MONTREAL - Pierre Falardeau, the enfant terrible of Quebec cinema who suggested federalist anglophones should leave the province and once slammed Canada as a "colonizing power," has died of cancer in Montreal. He was 62.
Falardeau, who died Friday, will be remembered as much for his politics as his films.
The director was a sovereigntist hardliner whose films, writings and commentary dealt with issues of Quebec nationalism.
His strong opinions and willingness to offend made him a regular on-air presence in media outlets in the province, where he cut a scruffy figure by eschewing any trappings of elitism in both his speech and appearance.
Falardeau was never one to back down from a fight and his controversial statements often made headlines across the country.
In 2008, he dismissed David Suzuki as "a bearded little Jap, just another nuisance from the West Coast" after the environmentalist said he was disappointed in Quebecers who voted Conservative in the 2008 federal election.
Falardeau also had ongoing feuds with some of the very organizations that made his films possible.
He started a war of words with Telefilm Canada, accusing the federal agency of censorship for refusing to fund "15 fevrier 1839," a partisan film about the last day in the lives of patriot leaders Chevalier De Lorimier and Charles Hindelang.
Telefilm Canada eventually caved in and the film hit theatres in 2001, later collecting awards in Quebec and the United States.
Quebec actor Denis Trudel, shocked by his friend's death, recalled making the film with Falardeau.
"Meeting him was a memorable moment in my acting career because he was an example of integrity that doesn't really exist in this industry," he said Saturday.
"There was no difference between what he said in life and what he said in his films, in his books. So he's gone now, and we've lost something."
Despite winning a Genie Award in 1983 for the first film in his "Elvis Gratton" trilogy, Falardeau boycotted the competition in 2002.
In an open letter explaining why he refused to have his film entered in the competition, he wrote: "To be recognized for 'my genius' in Flin Flon or Saskatoon or Corner Brook leaves me as cold as their Rockies, mounted police and their Governor General."
Still, Falardeau remained one of Canada's most eminent directors, winning acclaim for his political films and documentaries, including the Front de liberation du Quebec thriller "Octobre" and for the 1993 documentary "Le Steak", about boxer Gaetan Hart.
He also created the popular comedic character Elvis Gratton, a crude federalist whose life goal was to win fame as an Elvis impersonator.
Politicians from across Quebec's political spectrum praised Falardeau's contributions to cinema Saturday while distancing themselves from his political ideology.
"Mr. Falardeau, we know, was a pamphleteer," Premier Jean Charest told reporters.
"He was a man who liked controversy, who had very strong opinions and who expressed them using a shock formula. But his artistic works were significant."
Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois had kind words for Falardeau, who remained a longtime PQ supporter even as the party did its best to dissociate itself from his contentious remarks.
"I was always impressed with his generosity, his talent and for his commitment to Quebec," Marois said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"He was a man who sometimes crossed lines that we don't cross, but he was a man of extremes. And that's something you often find in people who have deep convictions."
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe also hailed the filmmaker's contribution to Quebec cinema while admitting he didn't share all his political convictions.
"Mr Falardeau always had sovereignty at heart and spent his whole life forwarding that cause," Duceppe said in a news release.
"I can only honour that level of commitment."
He leaves behind his common-law partner Manon Leriche and three children.
Funeral details are pending.