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Montreal’s Past and Future Collide in 'Rendez-vous'

Filmmaker Yan Giroux explores the otherworldly architecture of Montreal's Olympic Stadium

Montreal at night. Photo via Flickr

Since co-founding ALT Production in 2001, Yan Giroux has been creating uniquely cinematic works of documentary (Un 14 juillet à Marseille, Cubanos et Élégant) and fiction (Surveillant, Mi niña mi vida). Elements of both come together in Rendez-vous, which follows a pair of drones through Montreal's Olympic Stadium, one of the filmmaker's longtime preoccupations. Giroux brings the uninhabited facility to life with sounds from the nearby Insectarium, Biodôme, and Planétarium, but he demonstrates a particular interest in the city's visual characteristics, particularly the architecture. By presenting Olympic Stadium through fresh eyes—if drones can be said to have eyes—Giroux offers a persuasive reminder of this overlooked landmark's distinctive beauty.

How do the drones in the film connect to your vision of Montreal?
The drones link the past with the future in a way. Montreal has a strong historical aspect. The roots in the past are kind of strong, but they're not roots that hold you back. It's easy to look forward, while still staying in touch with the past. I like that aspect of the film. We're kind of in the future, but still linked to what happened in the past. You have that sense of the past in the architecture, in the city, in the neighbourhoods. There's always potential to make your own stuff or do something new. There's room for innovation. You can see that in the video game companies and other new technology that's very strong here.

How did you decide to shoot Olympic Stadium?
For me, the stadium always had a powerful attraction. I think it's very cinematic. I tried to show a different perspective of that building that has often been disregarded by Montrealers or Quebecers. I thought there was a possibility of showing its magnificence or its grandeur and try to introduce it to people. The film is called Rendez-vous because the stadium's a place where people meet. It's a place where they've had huge gatherings since the Olympics in 1976, so the architecture is meaningful, but also the sense of bringing people together in a huge space, so they can celebrate sports, culture, and other types of events. I wanted to pay tribute to that.

How would you describe Montreal's architecture in general?
It's quite chaotic—it's hard to find any specific, unifying traits—and I like that about Montreal. It's all mixed up and, in some neighbourhoods, you see a different personality in every house. You don't get that sense that there was a plan. At the same time, it's fascinating because you can see through the buildings the people that built them. That's on the small scale when you walk into the neighbourhoods. On a larger scale, bigger projects like the stadium help give the city a stronger identity, and that's also why I picked the stadium. It shows people trying to do something bold and new.

Are there other buildings or structures in Montreal that mean a lot to you?
I think about the different metro stations. There's that fascinating mix of concrete and the organic or even art pieces that are integrated into the metro stations. Those are fascinating to me. When I think more recently, The Grand Bibliotheque is an impressive piece.

You use sound in interesting ways throughout Rendez-vous. How does that relate to your sense of the area we see in the film?
When I first thought about the film, there was no character. It was an experimental piece that was mixing drone aerial shots with sound clips that would be taken from the Insectarium, Biodôme, and Planétarium. The idea was to create a visual portrait of the stadium and complete that portrait with sound that would refer to the stadium's surroundings, this area known as Espace pour la vie or Space for Life. So the sound is connected to those surroundings. I worked with Marie-Hélène Delorme, my sound composer. She's a musician, so the idea was to use these organic sounds to make a soundtrack that would be somewhere between noises and music. I think she managed to do it super well.

How would you describe your experience working as a filmmaker in Montreal?
It's stimulating because the filmmaking community is super strong. There's a lot of filmmakers around. When you think about the project or when you want to bring something to the table, it forces you to think a bit further and try to find an interesting way to show the city or create your own films. What you see around you is so good and stimulating that it pushes you forward. Sometimes it's the music video culture or the filmmaking community, but there are very good filmmakers around and it stimulates your creativity.

Do you have any favourite Montreal artists, filmmakers, or musicians?
My favourite Montreal filmmakers are people likeDenis Côté, Maxime Giroux, and Stéphane Lafleur, directors that are just a bit older than me. If I look at younger filmmakers, I think about people like Kristof Brandlwho just came in with his camera and started creating such beautiful images. You can't help but be stimulated by such a raw and strong energy.

For those who have never been to Montreal, what do you think they're missing?
It's such an easygoing place. If I was a tourist, I would just enjoy walking around and feeling safe and stimulated. It's really the smooth vibe of the city that's fun to be part of. You don't come to Montreal to have an experience of grandeur. It's not the size. It's really the small things that are charming: the food, the culture, and the mix of French and English.

This article was paid for by Tourisme Montreal and was created independently from VICE's editorial staff.