Arsenault & fils: rediscovering its roots

Arsenault & son: rediscovering his roots


Although more than seven years passed between the release of his sixth film, Gurov and Anna, and that of his seventh, Arsenault & son, Rafaël Ouellet has been busy in recent years, producing more than 80 hours of television at the helm of hit series like Ruptures and Fatal-Station. For his return to cinema, the filmmaker has returned to his roots to sign a rural thriller set in his region of origin, Témiscouata.

Arsenault & son, is the story of a family of poachers who have been imposing their law for several generations in their small village in Bas-du-Fleuve. Adam (Guillaume Cyr), one of the sons of the Arsenault clan, would like to be able to earn an honest living by working in the garage which serves as a front for his family's illegal activities. On the other hand, his younger brother Anthony (Pierre-Paul Alain), spawns with a band of petty criminals who push him a little further into the criminal world. 

The arrival of Émilie (Karine Vanasse), a radio host from the city, will upset the balance of the Arsenault clan.

Rafaël Ouellet began laying the foundations of this story a dozen years ago even before the release of his best-known film, Camion (2012). First imagined as a family drama (like Camion), the screenplay by Arsenault & son slowly evolved into film noir.

“When I started writing the screenplay, I realized that it was boring and that there was a lot of action [in the story], relates Rafaël Ouellet in an interview. I liked it, but from time to time, I put myself on neutral to embark more on the observation of manners. At some point, I decided to stop fighting against it and go all out for “country noir” and thriller. I like several of these films, I buy some, I keep them close to me for a long time and I see them often. It's something I know and wanted to explore. It's in my identity.”

The references are obviously numerous when it comes to gangster films. For this first foray into the world of thrillers, Rafaël Ouellet was inspired by several classics of the genre that forged his cinematographic culture.

“I wanted to feed on the films that run through my veins, confides he. Yes, there is Godfather and Goodfellas in there. But the film that inspired me the most was At Close Range), starring Sean Penn. It is a work that has lived with me for a long time. One day, I had to be able to put drops of it somewhere in one of my films. This is where I did it.”

Filmmaker Rafaël Ouellet launched his seventh feature film, Arsenault & fils, this week.

Shooting in the region

Coming from a family of hunters without being one himself, Rafaël Ouellet insists on the fact that Arsenault & son is not a film about hunting. Even if we follow a family of poachers, the film ultimately shows very few hunting scenes.

“I was not interested in skinning animals or showing how they are caught,” explains the filmmaker. What interested me was rather to show how these criminal organizations and this family in particular function. It's still a family drama.”

Like most of his films, Arsenault & sonwas largely shot in his region of origin, Témiscouata, located in the Bas-Saint-Laurent on the New Brunswick border. Moving an entire film crew for several weeks away from Montreal is never easy. But Rafaël Ouellet wanted to do it so that his film could be nourished by the sets and energy of his region.

“It’s a question of roots, sums up Rafaël Ouellet. We looked for filming locations in the Montreal area, but each time, I said: no, it's not like back home. At one point, my producer said to me: listen, we are going to do the financial exercise because you are getting tired of it. Of course, it costs more to move away [from Montreal]. But we like that, as a creator, because it allows the actors to feed on the people and the accents of the region. It also allows you to have their full attention for a few weeks. When you are far from Montreal, there is no daycare or renovations at home, you have them for yourself. And it's always fun to have the impression that people are 100% in your project.” 

Arsenault & son has been playing since yesterday.