film. So we shot the film in that very same park. We rehearsed on and off for a month or so with Kevin Kelsall’s incredible crew of stunt performers. Then we were ready.

Initially, there was a second half of the film where Louise goes into a solo dance after the bullies limp away. She is surrounded by women pushing baby carriages in a circle around her, seen from above, a kind of surreal Busby Berkeley finale, with tons of maple leaves raining down from the sky. But the leaf canons jammed and we didn’t have the budget for it to be as spectacular as I’d hoped so in the edit I cut it all out.

There was enormous help from dozens of people on this short. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Sach Baylin-Stern produced with me. Sach is the hardest working man in Montreal and I can’t afford him any more. Philippe Roy was a wonderful on-set presence and is a remarkably sensitive director of photography. And Louise is my hero.

Vive Louise! Vive La Canadienne! Merci/thanks for watching!

About Joe Cobden

Joe Cobden

Joe Cobden is an award-winning actor/director from Montreal, currently based in LA and Toronto. His short films have played in festivals all over the world.

Recent projects include music videos for Plants and Animals’ The End of That and The Barr Brothers’ Come in the Water.

Joe has directed six short films for Sesame Street (season 44) and created two half-hour shows for kids, Clean Your Room and Couch Fort (in development at CBC, with Guru Productions).

As an actor, Joe’s 2015 credits include Fargo (season two: Percy Bluth), This Life (CBC), The Art of More (Crackle), feature film Born to be Blue and upcoming Denis Villeneuve feature Story of Your Life.

Joe is the sole voice of Knuckleheads (Têtes a Claques) on Adult Swim Canada.

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