Saturday, 29 March 2014

REVIEW - VIC + FLO SAW A BEAR


The ordinary lives of not-so-ordinary people in Denis Cote's film, which straddles several genres and pursues several narrative strains before concluding on an abrupt and cruel development. Succumb to the offbeat naturalism Cote assembles here through laudable command of his craft, and this ending might serve as a nasty surprise to you; keep both eyes and ears open, though, and it might not, yet Cote's steadfastness to driving home his point that one's past can always summon itself up to spoil one's future is audacious, and truly unexpected in a film that sometimes courts a preciousness that's all too predictable, given the tone of the film entire. Wes Anderson-lite mixed with a dinginess that's at the opposite end of the artistic spectrum quickly gives way to a solemn study of loneliness, even when accompanied by loved ones, and a hopeful study of love and optimism, even in apparently dire circumstances. Cote shoots this low-key, but eventually high-impact, comedy-drama in tones of faded teal and insidious chartreuse - a colour scheme that is somewhat overused in contemporary cinema, but he uses it to enhance the tone of zero-grade kitsch he establishes so effortlessly, and has a good eye for creating atmospheric imagery without detracting from the drama. Like many Quebecois filmmakers, he is more comfortable with the sense of isolation discernible in many Canadian features than his English-language countrymen, and presents a more appealing material space, making the characters' troubled mental spaces less neatly explicable as a result, and perhaps thus more acutely-felt. A physically-injurious denouement is thereby rendered more emotionally-injurious, and Cote is masterful in setting his sting-in-the-tail as an inevitability, rather than as a callous twist. It does put him in a quandary over how, specifically, to wrap up a tale he has crafted so curiously yet so brilliantly, and so the film sputters in its final few scenes, none of which register as deeply as they should. But this sharp, sweet, superbly-acted film is largely sure-footed up to this point, on a path where many other films would have fallen on their ordinary asses long before the end.