Karine Lanoie-Brien has created a colossal work. The hours she and her team spent sifting through archives will finally bear fruit on September 18th. As part of the Montreal375 celebrations, Expo 67 Live will take place at Place des Arts, using portions of the available architecture as well as giant screens to welcome audiences into the universe of Expo 67. The world’s fair happened on Montreal’s Ile Ste-Helene and Ile Notre Dame, and has remained in the hearts and memories of millions of people worldwide.
Though Lanoie-Brien is too young to have attended the “show of the century”, she was able to envision what it must have been like. Her project with the NFB is symbolic because of the latter’s involvement at Expo 67. Their film In the Labyrinth (Kroitor, Law, O’Connor, 1967) used a cruciform of 5 screens and was the precursor to IMAX. To commemorate both Expo 67 and In the Labyrinth’s 50th anniversary, Lanoie-Brien wanted to create an experience in which our bodies – not just our eyes – would engage in the narrative of this historical moment. She too has incorporated multiple screens, and set them up to appear on multiple surfaces. It is significant to include the exterior walls of the Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, because the theatre was born around the same time (1963) that Expo 67 projects began. As an aside, the event will be in walking distance to the brand new NFB headquarters in the Quartier des Spectacles.
The 360-degree cinematic feat is meant to be viewed from many angles, and seeks to reach an audience who lived through the world’s fair, but also, generations who may or may not have heard of it. After multitude hours of film reel triage, Lanoie-Brien chose to tell a story that took place between 1962 and 1967, featuring still-relevant landmarks (such as Habitat 67 and the US Pavilion aka the Biosphere), and world news (such as the Vietnam war, emergence of new roles for women, the Space Race). This journey through time and collective nostalgia captures “a moment of effervescence”, says producer René Chénier (former director of the NFB’s French Animation department). On paper, he says, the idea was huge, but he never hesitated to jump onto the project because Lanoie-Brien’s vision was so extraordinary.
The multi-screen idea required editing action for 12 screens simultaneously. Much like its own construction, Expo 67 Live presents images not only of the world’s fair itself but also of the industrialization of Montreal. As time moves on, cultures, music, fashion all evolve, but one thing that has remained part of Montreal’s timeless essence is … construction. It looks like potholes and renovations are still a thing in present day!
Expo 67 Live is also a musical experience. The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album had its unofficial international premiere at the expo, thanks to a British Airways airhostess who brought the record to Montreal. The Beatles’ music therefore appears alongside 60’s favorites by the Troggs, the Supremes and the Animals. American and British music was prevalent because at the time, the Quebec music scene was only just starting to hatch. Almost everything was in English back then. People from all corners of the world were exposed not only to music, but gastronomy, architecture and culture.
Lanoie-Brien wanted something harmonious with the original event’s physicality. The ’67 event was like a big party on two islands. This outdoor collective experience merited its own island-within-an-island concept via large walk-around cubes, thus creating freestanding screens (islands). This form of spatial storytelling is a new concept but is of course, related to its IMAX ancestor In the Labyrinth.
What was it that was so unique about this event that sparked interest in attendees? It was a rare experience, just like Lanoie-Brien’s project. The hippie movement was beginning. This brought liberation and acceptance of new ways of life, which in turn created opportunities for change. This is still a contemporary issue in 2017. Perhaps we won’t have the opportunity to participate in another Expo 67, but Lanoie-Brien’s work gives hope that the cogs continue to turn. The chance for growth is ongoing. The world’s fair was like traveling without taking a plane. It was the chance “to be in contact with magic,” Lanoie-Brien affirms.
The enormity of this undertaking offers so much to talk about including the amazing frame-by-frame restoration to 4K from archival footage. Alas there is only so much Cinetalk real estate. So, go learn yourself an artistic piece of Montreal (and World) History!
Expo 67 Live
On the Esplanade at Place Des Arts (Salle Wilfrid Pelletier) – 175 Sainte-Catherine W (metro Place des Arts)
September 18 – 30, 2017 – FREE admission
Runtime 27 minutes, screening 4 times per day starting from 7:30pm every night
https://nfb.ca/expo67live for more photos and information