New York Catches Up With Locarno, Vienna, Toronto, etc.

Denis Côté

Included in this year’s New Directors/New Films and showing twice this weekend, Denis Côté’s latest feature, CURLING, is his first to play at a major New York festival.  New York has  been inexplicably slow to show the work of the prolific Québécois auteur–Côté has completed five features in  five years,  screening them at many international festivals and winning repeatedly at Locarno (including two prizes in 2010 for CURLING).

Denis and I met when he was the film editor and a critic at ICI magazine in Montreal and needed portraits (Abbas Kiarostami, Jim Jarmusch, Sandrine Bonnaire) for the cover. We became friends, e-mailed about work, films we admired and his attempts to get his first feature (DRIFTING STATES) shot.  He took a leave from ICI toward the end of the summer in 2004 and was editing in November.  A week or so after the infuriating re-election of George W. Bush, eager for distracting good news, I wrote and asked Denis how his film was progressing:

From: Denis Cote
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 2004 08:21:40 -0500
To: Robin Holland
Subject: Re: Robin/Jeunet scrs

53 minutes done. Editing is going well but the film is slowly transforming into something weird, storywise. Docufiction is a terrible beast to tame. Work here (ICI) by day, editing by night. Goodbye social life.

Denis’ riveting minimalist narratives are full of mystery.  Things are unsaid, things are observed peripherally, without comment. His characters are fascinating yet paradoxically largely unknowable–often to themselves as well as to the viewer. The cold Canadian air buzzes with foreboding, something might hide in an open expanse of plain–perhaps there’s danger, a catastrophe approaching or maybe it’s already passed.  One protagonist likes to swim, another would like to take up curling.

And there’s a beauty in images as bleached out as ice or almost as dark as what’s seen behind closed eyes.

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