One advantage to a national cinema mostly created under government auspices — at least in Canada’s case — is that preservation is a much higher priority. The pristine quality of nearly all clips is a major plus in “The Memories of Angels,” an entrancing pastiche of National Film Board footage documenting Montreal life through the great changes of the 1950s and ’60s. While of greatest interest to Quebecois moviegoers, this beautifully crafted artifact will appeal to select fest, cinematheque and arts-net programmers.
Eschewing any commentary or explanatory text, director Luc Bourdon and editor Michel Giroux weave their archival materials into a sort of community narrative whose independent sounds and images interrelate by clever proximity. “Angels” gracefully encompasses the metropolitan area’s earlier harbor industries, slums and religious and recreational pursuits, all gradually changed by new economic, social and political developments. There are celebrities glimpsed (teen-mobbed Paul Anka, first-time visitor Queen Elizabeth), but the emphasis is on the general public and its environs, ending with Expo ’67’s internationalist zenith. Often superbly photographed footage includes formative work by Claude Jutra, Denys Arcand and Michel Brault; Sylvain Bellemare and Frederic Cloutier’s sound design is as complex and accomplished as the visual collage.