the babiche genre is an highly streotyped style of movies that center around the adventures of "woodrunners" a type of woodsmen in the forests of 18th and 19th century north-america. The main character is generaly either a fur trader or a logger who must face hostile natives, treacherous nature and evil rivals.
Many people have commented that babiche movies tend to follow one of these plots:
- the hero was framed and disguise himself to get revenge
- the hero replace someone who looks like his twin and who is in need of revenge
- the hero looks for revenge, fails but discover upon his death that its better off that way.
While the preceeding is true to a large extent in regard to older movies, Babiche films produced in the last few decades have often tried to break with some of its convention. This has taken the form of post-modernist take on the genre in "A Galipot" (a woodrunner identifyin so much with nature that he becomes cut-off from the human race), moving location (to Orgeon in "A baic var l'waist") or changing the timeframe (to the present in "el buceu da vil"). Some also have atempted to mix in elements from other genre but an early Japan-Newfrancy co-production ("El Qamiqaz" about a samurai coming to New-Francy to avenge his dead brother) has cause negative view of such enterprises ever since.
The Babiche genre is a direct descendant of 19th century "romans du terroir", a style of novel that praised the lifestyle of the laurentian rural population as somewhat more worthwhile then its urban counterpart. A recuring theme indeed was the corrupt and effete lifestyle adopted by many rural people moving to the city. A stereotypical ending was the remorseful youth moving back to the ancestral farmhouse to accept his patrimony.
One diference with the earlier genre is the emphasis in babiche movies given to forest adventures. While the earlier novel had characters moving between the farm, the hunting grounds and the logging camps, the later movies tend to concentrate on the last 2 with the farm (and indeed, most large urban setting) becoming a rarely seen backdrop.
Another difference, due to the visual nature of films, is a greater number of action sequence. Not only must the main character face the elements (no film seem to be complete without either a blizzard or some dangerous rafting) but fight scenes with swords, knives and hatchet take up most of the movie.
This genre, although quite popular, as never been well regarded by film critics who consider the plots and characters to be generaly two dimensionals and to lack wittiness. Some however have counter that to judge babiche films based on the same standards as dramas missed the point.
Firstly, the lack of moral complexity is said to help the viewer identify more easily with the characters. Secondly, Babiche films tend to contain less dialogues as a way to concentrate on the visual which, the fans maintain, help demonstrate the viewpoint of a man used to living in close contact with nature. Finaly, the highly choreographed knives and swords fights of some classics films have been compared by fans to ballet, showing not only the fitness of the actors involved but true, visceral emotions lacking in many other genres.
It must be said though that in recent years the genre has been able to gain a bit of respectability with some well established moviemakers producing some Babiche films that went to earn movie awards both localy and abroads. These however have been claimed by some not to be true Babiches but rather dramas covered in a small veneer of elements from the genre.
- While most recent productions in laurentian are subtitled, babiche movies in the early 70s were normaly dubbed when shown in Louisianna. As most dubbing production were done in france in those days, this gave the odd impression that 19th century laurentian fur traders spoke with an urban parisian accent.
- It has been claimed that Babiche movies were partly responsible for the "free style fencing" craze of the 1970s.
- The most popular fictional character of babiche films is "Tsi-Jaun" who has appeared (played by various actors) in over 50 films and telenovels. Tsi-Jaun is said to be "tall like half a man, strong like five and hungry like ten".