An intense exercise of looking at a rockface shot near the waterfalls of Rivière-au-Tonnerre, on the North Shore of the St-Lawrence river. A meditation about opacity, about the fissures that can open up anything, any situation, on the infinity of meaning. It is the ontological moment, the moment of pure seeing, amongst the episodes of the Places and Monuments series that is a project of exploration of the fissures that crack any banal scene of daily life, any anonymous crowd, any forgotten monument, and that let seek through, until it explodes, the invisible constellations of history.
With this short film from his series Places and Monuments, Pierre Hébert returns to a less multidisciplinary approach, more in line with our contemporary understanding of an animated short. The early stages of the project began with filmed shots of a rocky cliff face on the Saint-Lawrence’s northern shore, but these were quickly blended into abstract designs, initiating what the filmmaker called “a meditation on opacity.” Graphically, the film resembles Hébert’s drawings from the same era: the exhibition Tropismes (an homage to Nathalie Sarraute), accompanied by a catalogue, opened in the same year. We also see the influence of Danish filmmaker Leif Marcussen, to whom Thunder River is dedicated. Heir to the throne of Norman McLaren, Marcussen, a friend of Hébert’s, created Sten (which translates to “Rocks”) in 1982. In this short film, Marcussen invites the viewer to gaze on rocky outcroppings and amuses himself by revealing the outlines of real objects in the images, demonstrating the viewer’s tendency to interpret and project explicit content onto apparently abstract shapes, beyond the filmmaker’s intentions. Thunder River ’s score was edited by Italian musician Andrea Martignoni and was recorded at a performance with Pierre Hébert two months after shooting the documentary footage that served as a scaffold for the film.
Executive director, Cinémathèque québécoise
Director of more than 40 films, including three features (The Human Plant, 1996, Bazin’s Film, 2017 and Mount Fuji Seen from a Moving Train, 2021), Pierre Hébert worked at the National Film Board of Canada from 1965 to 1999. He is now an independent artist and his filmmaking work has taken a multidisciplinary scope (live animation performances with musicians, video installations, collaboration with choreographers, drawing, and actions on the web). He has also published several books on cinema as well as two drawing books. Since 2010, he pursues his Places and Monuments project combining animation and documentary, for which he received the prestigious career grant of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec in 2012 . In 2005, he was recipient of the Albert-Tessier Award for his complete works, and in 2018, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.