Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Montreal and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974)
Film adaptation of native son Mordecai Richler’s 1959 novel by the same name. This comedy-drama, named 1974 Canadian Film of the Year, follows the short and dubious rise to power of Duddy Kravitz (Richard Dreyfuss), the brash, younger son of a Montreal working-class Jewish family. Explores themes of anti-Semitism and materialism. Filmed on location throughout Montreal and in the Ontario village of Elora.

Jesus of Montreal (1989)
The most famous film ever made about Montreal, by the city’s most famous director, Denys Arcand. About a group of actors who perform the Stations of the Cross on Mont-Royal at Eastertime, with disastrous results.

Montréal vu par... (1991)
Slightly avant-garde anthology of six shorts by well-known, young Montreal directors.

How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired (1990)
Adapted from the autobiographical novel by Dany Laferrière, a Haitian journalist who emigrated to Quebec in the 1970s, and has become one of the province’s best-known authors.

Léolo (1992)
The last of three films made by Jean-Claude Lauzon, who was the city’s most promising young filmmaker when he died in a plane crash in 1997. An unusual movie about a little boy coming of age in a working-class Plateau neighborhood. Quebec’s most popular male movie idol, Roy Dupuis, playing Quebec’s enduring hockey hero, Maurice “Rocket” Richard. Also has something to say about linguistic politics.

Ryan (2004)
Oscar-winning animated short produced by Canada’s famous National Film Board, about a once successful animator who panhandles in front of Schwartz’s Deli on the Main.

C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
Instant classic about a gay teenager coming of age in a working-class Montreal household—filled with rock and roll, hot fashions, and rueful signs of the times.

Books

St. Urbain’s Horseman, by Mordecai Richler (1971)
An evocative and dryly comic novel about Jewish identity in mid-century Plateau-Mont-Royal.

The Tin Flute (Bonheur d’Occasion), by Gabrielle Roy (1945)
Translated as “secondhand happiness,” this first novel by Quebec’s most famous woman writer tells of hardship, sacrifice, and the bonds in WWII-era working-class Montreal.

The Favourite Game, by Leonard Cohen (1963)
Coming-of-age novel set in Montreal by the city’s unofficial poet laureate.

Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec, by Taras Grescoe (2001)
An irreverent and meticulously researched travelogue about past and present Quebec culture and politics, by a Montreal-based travel writer.

City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and ‘50s, by William Weintraub (1997)
Anecdotes from Montreal’s Jazz Age heydey by a journalist and memoirist who lived through it all.

The Hockey Sweater (Le Chandail de Hockey), by Roch Carrier (1979)
Classic children’s story ubiquitous to all Canadian kids of a certain age; the eponymous sweater is pictured on the Canadian five-dollar bill.

The Story of French, by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow (2006)
Exhaustive and readable work of cultural anthropology about French culture in Montreal and elsewhere, by bilingual Montreal writers.

Music

Compilations:

Celebrating 20 Years of the Montreal Jazz Festival, various artists
Four-disc set recorded over 20 years of Jazz Fest, everything from B.B. King to Diana Krall.

The Finest Canadian Musicians, Vol. 12, various artists
A series of compilations by local label Analekta—volume 12 features several great Montreal-based ensembles and musicians including Angèle Dubeau and Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal.

That’s For Me, Susie Arioli
Jazz swing album from one of Montreal’s most popular musicians, and a regular at the Montreal international Jazz Festival.

Jubilation III: Glory Train, The Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir
Soul-rousting barnburners by Canada’s only world-class gospel choir.

Arts & Crafts Sampler, Vol. 3, various artists
Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts is based in Toronto, but many of their signature bands—The Dears, The Stills—are Montreal-based.

Classic Songs:

La Belle Ville has inspired poets and singers of all creeds; here are some of their most beautiful compositions.

1. “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen
2. “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats
3. “Night Train” by Oscar Peterson
4. “Montreal Song” by Bruce Cockburn
5. “Julie” by Les Colocs
6. “Hometown Waltz” by Rufus Wainwright
7. “I Just Wanna Stop” by Gino Vannelli
8. “Retour a Vega” by The Stills
9. “Montréal” by Beau Dommage
10. “You Are Never Alone” by Socalled
11. “Montreal -40°C” by Malajube
12. “Clean Up Time” by Coral Egan

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