Tu dors Nicole
Having made just three feature films in eight years, Stéphane Lafleur has established himself as one of the leading authorial voices in Quebec cinema — no mean feat considering that Lafleur also has a parallel career as a well-regarded musician (he leads the acclaimed folk band Avec pas d’casque). Few filmmakers have emerged this early with a voice and a style as crystalline as Lafleur’s — a melancholic blend of deadpan humour and elliptical narratives, as seen in Continental, un film sans fusil (2007) and En terrains connus (2011). It’s hardly surprising, then, that his third effort continues in that vein but continually refines and chips away at the core of the film’s ideas: the mounting pressures of alienation, boredom and a goddamn bike lock that just won’t unlock when you want to make a dramatic exit.
Nicole (Julianne Côté) is a 20-something woman who is attempting to make the best of her summer as she house-sits for her parents. Working a few shifts a week at a community thrift store, she spends most of her time killing time with her best friend Véronique (Catherine Saint-Laurent) and planning for an ill-advised, credit-card-financed trip to Iceland until her older brother (Marc-André Grondin) decides to also seize the opportunity and move his band into the living room to record an album — or maybe just to drown their boredom in waves of sound. Struggling with what exactly she’s doing with her life and the suave advances of a local boy (Godefroy Reding) whose voice broke too early, Nicole attempts to get through the summer, somehow.
The film unfurls chronologically but not exactly narratively, operating as a series of vignettes that build almost as precisely as the incessant bass drum hits doled out by JF (Francis La Haye). While the stark black-and-white photography, long static takes and laconic sense of humour suggest the early works of Jarmusch, Lafleur’s characters are inhabited by more than just slacker ennui — they live in empty, monochrome suburban landscapes where the days blend together seamlessly and the future seems constantly uncertain. Buoyed by a score from local electro oufit Organ Mood, Lafleur has made a coming-of-age film that features precisely none of the clichés of the genre, but nevertheless nails the feeling of awkward free-fall through its gentle surreality.
Filmmakers are some of the only artists of which the audience expects variety. Making the same film over and over eventually causes a backlash, yet the Ramones were only really earth-shatteringly great when they pumped out the same album year after year. By this logic, I should be admonishing Lafleur for making a third movie that resembles the first and second tonally and stylistically. The fact is that the best thing we can hope for as an audience is that Lafleur keeps making them exactly like this. He’s that good. ■
Tu dors Nicole opens today, Friday, Aug. 22 at Cinema Beaubien, Forum and Quartier Latin. See the trailer here.
See our interview with Stéphane Lafleur here.