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Madeleine Is...

Directed by Sylvia Spring
Canada, 1971 (fiction, 90 minutes, colour, English)
Madeleine Is...
Image: © Spring Releases

Film Description:
"Following a dispute with her father, a young Québécoise, Madeleine (Lipman), goes to live in Vancouver. She works at several jobs there and eventually becomes the mistress of Toro (Juliani), a macho social worker and political activist. [...]"
-- Peter Morris (source)

Film Description [in French] :
"Ce film qui présente une sensibilité féministe relate l'histoire de Madeleine, une jeune femme qui vit avec Toro, un homme égocentrique qui tente d'imposer sa supériorité dans tous les domaines. Avec l'aide d'un clown imaginaire, elle réussira à se débarrasser de Toro et à se libérer."
-- Simone Suchet (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Written by: Sylvia Spring, Kenneth S. Specht
Produced by: Kenneth S. Specht
Principal Cast: Nicola Lipman, John Juliani, Wayne Specht, Gordon Robertson, Ronald Ulrich, Barry Cramer, Roxanne Irwin, Margot Chapman, Robertson Wood, Roger Dressler, Jim McQueen, Mona Brisson, Wayne Robson, Tandy Johnson, Lewine Willaby, Rowena Jones
Cinematography: Doug McKay
Film Editing: Luke Bennett
Music: Ross Barrett
Production Company: Spring Releases Ltd., Glen-Warren Productions Ltd.

Notes about Madeleine Is...


Quotes by the Director

"Everything I do is affected by the fact that I am a woman. I can only speak from my experience and thus I think it is natural that the lead role in my film [Madeleine Is...] was a woman and done completely from her point of view."
-- Sylvia Spring (source)

"I guess I'll never really want to do anything else [besides filmmaking]. All of my fantasies and dreams are about movies now. I dream about Fellini. I think all the time about things inside me—Canadian things—that I want to make movies about. But I'm bruised. I just want to get this venture [Madeleine Is...] over and done with and then I might want to go to work again."
-- Sylvia Spring (source)

"The people who like it [Madeleine Is...] now are mostly young women who are beginning to assert themselves as human beings. That may be its only value now. I feel like shaking Madeleine myself now, to make her move faster."
-- Sylvia Spring (source)

"Women reviewers [of Madeleine Is...] were generally more positive and sympathetic to what I was attempting to say and do since they could probably identify more readily with Madeleine's problems."
-- Sylvia Spring (source)

Quotes about Madeleine Is...

"Madeleine Is... died after exactly one week at Toronto's New Yorker Cinema, where Shebib's Goin' Down the Road played for nineteen weeks. Madeleine Is... had a number of factors working hard against it. The title is bad enough for a start, the radio campaign sucked, the newspaper reviews were terrible, the music was thin and amateurish—in fact, nearly all technical matters were bungled. Besides that, there was script trouble. The movie seems to be something of a whimsy, but understanding that doesn't overcome the political and psychological naivety, which at times is downright embarrassing. [...] Nevertheless, the film was better than the response it got. [...] Spring's film achieves something fairly difficult: it takes people of five varying social types (the confused young girl, the gawky straight young clerk, the power-mad revolutionary, the middle-class drop-out, and the poor old alcoholic) and never once treats them as stereotypes or without generosity. Even Toro is put down on highly principled grounds. There's a straightforward warmth to this film, and it seems to come from its direction."
-- Kay Armatage (source)

"When Madeleine Is was released [...] critics frothed, box-office figures were desolate, and the kindest thing people could say was: 'Too bad—she's a talented filmmaker but this is such an awful film. Technically amateurish, the content is flimsy, it's just bad.' Years passed and Madeleine Is became a skeleton in Canada's cinema closets. It was the Most Bad-Mouthed Film Ever Made in this country (and I had missed it). A few years ago, there was another screening. Expecting the worst, I nonetheless decided to see it and was: 1. Totally mindblown 2. Then ANGRY 3. Finally, philosophically resigned. Why? For one, Madeleine Is is technically one of the best films produced under the Canadian Film Development Corporation's low-budget programme. But it's also a good film and is still a relevant account of the chaotic sixties."
-- A. Ibranyi-Kiss (source)

"Best known as the first narrative feature to be directed by a woman in Canada, Sylvia Spring's Madeleine Is... should also be recognized as one of the best documents of Vancouver in the history of fiction film, unusually sophisticated in dealing with urban issues as pertinent today as they were in the 1970s."
-- Randolph Jordan (source)

"Madeleine Is..., at the New Yorker, is a movie about a mixed-up Vancouver girl who is trying to discover her 'authentic self.' The film was directed and co-written by Sylvia Spring, a Vancouver girl who is also, judging from the material on the screen, mixed up and (God help us) trying to discover her authentic self. [...] The material is whimsical, self-indulgent and banal and if anything it's made to seem even worse by the clumsy, amateurish way it's been filmed."
-- Martin Knelman (source)

"Sylvia [Spring] is 28 years old and good-looking enough to qualify as a movie star. Instead, she is writer-director of a new $100,000 Canadian-made film called Madeleine Is."
-- Betty Lee (source)

"Granted that [in Madeleine Is] the metaphor of the clown is somewhat awkward and that there are weaknesses in terms of acting, narrative structure and musical score; these flaws do not explain the film's exclusion from the canon. Dansereau's La vie rêvée is far from being a perfect film, and yet it has received a fair amount of attention in books from Take Two to Gendering the Nation. In fact, Spring's film has a few very powerful moments—such as when Toro tries to force David and Madeleine to have sex, threatening them with a hammer—and some strikingly expressionistic shots of downtown Vancouver. But regardless of its uneven technical and artistic quality, I would argue that the indifference from which the film has suffered results mainly from two factors: its politics and its style."
-- André Loiselle (source)

"The first feature-length fiction film made by a woman in Canada (a low-budget feature, sponsored by the CFDC [Canadian Film Development Corporation]) has a clear feminist orientation in its portrayal of Madeleine, who at the end moves on to a state of self-possession, indifferent to men. It was generally warmly received by critics but enjoyed only a modest release and has tended to be less well regarded than La vie rêvée, made almost simultaneously."
-- Peter Morris (source)

"In Madeleine Is... we are confronted once again with a tale of mixed-up, vulnerable youth embarked on the agonizing search for self-discovery. Agonizing, as far as this film is concerned, is the key word."
-- Daniel Stoffman (source)

"The film [Madeleine Is...] is of a single piece without a satisfactory conclusion and without too much learning inflicted on the heroine who finally drives the Marxist from her bed and apartment. It is a working out film, nicely shot against the lovely Vancouver cityscape, but with irksome sound at times."
-- Variety (source)

Quote about Madeleine Is... [in French]

"Madeleine Is... peut sembler naif aujourd'hui, voire simpliste, mais il répondait à la vie contemporaine et cherchait à fournir aux femmes des possibilités qu'elles n'avaient peut-être pas entrevues. Le film traitait des questions auxquelles s'intéressait le mouvement féministe des années soixante et soixante-dix et proposait une réponse qui, en ce qui concerne les hommes, n'était peut-être pas populaire."
-- Colin Browne (source)

Bibliography for Madeleine Is...

Book Chapters

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

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