A striking and unconventional film it may be, but Cote doesn’t seem to know what he wants to say with this story of two lesbian ex-convicts futilely hoping for a peaceful life in the woods.
Cast: Claude Laydu, Nicole Ladmiral, Jean Riveyre
Plot: Vic, just released from prison, is on the hunt for some peace and quiet. She moves into a cabin in the Canadian wilds and receives a visit from her lover, Flo. Life could be so wonderful, but signs of impending threat begin to multiply and even the forest seems to have treacherous traps in store.
Awards: Won Alfred Bauer Award & Nom. for Golden Bear & Teddy Award (Berlinale)
International Sales: Films Boutique
Subject Matter: Moderate – Seeking Peace; Lesbian Relationship
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
I first heard of Denis Cote from Ghost Town Anthology (2019), which I found to be very good. Here’s an earlier work, which competed at the Berlinale in 2013, that should be a point of curiosity for cinephiles wanting to explore more from the Canadian director.
Two lesbian ex-convicts are hoping to live a peaceful life in the Quebec woods, but their efforts are made futile by the constant visits of a probation officer who appears to be way too committed to his job. Adding to the noise, a strange woman and her partner set up camp nearby.
“I’m old enough to know that I hate people.”
Vic and Flo must contend with attempts to disrupt their relationship, as Cote gives us an unconventional film that tries to stretch as much of its lean narrative as possible. It also has a striking use of percussive music during key moments that gives the mostly quiet film an almost primal, ritualistic quality.
There is a sense of unease that builds through the course of the film, and it does get somewhat gruesome in its final act—but rest assured no one gets mauled by a bear as the title might allude. In fact, it is much more perverse than that.
Unlike Ghost Town Anthology, which depicts in enigmatic fashion Canadian ghost towns and the psychological impact on their inhabitants, Vic + Flo Saw a Bear catches Cote in a bind—it is a unique work but he doesn’t seem to know what he wants to say. This sense of hollowness is somewhat amplified in the strange, bewildering denouement.