Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Two Sapphic outlaws, a trumpet-playing cub-scout and a pair of bear traps. Nothing is what it seems in Denis Côté’s latest genre-bending work.
Director Denis Côté, well known for his mischievously wry, genre-bending works, does not disappoint with his Berlinale Silver Bear winner about two sapphic outlaws attempting to make it good in the wilds of Quebec. Vic has been recently released from prison for an unspecified crime. Under the supervision of a seemingly dull and officious parole officer, she moves into the countryside home of her elderly uncle, and seems to – her cynical misanthropy notwithstanding – appreciate her new freedom. The arrival of Flo, a younger woman she met during her incarceration, at first seems to herald the beginning of life anew. However as both women struggle to adjust to their lives on the outside, a trumpet-playing cub scout, a mysterious stranger and a pair of bear traps converge to turn the initial atmosphere of droll enchantment into an altogether more morbid affair.
Born in 1973 in the province of New Brunswick and now living and working in Montreal (Canada), Denis Côté is a former film critic who learned his craft with numerous experimental short films. Drifting States (2005) launched his career on the international stage after receiving the Golden Leopard (video competition) at the Locarno Film Festival and the Indie Vision Grand Prix in Jeonju (South Korea). His first feature film already had all of his trademarks: minimalistic camerawork, a blend of seasoned and non-professional actors, middle-of-nowhere natural settings and elliptical narratives that helped him gain recognition on the festival circuit. Shot with Bulgarian stage actors, a minimal crew – including Quebec filmmaker Rafaël Ouellet – and self-financed budget, Our Private Lives (2007) pushed Côté’s ambition to blur lines between experimentalism, genre filmmaking and cinéma vérité, while keeping more distance from classic narrative movies. In Quebec, Côté’s DIY production style earned him much media exposure and accolades from fellow first-time directors, who share the same personal and uncompromising vision of auteur cinema. With All That She Wants (2008), Côté co-opted film noir codes and delivered a low-life, hillbilly-meets-Beckett thriller in black and white from a labyrinthine screenplay. This film marks his first collaboration with cinematographer Josée Deshaies (L’Apollonide, La Question humaine), who has worked with Côté two more times so far. The film garnered the Best Director award in Locarno and made the Best films of the year list of Jean-Michel Frodon, the then-editor-in-chief of Cahiers du Cinéma. Côté went back to guerrilla-style moviemaking the following year with Carcasses (2009). Conceived during an artist’s residency in the Montreal south shore area, this unlikely match between a real-life junkyard collector and a militia of autistic lovers premiered at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and has been distributed in Canada, the USA and Brazil. In 2010, Côté became, along with James Benning and Matías Piñeiro, the first North American helmers of the Jeonju Digital Project, under which he directed Les Lignes Ennemies, his first film starring Quebec movie star Marc-André Grondin, who played a soldier whose battalion gets lost in the woods. Then Curling (2010) marked the beginning of a new stage in Côté’s career. Driven by dialogue and a gallery of rich but idle characters, the film won the awards for Best Director and Best Actor at Locarno, while reaching a wider audience through festivals around the world. Curling got distribution deals in Canada, France and the USA and garnered three nominations at the Jutra Awards – the “Quebec Oscars” – in 2011. Neither documentary nor visual arts, Bestiaire (2012) aimed to deconstruct animals’ traditional representation on screen as well as the notion of spectacle in movies. Launched in Berlin (Forum) and Sundance, this Canada-France co-production was named one the New York Times “Best Movies You May Have Missed in 2012”, and one of the three finalists of the Rogers Best Canadian film selected by the Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA). Since 2008, Denis Côté’s body of work has been subject to several retrospectives held in Montreal, Vienna, Toronto, Ottawa, La Rochelle, Seattle, Sderot (Israel), St. Petersburg, Paris, New York City and Prague. In 2013, Vic + Flo Saw a Bear is selected in competition at the 63rd Berlinale.
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