Jacques Godin gave me the greatest theatrical shock of my life. It was at Quat’Sous in 1989 in The Charge of the Epormyable Moose by Claude Gauvreau, directed by André Brassard. On the boards where he played Mycroft Mixeudeim, this absolute being, patient of a psychiatric hospital facing sadistic shrinks, his body, his face tortured by infinite pain, lived with incredible strength the incandescent character who was all at hand. both Gauvreau and himself. So carnal, so powerfully bruised, radioactive. The immense text and the interpreter were married in a human and animal cry echoed through the nervous system of the spectator, who came out of it stunned, in a trance with him.
We often talk about the theatrical punch, but do we feel it so often over the course of a lifetime? Godin could give us these privileged moments there. As with the greatest actors, his brothers, certain characters seemed to find in him the ideal sounding board for the sheer intensity of immense tragedies. And although he could play all registers, including that of comedy, his ability to delve into the depths of the male psyche was unique. Those who took over his great roles on the stage remained under his shadow, failing to have been able to occupy the inner abysses as vigorously as he. His heart let go at the age of 90, and this man both sincere and enigmatic, who laid his load of density on our world of television, cinema and theater for six decades, cannot be replaced. A gaping hole remains in its wake. How can we forget its simplicity of access, its innate gentleness, its passionate fight for the defense of animals, its concern for the future of culture, approached with the ardor of convictions? He was not in representation, neither in life, nor in his completely endorsed roles. Introvert, uncomfortable with the media game, but happy to be able to talk face to face about what was important to him.
Who better to inhabit the skin of the gentle giant Lennie, a figure of candor trapped in his physical strength in the masterpiece Of mice and Men of John Steinbeck, alongside Hubert Loiselle as a protective and smart friend? This unforgettable television theater by Paul Blouin (1971) remains nourished by Godin’s candid gaze as a poorly grown child struggling with a world too cruel for him. As in Gauvreau’s play.
Woven in his society
The departure of Jacques Godin also reminds us how young our cultural universe, today so weakened by the pandemic, is. This man born in Saint-Henri, after his beginnings in amateur theater, will have, for the space of a lifetime, participated in radioromans, then in the beginnings of television in the 1950s, in the very physical role of Radisson and in The beautiful stories of the pays d’en haut, while continuing to this day. We found him not so long ago in the cinema among others in The last runaway by Léa Pool (2010) as a tyrannical character at the end of her career, who moans and suffers. This archetypal figure of the cantankerous patriarch had won him a triumph on the small screen in Under the sign of the lion at Radio-Canada in the late 1990s.
This Jacques Godin, many generations of Quebeckers have known him at one or more stages of their life as in his. Because he will have testified to a moving memory. To have played in 240 productions, all disciplines combined (eleven interpretation prizes) that accompanies in majesty a company which is digging its furrows. In 2019, he was still participating in a short film by Eric Labelle.
His loss revives the memory of the roles that have marked us. On the big screen, in Being at Home with Claude, by Jean Beaudin, taken in 1992 from the play by René-Daniel Dubois, his character of the detective inquisitor exposed his tough side – the actor’s stature had something to do with it – which marked his career. Also in Intimate power, by Yves Simoneau (1986), as a small gang leader overtaken by his fate.
His more anxious performances emerge in memory, where his flaws and his gap in the face of the world filtered out. As in OK… Laliberté, of Marcel Carrière, in love and unlucky employee, all vulnerability outside. Through Equinox Arthur Lamothe’s in 1986, his charisma instilled in a man in search of the past through the maze of the Sorel Islands brought a dimension of vertigo that pierced the screen.
From the strange face of Jacques Godin, virile and moving, everyone is left with plenty of images, including the humanity of his character as a doctor in The donation by Bernard Émond. But the fierce grandeur of his being will be lacking in many works of the future. We keep in ourselves our truth and our secret pain which will have touched us until the end of our journey.