Film Review: THE GARDENER (Canada 2016) ***

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the_gardener.jpgThe Gardener is a documentary directed by Sebastien Chabot about Frank Cabot’s Les Quatre Vents, aka Cabot Garden, a magnificent private garden in the Charlevoix region near Quebec City.

Director: Sébastien Chabot
Writer: Sébastien Chabot
Stars: Francis Cabot, Anne Cabot, Adrienne Clarkson

Review by Gilbert Seah
Veteran of Canada’s TV industry, director Sébastien Chabot first feature documentary THE GARDENER offers audiences a rare opportunity to experience arguably the most beautiful garden in the world. This garden is designed and cultivated by Frank Cabot (recently deceased in 2011), THE GARDENER of the title who is also a philanthropist and horticulturalist.

The garden’s beauty, as well as Cabot’s boundless passion and his commitment to refining their every last detail are captured in the pensive and stunningly photographed film.

The garden is called Les Quatre Vents (The Four Winds) at Malbaie, Quebec. It is only near the end of the film that Chabot reveals that this Garden of Eden is now open to the public. It is open only for 4 Saturdays of the year at a price of $30 per person and sold only in November. Needless to say, the tickets are always sold out and each person is allowed a maximum purchase of 4 tickets. (this year’s tickets are sold out and the 2018 tickets go on sale in December). It is practically a sure thing that anyone watching Chabot’s film will mark this calendar date to book the tickets.

The film contains two days of interviews of Cabot. It is fortunate as audiences get to hear Cabot’s perspective on life and on the design of his garden. Cabot was ill at that time but agreed to be interviewed. His wife and close friends also tie in their points of view on the garden.

The best segments of the film are the shots of the garden. From the tiered waterfalls, sculptured hedges, flowers and stone sculptures to the garden paths, the tour of the 20-acres of Cabot’s land is nothing short of magnificent.

Cabot talks about his garden being like a symphony. It is a bit tacky that Chabot immediately follows this comment with symphony music. It is also quite obviously artificial that he adds in the sound of bird chirping during the tracking shots. These are a few forgivable complaints on the film. Original music of the film is provided by Luc St-Pierre.

Chabot spends a fair amount of time, necessarily on the background of the man. It is insightful to see where his ideas originated. Cabot was a rich and wealthy man and a genius in his own right. One can see that a man full of riches and owner of such a magnificent garden would eventually want to share the beauty with the rest of the world. He thus opened the garden to the public for the first time in 1987.

“It was a true pleasure to document the beauty of Les Quatre Vents, and the bold vision of Frank Cabot,” said director Sébastien Chabot. “I’ve been elated to see festival audiences respond so enthusiastically to the film, it’s a privilege to offer people the opportunity to experience a stunning place that only a lucky few have had a chance to see.” These are the same thought echoed in the words of Chabot when interviewed in the film.

The film offers a rare opportunity to see true beauty. Don’t miss it! From May 19, THE GARDEN opens theatrically at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema for a week-long run.



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