The output of boutique label Canadian International Pictures (CIP) is fascinating, with its pendulum swings between arthouse and grindhouse offerings. Their release of Mireille Dansereau's 1972 debut feature Dream Life is a definite swing back to art. The loose narrative, observational style, and philosophical dialogue shows a heavy influence of the French New Wave. It’s a “youthful” film, both for better and for worse, but it’s a lively piece of work. CIP's Blu-ray is sourced from a beautiful restoration and is supplemented with interviews and Dansereau's early short films. Recommended.
Touted as Quebec's first feature film by a woman director, 1972's Dream Life (La vie rêvée) is a loose hang-out flick, clearly influenced by the French New Wave. Fans of the era will appreciate filmmaker Mireille Dansereau's confident use of naturalistic acting and formal experimentation. Connoisseurs will note that the indie film industry setting and heavy use of Montreal street scenes echoes another New Wave-influenced North American flick, David Holzman's Diary (1967) from Jim McBride, while the two daydreaming ladies at this film's center anticipate the heroines of Jacques Rivette's beloved Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974).
Virginie (Véronique Le Flaguais) is an artist who pays the bills working in animation and feels creatively stifled. Isabelle (Liliane Lemaître-Auger) is a production assistant uncertain about her future and fantasizes about an affair with a married man. This post-collegiate pair meet in the ladies' room of the film production company that employs them both. They become fast friends after complimenting each other's sense of style.
The film follows these two as they chat and romp. They get hassled by brash young men while driving. They talk about their dreams and nightmares: one standout sequence has Virginie discussing a dream about a dragon while she paints her face into a stylized dragon mask. They complain about their families and plot to rebel. They orbit a few males but mostly find each other the best company. (A camping excursion with a would-be intellectual boy features our heroines singing a cheeky rendition of "Le Tourbillon," the song Jeanne Moreau sings to her two suitors in Jules and Jim.)
Dream Life is pretty satisfying on a vignette-by-vignette basis, but the film's freestyle storytelling can start to wear on the viewer. (Naturally, your mileage may vary.) The final stretch of the film, where Isabelle attempts to realize her fantasy of being with a married man, offers a suitable and smartly executed button for this youthful ramble.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Dream Life comes home to Blu-ray from Canadian International Pictures and OCN Distribution. A single-disc release, the disc is housed in a standard keepcase with double-sided cover art. A booklet is enclosed, including some stills and a 1972 interview with director Mireille Dansereau. A limited edition slipcover is available exclusively on the Vinegar Syndrome website. The disc loads to the CIP and Elephant logos before landing on the full-motion main menu.
The Quebecois company Elephant undertook a 2K digital restoration using the original Super 16 reversal footage and a 35mm internegative. The resulting AVC-encoded 1080p 1.66:1 presentation is outstanding. Naturally, this type of film source is grainy, but the texture reads as organic and detail is strong (if not digital-crisp). It looks excellent in motion and has not been unnecessarily filtered. This low-budget film seems to utilize a lot of available light, but balance and contrast is good for this style of shooting.
The French DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono soundtrack sounds true to its guerrilla-shot source. A few group scenes get a little muddled, but mostly the dialogue is clear. A few moments even have audible camera noise. Vive la film independant! A few brief passages are spoken in English, so there are two subtitle options: English (for French only) and English SDH.
The disc is supplemented by a new, thoughtful two-part interview with the filmmaker, plus many of her shorter works.
Dream Life is playful and smart. It's a Quebecois film of female friendship that taps into the spirit of French New Wave filmmaking, and it should prove a satisfying romp for fans of Céline and Julie Go Boating and One Sings, The Other Doesn't. The Blu-ray release from CIP is beautifully restored and features a welcome collection of short films from filmmaker Mireille Dansereau, in addition to a new two-part interview with the director herself. Recommended.