Books & Theater -- The late Jewish Anglophone Mordecai Richler (1931–2001) is perhaps the most well-known Montréal-based writer outside the province. He inveighed against the excesses of Québec’s separatists and language zealots in a barrage of books and critical essays in newspapers and magazines. Richler wrote from the perspective of a minority within a minority and set most of his books in the working-class Jewish neighborhood of St. Urbain of the 1940s and 1950s, with protagonists who are poor, streetwise, and intolerant of the prejudices of other Jews, French-Canadians, and WASPs from the city’s English-side Westmount neighborhood. His most famous book is “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” (Pocket Books, 1959), which in 1974 was made into a movie of the same name starring Richard Dreyfuss. In 2010, a film version of his “Barney’s Version” starred Dustin Hoffman and Paul Giamatti.
Playwright Michel Tremblay (b. 1942), an important dramatist, grew up in Montréal’s Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood and uses that setting for much of his work. His “Les Belles-Sœurs” (“The Sisters-in-Law”), written in 1965, introduced the lives of working-class Francophone Québécois to the world.
Music -- Montréal has a strong showing of innovative musicians who hail from its clubs. Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen (b. 1934) is the best known internationally. He grew up in the Westmount neighborhood and attended McGill University. In addition to his music, he has written two novels set in Montréal: 1963’s “The Favorite Game” (Vintage, 2003) and 1966’s “Beautiful Losers” (Vintage, 1993).
Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright (b. 1973), son of folk great, and Montréal native, Kate McGarrigle (1946–2010) grew up in Montréal. Alternative rock bands Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade are both from the city. (The band Of Montréal, however, is a U.S. band from Athens, Georgia.)
Film & Television -- Québécois films—made in the province, in French, for Québec audiences—can be difficult to track down outside the region. The Cinémathèque Québécoise (www.cinematheque.qc.ca; tel 514/842-9763) is a good resource. It's located at 335 boul. de Maisonneuve est in Montréal’s Quartier Latin.
Recent notable features made by Québécois filmmakers include “Rebelle” (“War Witch”) by Kim Nguyen (b. 1974), “Monsieur Lazhar” by Philippe Falardeau (b. 1968), and “Incendies” by Denis Villeneuve (b. 1967)—all three competed in the U.S. Academy Awards as Canada’s representative in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Montréal native Xavier Dolan (b. 1989), is one of the hot actors and filmmakers of the moment. To find other recent Canadian films, many of which are made in Québec, look for winners of Canada's national Genie Awards (www.genieawards.ca) or winners of Quebec’s provincial Jutra Awards (www.lesjutra.ca).
Alanis Obomsawin (b. 1932) is an important documentarian. A member of the Abenaki Nation who was raised on the Odanak Reserve near Montréal, she began making movies for the National Film Board of Canada (www.nfb.ca) in 1971 and has produced more than 40 documentaries about the hard edges of the lives of aboriginal people. In 2008, “the first lady of First Nations film”—as the commissioner of the National Film Board called her—received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.