Michèle Cournoyer was born in Saint Joseph de Sorel, Quebec, in 1943. After studying graphic arts, photography and animation in Quebec, England and Italy, she worked as a set designer, art director, costume designer and screenwriter on a number of groundbreaking Quebec films of the seventies, including Mireille Dansereau’s La vie rêvée (1972) and L’arrache-cœur (1979) and Gilles Carle’s La Mort d’un bûcheron (1973). She also made several independent films of her own: L’homme et l’enfant (1970), Spaghettata (1976), Toccata (1978), Old Orchard Beach, P.Q. (1981) and Dolorosa (1988). These experimental works combining different techniques were charming, humorous and highly original.
In 1989, Cournoyer won the French Animation and Youth Studio’s 9th Cinéaste recherché(e) competition, enabling her to make A Feather Tale (1992), an animated short that portrays love as a cruel game. For her next film, An Artist (1994), part of the Rights from the Heart collection, she used the digital rotoscoping technique to tell the story of a young girl with an irrepressible need to express herself through music.
In The Hat (1999), a disturbing exploration of incest, she adopted a rawer, more direct approach, drawing stark black images on white paper. Her latest film, Accordion (2004), also uses ink on paper, though refining the graphic technique, moving closer to pure surrealism. It is a powerful work with touches of black humour that depicts a virtual love affair through evocative imagery and mind-bending transformations.
In April 2005, Cournoyer was honoured by Les Femmes du cinéma, de la télévision et des nouveaux médias for her contribution to the audiovisual field.