Much is currently being made of how “Nouvelle- France” is the costliest film ever produced in Quebec, but the $30M budget doesn’t seem that excessive if you consider that at that price, Hollywood can barely scrape together a little comedy like “Jersey Girl”. Here we get elaborate period recreation, cannonballs flying through Québec City, a huge international cast… I want to make it clear that I don’t resent the filmmakers for making a big expensive movie. What hopelessly sinks this enterprise is its worthless script and how the usually reliable Jean Beaudin makes all the most obvious and uninspired directorial choices.
The screenplay was committed by Pierre Billon who, unsurprisingly, is also responsible for the unwatchable “Un Homme et son péché” remake. At least that one was unintentionally funny in its mediocrity, but “Nouvelle-France” is so bad that one can’t even find the strength to mock it.
The story takes place in 1759, “the year of all the passions” (how about the Summer of Love while we’re at it?). As the French are gradually abandoning their colonies in Canada and the English prepare to conquer them, everyone’s attention in Québec seems to be on Marie-Loup Carignan (Noémie Godin-Vigneau). She attracts the favors of a beautiful trapper (David La Haye), a no-good soldier (Sébastien Huberdeau), the sleazy Intendant Bigot (Vincent Perez) and even the town’s priest (Gérard Depardieu)!
What follows is a melodramatic romance doubling as a shallow history lesson, at least for the first half of the picture. Once the English take over Canada, the historical context is forgotten about for the rest of the film, which is most concerned with its protracted love story anyway. This goes on until everyone is nice and bored, then there’s a whole other half hour in which the movie turns into the Joan of Arc story out of nowhere.
After an endless 150 minutes, the coup de grâce comes in the form of ear-poison courtesy of Céline Dion. The filmmakers obviously want “Nouvelle-France” to be our “Titanic”, but they could not have failed more miserably.