Things are feeling a little gloomy all round (on both sides of the Atlantic) so Jill chose this charming little underdog indie to cheer us both up. Frankly, any movie that starts with Heart & Soul by T’Pau and has Geena Davis as a spiritual guide to our protagonist is going to be A-OK with me. Continue reading
Blimey. We don’t half think outside the box on some of our choices, eh?
This one could be considered one of our most art-housey perhaps, though it’s not as strange as I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, nor is it anywhere as quirky as the amazing The Foxy Merkins (which I realise I only gave a 4/5 rating which seems like a travesty in hindsight as I think of it fondly, and often).
However, I’m glad it was chosen as this is not something I ever would have picked of my own volition, so thank you for that, Jillian.
We’re regrettably nearing the finish line of Feminist February and I think it’s been a corker. I now feel some pressure to chose well for next week (checking the calendar shows me that we actually have two more feminist picks before we round it up, so there’s still hope of going out with a bang).
But for now, to the movie. As always, take care of *spoilers*.
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (2013)
IMDB Synopsis: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear is a darkly mysterious tale of two lesbian ex-cons, Victoria and Florence, trying to make a new life in the backwoods of Quebec.
Victoria has evidently just been released from prison, having received a life sentence. I could be wrong but I’m sure whatever it is she did is never revealed (I might have been texting).
While this may be the sentence she’s received, Victoria is not destined to spend all that time behind bars. Instead she has moved to the back-and-beyond of rural Quebec to live at her brother’s place, a former sugar mill.
Her brother is not really around but does pop in once to see Victoria, who has taken it upon herself to take over the primary care of her Uncle Émile Champagne (Georges Molnar), much to the annoyance of his current carer, Charlot Smith (Pier-Luc Funk) and his horrible father, Nicholas (Olivier Aubin). Émile is in a wheelchair and cannot communicate at all.
Vic also receives bi-weekly visits from her parole officer, Guillaume who means well but is rather serious and by-the-book (but also super cute). While Victoria adjusts to her new life in the sticks, where she gets from A to B by golf cart, she pines for her lover Florence.
One day Florence arrives at her new abode and to say she’s a little underwhelmed by the amenities would be an understatement. She’s unimpressed with almost everything and it soon becomes painfully apparent that this woman has a touch of the Madame Bovary about her.
Flo visits the one local bar and goes home with a man she meets there (they don’t play Scrabble, knowwhatI’msayin’?). It’s a fleeting liaison (because it turns out he’s not available either) but it still happened. She also starts to make Vic paranoid by talking about how hot Guillaume is (true, but still). Vic begins to worry that she isn’t enough for Flo and although Flo says the right things, she doesn’t try that hard to convince Vic.
Meanwhile, Uncle Émile is moved into ‘proper care’ following a complaint about the level he’s been receiving at home from Vic. This comes from The Smiths, who have it in for Vic, possibly because of her previous conviction. So Émile moves on and the women are left alone in the woods.
Guillaume has come round to both women since meeting Flo and is happy with the progress they have made, even if he does expect more in the way of integration into the ‘community’.
He needn’t worry too much though as Vic makes a friend called Marina St-Jean (Marie Brassard), who is a little over-familiar but overall quite fun. She takes a shine to Vic and goes out of her way to help her nurture her garden (not a euphemism, but you do wonder). She also asks permission to ride her quad through Vic’s land when she needs to. Vic says it’s cool.
Did I mention that Vic is 61 and Flo is considerably younger (like, late thirties maybe)? This has a lot to do with why Vic is worrying so much about losing her girlfriend, who evidently, like most girls, just wants to have fun.
One day, Marina awkwardly brings up with Vic the fact that Flo owes money at the bar. It turns out Marina also manages it when she’s not working for the Canadian version of the council (which is how she originally meets Vic). Vic pays Marina the £215 Flo owes and although she’s annoyed, she doesn’t think much of it.
Flo doesn’t let it slide quite so easily and storms down to the bar to confront Marina. Trouble is, there is no Marina and no unpaid bar tab. So what does that mean? Well, it turns out Florence has something of a past of her own and it seems to involve a woman called Jackie (who Vic knows as Marina), still following?
Jackie is hench as fuck and has her own henchman (Ramon Cespedes), who doesn’t even have his own name on IMDB, just ‘Jackie’s Assistant’. We don’t know what Flo did but it involved some sort of betrayal a decade before (pretty sure they don’t tell us what she did, could be wrong again). Perhaps she broke Jackie’s heart?
Eventually, Jackie catches up with Flo and the main thing I felt about this is disappointment that Marina/Jackie is horrible and therefore not the perfect match I hoped she’d be for Vic. But hey-ho. Jackie, or rather her assistant then does something terrible to Flo which renders her immobile for several weeks.
Vic doesn’t absolutely hate this development as it means Flo is unable to go seeking something better and she reacts accordingly, more affectionate and loving, etc. Flo picks up on this because she’s a smart cookie and the couple fight. Flo can’t understand why Vic can’t live more in the moment which basically means, stop questioning her and let her do whatever the shit she wants, when she wants.
Poor Uncle Émile doesn’t fare too well in this film and The Horrible Smiths pay Vic a visit to shout at her for being shit after he passes away. I don’t really think this is that fair as Vic did look after him. Sure, she’s not really a hearts and flowers type but she isn’t cruel, that I can see.
The pair go on a day trip with Guillaume to see some trains and some fish, and while Vic goes for a smoke (of course, another smoking flick!), G and F discuss Vic, and their relationship. Flo says she’s going to take Vic down to the lake for ‘a talk’. Guillaume tells Flo that Vic reminds him of his mother.
Flo gets better, things start to look up and then something really horrific (and weird) happens to the pair. I won’t give absolutely everything away but it’s fucked up. Let’s ponder some questions instead, shall we?
What will become of our lovers? Will they end up together, or will Florence spread her wings and fly far away? These questions will be answered I guarantee it, whilst even more will pop up and slap you in the mush while you’re trying to figure what the fudge is going down.
Hm. This was surprisingly compelling for a film that doesn’t contain that much action. It’s basically a meditation on love and desire, and wanting something you’re so terrified of losing that is stops you from really living and enjoying that thing. PHEW.
The central performances are fine. Vic is all chocolate eyes and frown lines, and I sort of identify with her fear of ageing and leaving her lover behind (or being left behind). I mean, not literally but ageing is a big thing on my mind of late and there’s nothing anyone can do to slow it down.
The ending is crazy and almost jars against the slow pace of the rest of the film, but actually it works okay. It’s very dark and I sort of adore Jackie. I wish we got more of her.
From a femme POV, all the men apart from Guillaume are completely ineffective or steaming pieces of shit. Or they’re completely disposable sex objects (excellent). This is a woman’s film but it’s anything but sweet and fluffy – it’s hard, thought provoking, ugly, poignant and sad.
My Rating: 3.5/5. Odd and by no means terrible.
So where does Jillian come in on this? Is she trapped in a wooded clearing of indifference, or is she so happy she could restart the sugar mill and live happily ever after in virtual isolation? Find out for yourself here, bitches, don’t make me get my assistant onto you.
Week one in our long-awaited Feminist Film Month (if you don’t count last week’s Tootsie) and Jillian chose this quirky tale of Polly, an ‘organisationally pared’ temporary secretary and full time kook.
I’ve personally been looking forward to starting February off right for lots of reasons, not least because January sucked full arse. I know my blog wife feels the same way.
So let’s all put our hands together in a slow clap for this new month and keep that momentum going until at least the Spring, yes?
But to our film, which is Canadian and, incidentally, voted 9th in 1993’s Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time (thanks Wiki!).
As always *Spoilers Ahead*
IMDB Synopsis: Scatterbrained Polly gets a job as a secretary in Gabrielle’s art gallery.
I identify with Polly in many ways, not least because she loves people watching and seems not to have any real direction. That’s so me! We begin this film with Polly speaking directly into the camera, telling us about the job interview she has at Gabrielle’s gallery which leads to an ‘incident’. She doesn’t use that wording but alludes to something that’s happened to her, or because of her.
It’s not really said but I get the impression that Polly is recording herself rather than talking to somebody else and is a little reminiscent of Miranda July in one of my favourite films, You and Me and Everyone We Know (2005) – although I think that’s just in my head.
At the interview, Polly meets Gabrielle, a rather serious French woman who takes Polly on to work in her gallery. During her introduction Polly admits that she isn’t very good at temping and has been described as ‘organisationally pared’. Gabrielle’s gallery is rather small but she definitely knows her stuff and Polly is quickly enamoured.
Polly FYI lives alone in a great little apartment and tells us that she has done so since the age of 21, when both her parents died. She is now 31. She enjoys taking photos and riding around the city on her bicycle. She is also prone to fantasy and often drifts off while waiting for her photographs to develop in her home dark room.
I love her for these flights of fancy which see her in a variety of scenarios that made me LOL for the most part.
Polly is a great character and has an immensely likeable face. It’s so expressive that if the entire film were just of her enormous eyes and face, I’d still have come out satisfied.
One afternoon at the gallery, shortly after Gabrielle has offered Polly a full-time job, despite the fact that several past employers have criticised her work and she herself admits typing isn’t her strong point, Mary turns up.
Mary is a leather jacket wearing painter who clearly shares a history with Gabrielle. When the women go off to talk in one of the gallery rooms, Polly listens and watches them on CCTV, which may or may not be a video camera planted inside a sculpture.
She is intrigued to learn that the women are former lovers and that Mary is still very much into Gabrielle, even though Gabrielle proclaims herself too old for her. They kiss, even though Gabrielle is currently seeing a man.
Polly admits in her video diary that she is falling in love with Gabrielle, hence her fascination but doesn’t really want all the kissing and stuff. Her admiration for her boss seems chaste and it’s not clear what Polly’s own agenda is. She doesn’t even seem particularly jealous of Mary, just curious about the whole relationship.
One of my favourite scenes occurs shortly after Polly discovers this new facet to her boss, as Gabrielle is walking a potential (male) buyer around the gallery. The two are discussing a collection of paintings by the same artist, and Gabrielle’s enthusiasm and obvious knowledge on the subject manages to sway his opinion, which is very strong (of course it is, he’s a man). Gabrielle does this in such an impressive way that by the end of scene I was nodding my head triumphantly, along with adoring Polly.
Things begin to develop when Polly is invited to Gabrielle’s home for her birthday party. She arrives really late, carrying a big box and all the other guests have already scattered, leaving just Gabrielle and Mary. Mary takes herself to bed while Polly and Gabrielle stay up. Gabrielle is sad and confesses that she’s upset because the one thing she wants she will never have. That thing is talent.
Polly is surprised to learn that her boss is a secret painter and asks to see her work. Gabrielle is hesitant but shows her anyway. Polly is absolutely blown away by the paintings (which are displayed to the viewer as blank glowing canvasses, thus allowing us to visualise this art as we see fit). And as Gabrielle passes out on the couch, she makes the decision to take a piece.
Back home with the painting, Polly is inspired by Gabrielle’s secret talent and selects some of her own photographs to send into the gallery under a pseudonym. She hopes that they’ll impress Gabrielle as much as Gabrielle has impressed Polly.
Gabrielle’s painting, meanwhile, is taken into the gallery without her permission by an encouraging Polly. Polly tells Gabrielle she shouldn’t be so shy as she’s clearly brilliant and that one of her associates has already been in and gushed about it.
Quickly, Gabrielle’s names gets out there and she becomes an instant hit on the art scene. She’s delighted, and quickly sheds her humble demeanor.
Polly, unfortunately feels rejected when her photos come into the office and Gabrielle dismisses them halfheartedly as “simple minded”. She calls in sick and stays home burning every one of her photographs.
I’m going to leave this here as all is not as it seems and if you watch I want to leave some things sacred. But to the questions section!
Will Polly gain her artistic confidence back? Will she continue to love Gabrielle? Is Gabrielle all she seems?
As I wrote those questions I remembered that the ending was quite harsh but definitely proved that Polly is no doormat, despite her sweet and quirky outer appearance. Gabrielle quickly turns in Polly’s eyes (and therefore ours) from the be all and end all, to something hope-crushing and it’s all there displayed on Polly’s trusting face.
I thought this film was really something special, not least because of Sheila McCarthy (who I swear I know from more films). She plays Polly in an wide-eyed way that doesn’t grate and that’s an achievement in itself. Her daydreams could easily begin to irritate but don’t, even when she’s conducting an orchestra at just the wrong moment.
It’s okay that Polly doesn’t have a plan for life, or any friends or family because she’s something else. Otherworldly? I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Polly.
Gabrielle too is a pleasure to watch, and I like that she wears her age well (whatever that actually means). This being the eighties there are lots of giant leather belts, big earrings and arm cuffs – and she rocks them all. As an ageing woman, her lines are clear to see but she’s stunning and interesting, so much more for those things. She also casts quite the shadow as an idol fallen from grace but maybe doesn’t deserve the comeuppance that she receives.
I really liked Mary, and particularly in a scene she shares with Polly, after Polly has given up on her photography dreams. Mary finds a discarded picture taken by Polly and Polly dismisses it, using Gabrielle’s exact words to put it down. Mary accuses her of being harsh, and what does any of that matter if she likes the picture? It’s a wonderful way to look at art.
All those comments synonymous with the art set, what do they matter unless you like the piece? And what if you like a piece nobody else does? It’s still art to you. They don’t explore this much and I would have like Polly to be bolstered by their conversation.
It is all very female-centric of course, which is why it was chosen and hardly any men appear. Or if they do they are only there to illustrate the points of the women. Polly admonishes one in particular when he patronises Gabrielle, labeling her lucky to have got where she has when she first starts becoming famous. That was a triumphant scene.
All in all, I would recommend this film quite highly. I just really like the tone. Plus, the scene where Polly follows the kissing couple around and almost gets busted for peeping on them in the woods made me DIE. Why does this scene remind me so much of The Foxy Merkins, Jill?
My Rating: 4/5.
Did my honey Jillian hear the mermaids singing or was it more of a damp squib to her? Find out here.
I’m not going to pretend that I chose this film for any other reason other than Katharine Isabelle. I love her so very much.
That said, I’m not really sure what the fuck went on here so I think I’ll just launch into it and see where this review goes.
As always, *spoilers*.
Also, I’m wondering if January’s series of films should be entitled ‘Smoking Films’ because so far our two main protagonists have had a very strong attachment to their cigarillos. Just an idea.
IMDB Synopsis: A young woman comes to in a roadside diner with no idea where she is or how she got there. Split between two timelines, she gets taken on a violent journey as she seeks out the person responsible for her lover’s death.
Katherine Isabelle AKA Gwen is sitting in a diner in front of a mound of pancakes. It would be fair to suggest that she’s somewhat catatonic, all wide eyes and a dazed disposition. We assume from the opening credits (which explains the phenomenon) that she’s in a fugue state. We don’t really know why at this stage but shit goes really bad when she freaks out, apparently triggered by a song on the duke box.
She shoots a waitress with a gun she’s just found in her backpack and then runs, steals a vehicle and manages to allude the po-po who just happen to be dining in the same establishment.
I better mention here that this film is a patchwork of flashbacks and hidden memories, and its all over the place so my timeline might be a little rocky. I don’t think it really matters.
So then we flash back to the lovely Gwen running along an open road in a red dress and then passing out. Things are looking fishy for sure. All that’s really clear at this point is that Gwen is disturbed and really likes to drink milk. Like really loves it.
Anywhoo. Gwen doesn’t have any idea how she got to the diner, or how her hand got so damaged (it’s bandaged and on inspection, she discovers she’s missing her pinky) but she does find a motel key in her back pack, which leads her to Room 88. This is where she starts to piece together her story, of which she has no memory whatsoever. She does remember she has a boyfriend though and phones home to leave a message, asking him to come to Room 88 ASAP.
Inside, the room looks like a set piece left over from Memento (2000), with newspaper clippings on the walls and a body in the tub. In amongst the crime solving paraphernalia and ashtrays are some photos of Gwen with her boyfriend Aster (Kyle Schmid). I think it’s here she works out that he’s dead but I have no time to think (and nor does she) as an evil Henchman (from one of the wall clippings) bursts through the door to execute her.
In the nick of time, he is taken down by the arrival of Ty, who seems to know Gwen even if she doesn’t recognise him. He quickly scoots her away, kicking and screaming. Later he fills in a few blanks, though Gwen’s memories do not loosen up. She doesn’t know who to trust but decides to take a gamble on Ty.
Also, it seems as though Gwen’s known by the moniker of ‘Flamingo’ and may have taken on an uncharacteristic persona following her trauma. She swears to Ty that she’s no killer which amuses him, suggesting that she’s been something of a badass up to now.
Ty and Flamingo (let’s face it, it’s the better name) go off to visit Ty’s friend, Lemmy (played by the film’s director, April Mullen). I have to admit I had high hopes for Lemmy as she’s the only other female besides Flamingo in this male dominated movie but they don’t even communicate with one another! (A massive fail of the Bechdel test). Alas this can never be remedied as shit hits the fan at Lemmy’s place, people perish and Flamingo is arrested.
For a second it seems as though Flamingo is going to surrender to the cops, especially when Sheriff Knowles (Michael Ironside) is quite kind and really believes her when she says she has no memory of what’s happened. But Ty storms in again and Flamingo is released back into the wild.
FLY MY PRETTY!
I can’t go on like this for the whole review as it will take forever but the crux of this film is that, slowly, Flamingo (named after a strip club is would seem, or was the strip club named after her?) starts to unravel the mystery of who killed Aster.
It all comes back to a man called Cyrus (or The Anti-Doc Brown) who seems to have been a main feature in Flamingo’s life since she was a young ‘un. This is very creepy and he’s a very jealous man. He also does Very Bad Things.
Before I close, let’s ask ourselves some questions, shall we? (The answer to this is always yes).
Who killed Aster – and why? Who is Gwen/Flamingo? Will she get out of this in one piece? What’s with her obsession with milk? (It’s sort of sexual/phallic but not phallic, you know?).
And how can I convince KI to become my very best friend (who I also love)?
I’ve been reading a fucking amazing book called Life Moves Pretty Fast and it’s changing the way I look at modern films compared to films from the 80’s, especially films with female leads (of which there are not nearly enough). This post isn’t really the right place to air my gripes about that (read the book yourself, it’s magnificent!) but I went into this film with a certain mindset I suppose.
I don’t know how feminist this film is. A bit, I guess. I think the intention is there, we have a ‘strong female lead’ who isn’t all about competing with another woman for a man, that’s nice. She saves herself more times that she’s saved by a man. She ultimately gets what she wants by the end of the film, which is the ‘truth’.
The only other female roles in this film, besides Lemmy, are the strippers at Flamingos. They’re treated exactly as you’d expect them to be treated by a pig boss and his band of merry henchmen. Sadly there’s no retribution for any of the women.
Katharine is great in this, even if the story is a little convoluted. The movie poster heralds this as ‘Kill Bill meets Memento’ and I’m not convinced (KB is one of my all time favourite films, so no cigar). I’d love to see her in a Tarantino movie though. If I’m honest I just want good things for her and better roles, more like American Mary (2012), please!
My Rating: 3/5. A bit all over the place but my crush still reigns supreme.