Fresh off its Silver Bear Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Denis Côté’s film Vic and Flo Saw a Bear (Vic et Flo ont vu un ours) opened in Toronto Nov 22. The film is a dark character study of two lesbian ex-cons that is drawing comparisons to the Cannes Grand Prix winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La vie d’Adele). But the two films are very different — in tone, mood and attitude. The only similarity is that both have two lesbian characters at their core.
Côté’s film is a dark thriller that follows Vic, played by the wonderfully grouchy Romane Bohringer, as she settles in the Quebec countryside after she’s released from prison. Her lesbian lover, played by Pierrette Robitaille, accompanies her; what follows isn’t exactly charming romance. The two women care for each other, but they are as prickly as an old married couple — but with a sordid history and a dubious future. Marc-André Grondin, of CRAZY fame, co-stars as Guillaume, Vic’s parole officer.
Côté was in Toronto recently for the film’s release at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. When asked if he always intended to make a queer film (the film’s four main characters are all LGBT), he bluntly stated, “Absolutely not!”
He said that while he doesn’t mind that the film is being programmed in gay and lesbian film festivals, it was never about that. It’s about two women who meet in a prison and they fall in love, “and I wrote that” without any ideology behind it, he says.
As for comparisons to the sexually explicit Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Côté is clear about the differences between the two films. “I felt very weird watching those sex scenes [in Blue Is the Warmest Colour]. It feels like it was made by a 60-something guy . . . it’s like, whoa! And I would never feel comfortable doing that.” Vic and Flo Saw a Bear is, in fact, devoid of any sexual content. As Côté explains, “I have always felt uncomfortable writing for female characters. We are not all Pedro Almodóvar; we are not all Woody Allen . . . you want to make sure it sounds right, so I am already in enough trouble because I am touching some gay issues or whatever. I don’t want to sound bad when I write about women, so I didn’t feel I need any sexual stuff in the film.”