Montreal Gazette

In love with Louvain

LES DAMES EN BLEU, which opens the fest tonight, takes a look at five women with a profound attachment to the Quebec singer

- BRENDAN KELLY THE GAZETTE

Les Dames en bleu is not really a film about Michel Louvain. Instead, it’s a fascinatin­g portrait of the women who adore this ultra-popular Québécois crooner, who’s been wooing the ladies chez nous for the past 52 years.

The film – which opens the 38th edition of the Festival du nouveau cinéma tonight and begins its commercial run Oct. 16 – focuses on five Louvain fans who appear to have spent most of their lives literally worshippin­g the Quebec singer.

In a chat at his Mile End apartment yesterday afternoon, filmmaker Claude Demers said the unusual project began for him the day he bumped into Louvain at a hairdressi­ng salon in Place Ville Marie. It was 2005, and Demers was in the midst of shooting his previous feature documentar­y, Barbiers – une histoire d’hommes, an endearing portrait of a few of the province’s classic old-school barbers. Demers was not – and is not – a Louvain fan, but he was struck by the man’s charisma.

“When I saw him, I was impressed,” said Demers.

That scene never made it into Barbiers, but the film- maker kept thinking about the singer, and he began to mull over the notion that it might be cool to make a film looking into the phenomenon that is Michel Louvain.

Louvain – born Michel Poulin in Thetford Mines in 1937 – immediatel­y struck a chord, particular­ly with female fans, when he was first seen on TV here back in 1957. He’s maintained that connection ever since, even though his straight-laced, middle-ofthe-road style never had any connection to the musical fads of the day.

A couple of years after meeting the singer, Demers took out a small ad in Le Journal de Montréal looking for fans of Louvain, and over 200 people ended up calling him. They were virtually all women – except for “three guys (who) called on behalf of their wives,” said Demers.

These women were remarkably candid in conversati­on with Demers, which is what makes the film so captivatin­g.

“I did some pre-interviews with the women over the phone, and what was incredible was that these women, who didn’t even know me, confided some of the most intimate details of their lives,” said Demers. “Family dramas. Tragedies. There were women who had been abused. Some who’d had unhappy marriages. They told me these personal stories and I wondered why. Then I realized it was because they had so much trust in Michel Louvain. They heard the magic words – ‘I’m making a film about Michel Louvain’ – and they felt ready to confide in me. They also felt it was their way to pay tribute to Michel Louvain and maybe to get closer to their idol.”

Nicole Dupuis Beaupré, one of the five fans in the spotlight in the film, tells Demers how she is so happy that she never had to make the choice between Louvain and her husband, because she’s not sure who she would have chosen. Then there’s Lauraine Campeau, who took Louvain as an inspiratio­n in her own quest to become a chanteuse. One of the darker moments comes when Margot Jasmin recalls her tough life, married to a man with alcohol problems. All make it crystal clear that Louvain’s music was the soundtrack of their lives, often helping them cope at the most trying of times.

Even after spending several years in the inner sanctum of the Louvain fan club, Demers isn’t 100-per-cent certain why this man has such an effect on these women. But he does have his theories.

“First off, he was a very good-looking young man and beauty makes a big difference,” said Demers. “But it’s also his attitude. He’s really devoted to his public. He’ll never refuse to sign autographs. You know, if the show is 90 minutes, often the autograph sessions after the show will last longer than that. He’ll never leave as long as his fans are still there. And he’s been like that for more than 50 years. He is the good guy. For a lot of women, he’s like the ideal son.”

 ?? PIERRE OBENDRAUF THE GAZETTE ?? Beloved crooner Michel Louvain (left) and Claude Demers met when Demers was making his previous documentar­y.
PIERRE OBENDRAUF THE GAZETTE Beloved crooner Michel Louvain (left) and Claude Demers met when Demers was making his previous documentar­y.

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