Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This month: The A.V. Club atones for its sins of omission, recommending the best movies of the year that we didn’t review.
That director Denis Côté (Curling, Bestiaire) is often introduced as “Quebecois” in reviews and interviews suggests the difficult, or niche, position he occupies in the film landscape. He makes foreign-language films, working in his native tongue of French, yet he’s not European (therein lacking all the cultural cachet that descriptor brings with it), living and working just north of the 49th parallel in Montreal. His movies are then “different,” but don’t possess that exotic appeal of films from across the pond.
Broadly, this is the continual conundrum of Canadian cinema in relation to the heavyweight that is Hollywood, and might explain why Côté’s award-winning seventh feature, Vic + Flo Saw A Bear, initially fell through the cracks of weekly reviewing. But to relegate Côté’s works, especially Vic + Flo, to the national cinema ghetto would be a mistake. With this feature (his latest, the essay doc Joy Of Man’s Desiring, already premiered at Berlinale earlier this year), Côté breaks new ground in terms of his own oeuvre, and has made one of the more challenging films about love and desire.
The regionalism of Côté’s films is often cited in writings on his work, but a more compelling theme is that of the role of secrecy in the human condition. With Vic + Flo this reaches a painfully poignant peak, as the film examines the relationship between two ex cons, Vic (Pierrette Robitaille) and Flo (Romane Bohringer). In the backwoods of La Belle Province, the pair try to make a life outside of prison, but are haunted by a mysterious woman from Flo’s past. Like Côté’s past works, which range from fictional features to genre-bending documentaries, Vic + Flo unfolds in an elliptical manner, allowing space for the viewer to fill in the details of the characters’ lives. For Côté, the past isn’t prologue; what matters is the slice of life that’s being explored in the moment. By the time Vic + Flo comes to its brutal end (given the sense of doom that infuses the film, this is no surprise, but the devil is in the horrific details), Côté has created a world that’s equal parts tender love and sheer terror. It’s not a comfortable world, but it’s also one that isn’t easily forgotten, regardless of geographic location.
Availability: Vic + Flo Saw A Bear is available on DVD, which can be obtained from your local video store/library, and to rent or purchase from Amazon Instant Video. The film is also streaming on Netflix.