Sunday, November 17, 2013


We're mid-month into the centennial celebration of Burt Lancaster's birthday. At Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Wednesday nights have been devoted to Lancaster, inarguably one of Hollywood's most popular leading men. Robert Osborne has written a profile for TCM, as has Roger Fristoe. At Fandor's Keyframe Daily, David Hudson has detailed various retrospectives of Lancaster's films, which have—in effect—been celebrated all year long. The Film Society at Lincoln Center mounted their "Man of Steel" retrospective in May, the Harvard Film Archive showcased Lancaster's films from July through September, Eastman House continued the celebration into October, Cornell offered a tryptich in early November, and the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM) dedicated their "Imaginary Mexico" sidebar to Lancaster with 35mm screenings of Veracruz (1954), The Unforgiven (1960), and The Professionals (1966).

Steve Seid of Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive contributed an essay to FICM's catalog to accompany the "Imaginary Mexico" retrospective, and The Evening Class is grateful to Seid and FICM for granting permission to republish same for a North American audience.

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Burt Lancaster can be a tough hombre, a tough hombre with a grin the size of Texas. And it's not just one grin, but multitudes, called into action to be wry, or welcoming, or devilishly threatening. Put that smirky smile on an actor trained as an acrobat and you have a pliable mug perched atop some great athleticism.

When first pinched for the pictures, Lancaster didn't have that signature smile. His mid-1940s debut roles in The Killers (1946) and Brute Force (1947) were too hang-tough even for a sneer, but in time his bravado emerged. By the early 1950s, that grin came flooding forth in the swashbuckler send-up, The Crimson Pirate (1952), showing off his physical daring, a characteristic he would trump in Trapeze (1956), that soaring tribute to the Big Top. Lancaster could be the unctuous dreamer of The Rainmaker (1956), his deluded smile more an ooze, or he could raze careers with a few caustic curls of the lip as J.J. Hunsecker, the newspaper columnist of Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Lancaster could be barely contained, reveling in roles like the handsome huckster of Elmer Gantry (1960), or a model of restraint, resigned to the reserve of that famed Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

By the time his youthful acrobatics had waned, Lancaster had stretched his more mature manners as an actor, limber now in gesture not gymnastics. Who can forget the vertiginous emotions of Ned Merrill, the long-drowning suburbanite in The Swimmer (1968), the world-weary wisdom of McIntosh, the reluctant Indian scout of Ulzana's Raid (1972), or Lou, the aging mobster, hit by antique desires in Atlantic City (1980)?

With over seventy lead roles, Burt Lancaster nimbly inhabited just about every conceivable film genre, receiving recognition in the form of an Oscar® and three additional nominations, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild. Of his multitude of films, a half-dozen might constitute his Mexican sojourn, beginning with Vera Cruz in 1954 and ending with Valdez Is Coming (1971), where the-then 58 year–old actor plays a worn-out Mexican-American constable determined to exact justice for an innocent man's death. A pair of westerns, The Scalphunters (1968) and Lawman (1971), both produced in Durango, share the same stretch of broken earth, but only the former film conjures Mexico as an elusive safe haven for the fleeing bounty hunters.

But the sojourn, indeed, begins with Robert Aldrich's energetic Vera Cruz, a hybrid western with dashes of ever-twisting intrigue. When Ben Trane (a stiff but stately Gary Cooper) moseys into town, a dusty way station in 1860s Mexico, his horse is lame from the hard track. We know at once times are tough for this former Confederate officer, now a mercenary looking for a cause with a credit line. He teams up with Joe Erin (Lancaster), a mayhem-mongering gunslinger with a chilling smile. Dragging along a gang of greasy desperadoes (Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, and Charles Bronson), they head for the Gulf Coast as the guardians of Emperor Maximillian's gold. Or so they think. Played for high mischief, Lancaster's amoral merc squeals with delight at the prospect of double-dealing and derring-do, a feral force amongst the tumbleweed.

Aldrich's second western, Vera Cruz was shot throughout the Valley of Mexico. One grand scene, an opulent gathering with the soon-to-be deposed Emperor, is staged at Max's Castle high atop the Chapultepec promontory. In another, the caravan carrying the Emperor's treasure passes close by Teotihuacan, suggesting in its stony grandeur that Mexico's true soul shall remain while the dalliances of the invaders shall pass.

Director John Huston also knew the landscape of Mexico. His great The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) was produced here—a decade later he returned to Durango to make The Unforgiven (1960), an eccentric tale about racial intolerance in the Texas panhandle. Written by Alan Le May whose earlier novel was the basis for The Searchers, this curiosity stars Burt Lancaster as Ben Zachary, the eldest son of a frontier family whose only daughter is an adopted Kiowa child played by Audrey Hepburn. When a stranger arrives declaring that she is "no Zachary," the community turns against this "red-skinned" foundling. An unusually restrained Lancaster plays the defender of his family's honor which riles even those within his own circle, especially his rancidly racist brother Cash, played by Audie Murphy. Eventually, the local Kiowa tribe try to buy pert Hepburn back, the denial of which escalates into an armed skirmish. If you look closely at the warring braves you might espy Emilio Fernández. Huston had hired Fernandez to supervise some of the action sequences, but it was rumored that "El Indio" would also play the part of a "bloodthirsty Kiowa."

Some would say Lancaster's greatest role was in Elmer Gantry (1960), directed by Richard Brooks. Six years later, director and actor reunited for a big rollicking western, The Professionals, that set the stage for Sam Peckinpah's more violently poetical The Wild Bunch. Here, the Mexican Revolution is waning when a wealthy rancher's wife (Claudia Cardinale) is kidnapped by Jesus Raza (Jack Palance), a former revolutionary leader turned bandit. Four men, all veteran fighters, are hired to retrieve the abducted wife: Rico (Lee Marvin), a weapons specialist; Hans (Robert Ryan), a horse wrangler; Jake (Woody Strode), a skilled tracker; and Bill (Burt Lancaster), an explosives expert, in keeping with Lancaster's incendiary personality.

Across the border and into a heartless terrain of desert scrub and treacherous ravines ride the "professionals" as they close in on Raza's encampment. Raza, who notably speaks Spanish for half of his screen time, is the disillusioned revolutionary, now turning the chaos of war toward his own ends. "The Revolución is like a great love affair. In the beginning she is a goddess…. In time, we see her as she is," he says to Lancaster during a lethal stand-off.

And Lancaster's Bill, the demolition man? A short-fused adventurer, he turned an adolescent urge for artful creation into its explosive opposite. This was the perfect role for Burt Lancaster who himself possessed a barely containable inner energy that threatened detonation at any moment. His great actor's art was keeping that energy enclosed within the nuanced bounds of his body. Expect ignition.

Thursday, November 07, 2013


As noted by Michael Hawley in his anticipatory overview of the 2013 edition of the San Francisco Film Society's French Cinema Now (FCN), the series—though abbreviated this year—is strikingly auteurial, no less in its opening night feature 2 Autumns, 3 Winters (2 Automnes, 3 Hivers, 2013) [IMDb], which typifies the fresh face of Gallic filmmaking. Sébastien Betbeder—whose debut Nights with Theodore was the winner of the FIPRESCI prize earlier this spring at the San Francisco International—has confirmed his ascendancy with this sophomore effort. "As for soon-to-break-out-talents," writes Gavin Smith at Film Comment, "I am betting on Betbeder." Smith describes 2 Autumns, 3 Winters as a "quintessential example of mélancomédie, the micro-genre of choice among a certain strain of up-and-coming French filmmaker" and he lays out the importance of the film's debut at ACID, an offshoot of the Cannes Film Festival (programmed by actual filmmakers): "Now entering its 21st year, the Association du Cinéma Indépendant pour sa Diffusion is a Paris-based organization of modest means dedicated to promoting the circulation of below-the-radar micro-budget indie work without distribution and made at the very edges if not completely outside of the French film industry."

A little context helps to underscore the importance (and prescience) of FCN's selection of 2 Autumns, 3 Winters as their opening night entry. Though some U.S. critics have sought to appropriate Betbeder's effort under the "mumblecore" aegis ("which is a stretch", Hawley chides), it is more appropriately an example of the current Jeune Cinema trend in French Cinema. "The trend," writes Adam Batty at Hope Lies At 24 Frames Per Second, "has been trumpeted in the French media fairly heavily, with Cahiers du Cinéma dedicating an issue to the work of young filmmakers like Guillaume Brac, Justine Triet, Antonin Peretjatko and Betbeder himself, who alongside Vincent Macaigne, the enigmatic star of 2 Autumns, 3 Winters, stand at the forefront of a major upheaval in contemporary French cinema." A synopsis of Cahiers du Cinéma's April 2013 dossier on the trend is available at David Davidson's site Toronto Film Review.

Hailed as "the new Gérard Depardieu", Vincent Macaigne has become in many ways the public face of the movement and one, Batty adds, "whose talents outline the intentions of this current wave of young French filmmakers." At The Observer, Kim Wilsher profiles Macaigne's rising star. "No fewer than three 'state of the nation'-style films featuring Macaigne were presented at this year's Cannes film festival," Wilsher points out, including Justine Triet's La Bataille de Solférino, Antonin Peretjatko's La Fille du 14 Juillet, and Betbeder's 2 Autumns, 3 Winters.

"A cine-literate streak runs through the collective," Batty continues, "with relationships within Betbeder's film defined and shaped around movies, and plotting derived from a perception of text, much in the same way that the earlier French wave digested and recontextualized existing works of the silver screen to tell a further tale." Batty finds 2 Autumns, 3 Winters reminiscent of Eric Rohmer's The Bakery Girl of Monceau "with its 'the cut as memory' approach to form and romance and omnipresent narrative voice apparent in Betbeder's text, while the pop-culturally driven, multi-faceted employment of technology recalls ... Godard."

At BFI, Jonathan Romney likewise detects the film's "irreverent cinephilia" with its short snippets of animation and nods to Bresson (Four Nights of a Dreamer), Eugène Green (The Living World), George Romero (Night of the Living Dead), and Alain Tanner (The Salamander), which the Denver Film Society considers the film's "most germane citation", sharing not only the alpine location of Tanner's films, "but also their free structure and spirit." At Cinevue, Craig Williams qualifies that—while the references come thick and fast—"it's not empty posing; even when a sequence from Alain Tanner's The Salamander is shown, it's done with such unassuming laissez-faire that it's obviously just second nature to Betbeder and his cast. The picture is concerned with people who have absorbed so much cinema that it's become a part of them. These are lives consumed by popular culture; a generation who see things through the prism of the arts and unconsciously use them as means to an end. In one terrific sequence, we even get the history of new wave and post-punk told through a young man's failed suicide attempts."

Romney states that this "fresh, no-frills feature" is "comic and tender in equal measure" while giving "the nouvelle vague an idiosyncratic 21st-century spin." Its "fractured, self-conscious style" suggests "a hip young Parisian novel making itself up, complete with chapter headings, as it goes along. Inarguably a guys'-eye view of life and love but also winning, literate and very distinctive." Dozens of short chapters alternate between moments of crisis and the comically inconsequential.

Yet even as one generation of filmmakers resuscitates the craft of their predecessors, the passage of time remains common to all, and is the most honest narrative assertion made by 2 Autumns, 3 Winters, which—as SFFS synopsizes—"applies indie charm to the vagaries of life." Given time, nearly all tragedy turns to comedy. It likewise addresses "the transformative power of calamity", whereas—as synopsized at the New Zealand International Film Festival—"much of this film's arresting emotional intelligence resides in its matter-of-fact grasp of the random impact of ill health and urban crime on ordinary lives."

"It should be added," continues the New Zealand International Film Festival, "that each of the three principals recount their highs and lows—often as they undergo them—to camera and with a fetching mix of impulsive disclosure and sheer bemusement." Before computer-generated backgrounds, this stylistic direct address and breaking of the fourth wall would, in most instances, achieve an ironizing distance, yet in 2 Autumns, 3 Winters it effects the obverse, drawing the viewer into the forthright ruminations of the film's characters and forging an intimate relationship. "While these direct-to-camera addresses occasionally take the form of an impromptu address from a rolling scene, ala Woody Allen or Jean-Luc Godard," offers Adam Batty, "more often than not Betbeder chooses to place these commentaries in their own section of the movie, quarantined and out of time with the concurrent structure of the movie in general. While comparable to the production methods of a reality television programme, this breakdown and restructuring of the filmic elements and styles of form is actually very cinematic. Sarkozy and the Chilean miners are cut next to animated sojourns in to the netherworld and video essay breakdowns of Judd Apatow movies to create a pop culture collage, with the final work encapsulating Macaigne's earlier (and unrelated) declaration that his world is 'more Hip Hop than New Wave'."

Not everyone agrees, however. At The Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Mintzer finds "a tad too many winks to the camera" in a film that "gets by more on style and sass than on its storytelling skills." As for the film's division into dozens of brief chapters, Mintzer complains that this often gives "the impression of watching a string of short films instead of an actual feature." He concludes: "Filled with oodles of visual flourishes, including a mix of grainy 16mm and HD cinematography (by Sylvain Verdet) and nonstop moody music by French singer-songwriter Bertrand Betsch, 2 Autumns often lets its cute and eccentric stylings get in the way of the story itself, which, once you strip away all the accouterments, feels rather underdeveloped."

Picked up by Film Movement for its North American distribution, Betbeder justifies his choices in the distributor's PDF press kit: "I wanted the narrative to be dense, to alternate between serious, critical moments in the lives of these young people, and more incidental moments that have no real impact. ...The chapter structure, the direct camera address, and the parentheses in the story turned out to be idyllic directorial decisions. An intimate and special relationship then emerges between the audience and the characters. Something magical and unique happens when the person on the screen looks at you and talks to you directly. I wanted to make this film in order to share something of what the society in which I live is like; to bear witness—modestly—to an era that is coming to an end, to the changing way people relate to each other. We love differently in 2013, we have a different approach to death. We are increasingly less carefree." Kristin McCracken solicits further commentary from Betbeder in her brief Q&A for the Hamptons International Film Festival. Festival Cinemania concludes: "Director Sébastien Betbeder succeeds admirably in recreating the languid rhythms of daily life of these French 'slackers' and their newly-defined sense of humor."

Wednesday, November 06, 2013


The San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) brings us the sixth edition of its French Cinema Now (FCN) series, beginning this Thursday, November 7 at Landmark's Clay Theatre. While it's tough seeing 2013's event scaled back from seven days to four, the good news is that the quantity of films has remained the same (albeit with fewer screenings). Two things crossed my mind while perusing the program. The first was an absence of anything lightweight or overtly commercial on the roster. The second was an impressive dedication to a loose coterie of directors by the SFFS programming team, with eight of ten FCN films this year coming from filmmakers whose works have been previously exhibited by the SF Film Society.

The SFFS alumni party gets going on opening night with Sébastien Betbeder's drôle and affecting 2 Autumns, 3 Winters, which is also the only FCN entry I've previewed in advance. Betbeder was the surprise FIPRESCI winner at this year's SF International Film Festival. His 67-minute, made-for-TV movie Nights with Théodore, set an enigmatic, paranormal-shaded romance almost entirely within Paris' Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Betbeder's follow-up retains the Paris backdrop, this time concerning itself with the ups and downs of two ex-art student bros in their early thirties. It's been labeled the first French mumblecore film, which is a stretch. While the film does feature floundering young adults and lengthy monologues, it's more stylized than its American counterpart, with an episodic structure, a lot of fourth wall-breaking and a diverse look obtained from shooting both 16mm and digital. Comic, bittersweet and smart, 2 Autumns should work perfectly as an opening night film.

2 Autumns, 3 Winters is just one of six FCN selections that had world premieres at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The FCN film I'm most anticipating is Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake, which competed in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. It was perhaps the best-reviewed film of the entire festival, leaving some critics wondering why it wasn't in the main competition. It ultimately won the sidebar's Best Director award as well as the fest's Queer Palm. Set entirely around a placid lake that doubles as a notorious cruising spot, the film has been described as a (very) sexually-explicit thriller that takes on the complexities of gay male desire. One much-discussed scene has had critics making comparisons to Hitchcock and Chabrol at their most unbearably suspenseful. A lot of fuss has also been made of the film's lush wide-screen photography and layered sound design. Unsurprisingly, the good folks at Strand Releasing have picked this up for U.S. distribution. Director Guiraudie is no stranger to FCN, having personally accompanied The King of Escape, his yarn about a gay, middle-aged tractor salesman on the lam with a teenage girl, to the Bay Area in 2009.

Also showing up in Cannes' Un Certain Regard was Claire Denis' Bastards, a downbeat and menacing familial tale of money, sex and power set in contemporary Paris. Although the film drew mixed reviews—critics complained about its obtuseness and confusingly fragmented narrative—it fared much better at the Toronto and New York film festivals. Critic Robert Koehler proclaimed it Denis' best film since L'intrus and Manola Dargis found Bastards "grimly beautiful and somewhat unhinged." (And then there's Ryan Lattanzio's ominous warning at Indiewire that after Bastards "you may never eat corn-on-the-cob again.") Once more Denis enlists the immense talents of cinematographer Agnès Godard (her first digital shoot for Denis) and musician Stuart Staples of the Tindersticks. The promising cast includes Denis regulars Grégoire Colin and Michel Subor, as well as Denis newbies Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni and Lola Créton. I wasn't crazy about Denis' last film, 2009's White Material, but these L'intrus comparisons have me hopeful that I'll be loving me some Bastards.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's autobiographical A Castle in Italy initially drew attention at Cannes because it was the only female-directed film in the main competition. Then came the almost unanimously horrible reviews, with The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw leading the pile-on ("smug, precious, carelessly constructed, emotionally negligible, tiresome, insufferably self-regarding and above all, fantastically annoying"). Tedeschi plays a retired actress with a ticking biological clock whose family is divided over whether to sell the titular family castle—in other words, she's got an acute case of RWPP (Rich White People Problems). As in real life, her character has a younger actor boyfriend (played by her actual ex, actor Louis Garrel) and a brother who's dying of AIDS (Tedeschi's brother died of the disease in 2006 and is played here by Filippo Timi, the Italian actor best known for portraying Mussolini in Vincere). This is Tedeschi's third outing as director / writer / actress, and all three films were co-written by actress / director Noémie Lvovsky (who attended last year's FCN with the opening night film, Camille Rewinds). I remember enjoying Tedeschi's Actresses when it played the inaugural FCN in 2008, so I'm willing to take a chance on this—in no small part thanks to the presence of Euro-hunks Garrel and Timi. Omar Sharif of all people is said to have a movie-stealing cameo near the end.

Speaking of Euro-hunks, Danish superstar Mads Mikkelsen plays the titular role in FCN's other film from Cannes 2013's main competition, Arnaud des Pallières' Michael Kohlhaas. Based on an 1811 novella that's a staple of German literature classes, the film features a French-speaking Mikkelsen as a 16th century horse merchant seeking justice after two prized steeds are seized and then abused by a ruthless nobleman. Reviews of both the film and Mikkelsen's performance were mixed, with the Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Mintzer opining, "Michael Kohlhaas provides a few quick thrills and some beautifully photographed landscapes, but never really convinces as an intellectual's swords-and-horses period piece." The critics were unanimous in their praise of Jeanne Lapoire's cinematography (she also shot A Castle in Italy), as well as the film's exquisite period detail. Being mad-for-Mads means I wouldn't dream of missing this, especially when the Great Dane is joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes Amira Casar, Jacques Nolot, Bruno Ganz, Sergi López and Denis Lavant.

My favorite film at FCN 2010 was Katell Quillévéré's Love Like Poison, an impressive, Prix Jean Vigo-winning directorial debut about a young Bretagne teen grappling with issues of flesh vs. spirit. Three years later Quillévéré returns with Suzanne, which opened the Critics Week sidebar at this year's Cannes. The film encompasses 25 years in the life of its protagonist, a young woman who lives with her widowed father and sister, gets pregnant in high school and eventually takes up with a small-time gangster. Although reviews were generally favorable, many critics felt the huge time gaps in the narrative gave the film a choppy feel. Variety's Boyd van Hoeij likened Suzanne to an "extended trailer for an entire season of a French working-class daytime drama." Critics were unanimous, however, in their resounding praise for Sara Forestier in the title role. This is the acclaimed actress who burst on the scene in 2003, winning a Most Promising Actress César for her fiery performance in Abdellatif Kechiche's Games of Love and Chance (aka L'esquive), and then winning the Best Actress César in 2011 for Michel Leclerc's The Names of Love. Perhaps a third César is not out of the question.

Just as Quillévéré's first movie was my FCN favorite of 2010, so it was a year earlier with The Wolberg Family, the passionate and quirky 2009 debut of critic-turned-director Axelle Ropert. She's finally made a second film, Miss and the Doctors, which is about two pediatrician brothers both falling in love with a barmaid whose diabetic daughter is in their care. The brothers are played by director / actor Cédric Kahn (Red Lights) and Laurent Stocker, the latter a Comédie Françasie actor whose work I'm unfamiliar with. As with The Wolberg Family, Ropert's latest is also a Bozon family affair, with actor / director Serge Bozon (La France) once more taking on a supporting acting role and his sister Céline Bozon delivering the cinematography. Because Miss and the Doctors didn't have a festival rollout and only opened in French cinemas two months ago, there are very few reviews in English. An exception is Jordan Mintzer's favorable write-up in the Hollywood Reporter, where he calls the film a "bluesy swan song for brotherly love" and compares it to "the sort of earnestly made, cleverly scripted adult dramas of Truffaut's late period." The film's original French title (Tirez la langue, mademoiselle) translates as "Stick out your tongue, Miss," which sounds less lame than its English counterpart.

Yet another directorial second feature in the FCN 2013 line-up is Anna Novion's Rendezvous in Kiruna. Like the filmmaker's 2008 debut Grown Ups, it stars Novion's off-screen partner, renowned character actor Jean-Pierre Darroussin (who's mostly known to me from the films of Robert Guédiguian). Here he plays a gruff French architect who must travel to Swedish Lapland to identify the body of a dead son he has never met, picking up a young hitchhiker on route. Rendezvous in Kiruna won the prize for Best Film at the 2012 Cairo International Film Festival, and in her review for the Hollywood Reporter, Sheri Linden appreciates how the movie escapes inherent road movie clichés and promises that "the story's quiet observations build into low-charge detonations that resonate for days afterward." The film's cinematographer, Pierre Novion, is expected to attend the FCN screening. Kiruna, by the way, is Sweden's northernmost city and the unofficial capital of Swedish Lapland.

The lone documentary in this year's FCN is House of Radio from Nicholas Philibert. It's the first film by the master French non-fiction filmmaker since Nénette, his fascinating 2010 study of a 40-year-old, zoo-imprisoned Parisian orangutan. This time Philibert takes on the massive entity that is Radio France, which is loosely the French version of NPR. The film is given an illusory 24-hours-in-the-life-of structure, although it was actually shot over the course of six months. Reviews for House of Radio have been generally positive—it premiered at this year's Berlin Film Festival and had a brief NYC theatrical release back in September—with the main criticism being that unless you are already familiar with Radio France, the film is a bit daunting. There is no voiceover narration or on-screen information imparted, so unless you know what screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière and author Umberto Eco look like, you won't realize they are among the radio's on-air interviewees until the end credits roll.

After Stranger by the Lake, the FCN film I'm most dying to see is Vic + Flo Saw a Bear from French-Canadian director Denis Côté. This is the first time a Quebeçois film has been included in FCN's line-up and I hope it won't be the last. The SF Film Society did sponsor a Quebec Film Week back in 2008, but since then many important French-Canadian works have bypassed the Bay Area, including Côté's disturbing 2012 documentary about taxidermy and safari park animals, Bestiare (fortunately available for streaming on Netflix). Vic + Flo Saw a Bear tells the offbeat and ultimately harrowing story of a 61-year-old lesbian ex-con who retreats to the rural home of a paralyzed uncle, and is joined in short order by her former lover / ex-cellmate and her gay parole officer. The film premiered in Berlin, where it walked off with the prestigious Alfred Bauer Award, given each year to a film that "opens new perspectives on cinematic art." (Past recipients include Léos Carax, Tsai Ming-liang, Park Chan-wook, Fernando Eimbcke and last year's winner, Miguel Gomes' Tabu). Critics have been generous with praise, with Boyd van Hoeij calling it Côté's most accomplished work yet, and Screen Daily's Lee Marshall summing up the film's vibe thusly: "A rich, humane, surprising film, Vic + Flo Saw A Bear manages to mix the drollery of Wes Anderson, the genre swagger of Tarantino or the Coen Brothers and the opaque narrative of a Bruno Dumont in one intriguing package."

Cross published at film-415.