Léa Pool

Director, Scriptwriter
Geneva CH

Director, scriptwriter. Swiss-bred, UQAM-trained Pool is Quebec’s most prolific and visible queer woman feature filmmaker. Her official public identity, oscillating between gay and bisexual, was reflected in her continuous fascination with borderzones between homoerotic and homosocial friendships among women (as in her prizewinning first major success, the poetic La femme de l’hotel, 1984), and with amorous triangles, usually set off against the interfaces between desire and outsiderness—a subject of considerable personal authority for a director who knows what it is to be Jewish, an immigrant and a single mother in the land of pure laine. Pool has suffered as much as any art cinema auteur the instabilities of the marketplace, but with a lion’s share of state funding over the years has brought forth a sustained and original series of nine feature films, assorted documentaries and TV films, plus one short fiction Rispondetemi. The latter, a sensuous and flawless narrative of a woman accident victim being transported to hospital in the arms of her lover on an oddly circuitous and scenic route through Montreal, is considered by some her best work, and it’s certainly her most unambiguously lesbian one (part of the anniversary anthology film Montréal vu par..., 1991). Otherwise, her weakest films are those most caught up in the lethargies of international co-production and heterosexual romance (La demoiselle sauvage, 1991, Mouvements du désir, 1994), and most recently of the English language (Lost and delirious, 2001).

Few would dispute that Pool’s strongest features are those closest to her own personal experience (Anne Trister, 1986, a cultural feminist tale of a bisexual immigrant artist with parent issues that was a mainstay of the first crop of international queer community festivals in the mid-eighties; and Emporte-moi, 1998, 95). Her rare treatment of gay male experience, À corps perdu (1988) is a resourceful and controlled adaptation of French gay novelist Yves Navarre’s Kurwenal and has aged well. Pool was not the easiest filmmaker for everyone to admire: promised breakthroughs into the American market never materialized and lesbian film scholar Chantal Nadeau chided her for depoliticizing gender and sexuality, for “oscillating between the desire for sexual difference and the representation of (lesbian) sexuality as socially indifferent.” However,Xtra!’s Shane Smith considered the autobiographical Emporte-moi “a sublime coming-of-age drama and a tribute to the transformative power of cinema” (7 Oct. 1999). (See R of T, chapter 5.)