Pressured by insistent work friends and worried relatives, the 30-year-old Gisèle Lapointe (Rita Lafontaine) accepts to join a lonely hearts agency to find a companion. She will meet Jean Cusson (Yvon Deschamps), a shy but good-hearted bachelor. A tender romance will flourish on the background of Montreal’s Rosemont neighbourhood—“lui-même un acteur de premier plan”—but the couple’s happiness will coincide with a devastating family tragedy.
Second and last feature film by André Brassard, Le Soleil marks the long-standing collaboration of the screenwriter and director with playwright Michel Tremblay on the silver screen as well as on stage. Set in the Tremblayan word of ordinary characters capable of extraordinary emotions, the film depicts to a great degree of spontaneity the (late) blossoming of a (heterosexual) love story, while however problematizing the traditional arch of heterosexual coupling. Despite its final assertion of the heteronormative couple at the center of the film frame (and at the cost of destroying another), Brassard’s work upsets in fact the idyllic trajectory of straight romance by inserting fragments of abusive domesticity and predatory masculinity in the interstices of the film’s narrative.
According to Bill Marshall, such female-oriented perspective on dangerous male sexuality could be read in both societal and generic terms: on the one hand it epitomizes the changed attitude towards women’s independence, love and marriage in Quebec society; on the other it functions as “a corrective to the male comedies of sexual potencies from the beginning of the decade” (2001, 123).
Although limited to a couple of sporadic encounters with a gay actor (and his older boyfriend), the film, as Marshall further argues, “is relevant for the representation of homosexuality because Gisèle’s quest is overlaid with a certain denaturalization of heterosexuality (…). The film makes it clear that it is social pressure which is her prime motivation (…). Just as Il était une fois dans l’est represented gender (and therefore transgender) performance in all its excessive masquerade, Le Soleil se lève en retard transplants that rhetoric and mise en scene to “normality” and defamiliarizes it” (2001, 123-124).