By Anna Bielak | February 11, 2013
Director: Denis Côté
Writer: Denis Côté
Starring: Marc-André Grondin, Romane Bohringer, Pierrette Robitaille, Inka Malovic
Those of us who saw Denis Côté’s latest brilliant documentary Bestiaire (which had its premiere at Berlinale 2012) definitely should see the Canadian director’s newest feature film, Vic and Flo Saw a Bear. If you weren’t one of the lucky ones and did not have opportunity to watch the doc it would be good to, at least, imagine it. From what I’ve heard, the people who saw Vic and Flo… without prior knowledge of Bestiaire had a more than slightly different experience during the screening — more or less, they were bored. Yet, they could have been blown away if they only knew that Côté is looking at his two main heroines exactly the same way he captures the animals in Bestiaire. He puts his camera in one place and lets the animals wander back and forth. The images that found his camera during the shooting time (I wouldn’t say it was the other way round) are like modern, minimalistic, mesmerizing paintings. The frames are filled with pale blue walls, wooden and barbed-wired fences and doorways covered with rust. In Bestiaire, Côté captures the fragments of animal bodies, glimpses of their sparkling eyes, and the monotony of zoo life. He hides irony and tenderness between the unspoken lines and finds a dazzling way to portrait a society.
Within Vic and Flo…’s plot, Côté is takes a long look at two women and a man living in a wooden cottage with pale blue walls and roof covered with rust. It is important to imagine Bestiaire’s visual qualities in order to notice that Côté most likely has some kind of comparison between two films on his mind. Vic and Flo… seems to be a really peculiar, but brilliant sequel to Bestiaire. Last year we were watching animals in the zoo; this year, we glance at women in prison for a short while and then we follow one of them far into the woods. At 61-years-of-age, Victoria (Pierrette Robitaille) doesn’t want to come back to society and pretend that she can live a normal life. Her silent, old uncle’s cottage in the forest is more or less a safe haven for her. Her lonely life becomes even better when her lover Florence (Romane Bohringer) arrives. They seem to be totally isolated, but everything goes easily for them, even if Vic’s probation officer Guillaume (Marc-Andre Grondin) does turn up way too often. For quite some time, nothing really happens; but nothing changes the fact that this subtle narrative is soaked through with bizarre humor.
All the more interesting is the fact that this visually astonishing narrative slowly evolves from an intimate lesbian romance towards a surreal thriller. Vic and Flo, two homosexual women living alone in a small town, literally became passive animals that anyone can trap; and if something might happen, it happens. Be sure of it. One more woman appears in their environment –- Jackie (Marie Brassard), a Chinese gardener who simultaneously resembles Sophia Takal’s Robin from Green (2011) and the non-existing, fictional velvet-glove murderers from Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997). Vic and Flo are now hunted by a freakiness that sails in the air. Côté makes up a world for them, an uneasy reality that hides unpredictability marked with black humor and death is always all around these characters. Well, if you are just an animal, it’s easy to be trapped, killed and forgotten, isn’t it?