The films of Denis Côté

Les États nordiques

nos vies privées 69
[ Un film à micro-budget, en quasi-huis clos, où les acteurs principaux parlent bulgare… On pouvait s’attendre à quelque chose de lourd et d’exigeant. Or, le deuxième long métrage de Denis Côté étonne de plusieurs façons. D’abord, parce que c’est un film souvent amusant et sexy, qui dépeint la naissance d’un amour inusité et la découverte d’un Québec pittoresque du point de vue d’étrangers, remarquablement interprétés par Anastassia Liutova et Penko Gospodinov. L’autre surprise vient non pas du fait que la relation meurt aussi vite qu’elle est née, mais de la façon dont Côté met ceci en scène. On passe ainsi d’un style se rapprochant du cinéma direct à quelque chose de plus stylisé et énigmatique. Sans être “commercial”, Nos vies privées s’avère divertissant et prenant. ]

Elle veut le chaos 67
[ Winner of a well-deserved Prix de la mise en scène at Locarno (any and all cinematography awards should also be de rigueur for the stark beauty of the B&W images), this minimalist modern day Western is ostensibly about a gunman (Laurent Lucas) riding back into town to get his old girlfriend (Ève Duranceau), who lives with her father (Normand Lévesque) in the middle of nowhere, next to some bandits (Réjean Lefrançois, Nicolas Canuel and Olivier Aubin)… Also involving phone sex, ping-pong and a mother-daughter team of Russian ballerinas/prostitutes, Denis Côté’s third feature is most of all a hanging out movie, which can be a bit too dry and wilfully opaque, but remains impressive if only as an exercise in style. ]

Carcasses 55
[ A series of static tableaux showing an old man working/screwing around in a car cemetery out in the sticks, where he’s eventually joined by a bunch of intruders with Down syndrome, this fourth feature by Québec iconoclast Denis Côté is certainly his most radical film to date. A stark, wilfully uneventful quasi-documentary, “Carcasses” is quite interesting conceptually, and there are certainly some arresting visuals and amusing bits… But even at less than 70 minutes, it feels needlessly stretched out. Still worth seeing as a curiosity. ]

Curling 84
[ This fifth feature from the director of “Les états nordiques”, “Nos vies privées”, “Elle veut le chaos” and “Carcasses” is, like those aforementionned titles, a relatively atypical picture that willingly keeps things mysterious, confusing even, introducing all kinds of odd, eerie, disturbing elements (a blood-covered motel room, frozen corpses in the woods, an injured kid lying on the side of a road, a goddamn tiger out in a field…) with no intention to explain or justify them. All the same, “Curling” has been described by many critics and by Denis Côté himself as his most accessible movie. I’ve even seen it described as commercial! Which is ridiculous of course (Côté couldn’t make a commercial flick if he tried, thank God), but I guess I see where this impression is coming from. The film is not semi-improvised, it’s not in Bulgarian, it’s not a b&W anti-Western, it’s not a minimalist experimental quasi-documentary… What it is is an engrossing, offbeat character study, starring Emmanuel Bilodeau as Jean-François “Moustache” Sauvageau, a socially awkward, guarded man who lives in a house in the middle of nowhere with his daughter Julyvonne (Philomène Bilodeau), who’s homeschooled – or more accurately, just left to her own devices because her father is scared of her going out into the world. Masterfully crafted, with stunning winter imagery and great use of ambient sound (plus a couple of 1980s pop songs, including the pointedly ironic in context Tiffany cover of I Think We’re Alone Now), the movie is also surprisingly funny at times, especially every time Roc Lafortune’s bowling alley manager shows up. And then there’s Emmanuel Bilodeau, who won a well-deserved Best Actor prize at Locarno (Côté’s direction was awarded there too) for his brilliantly calibrated performance as a quietly desperate man, who eventually shows faint signs that he’s ready to open up, to get out of his shell. By accepting an offer to go to a curling game, for instance… ]

[ This might be Denis Côté’s most radical feature to date. A meditative… nah, ruminative series of long static shots of various animals, Bestiaire will try many viewers’ patience, but I found it oddly captivating, thanks to the thoughtful shot composition and immersive sound design. This is like an anti-nature documentary in the way it observes animals not in their natural environment but in enclosures (the film was shot at Parc Safari, mostly during the off-season) where they roam around aimlessly or just stand there, sometimes staring straight into the camera. It often feels gloomy, disturbing even to see these majestic wild beasts like that, even though Côté says his film is neutral. ]

Vic + Flo ont vu un ours

Que ta joie demeure

Boris sans Béatrice 76
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

Ta peau si lisse
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]