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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: September 26th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1972

Dream Life

Overview -

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.

50th anniversary special edition!

After starting a new job at a local film production company, free spirit Isabelle (Deaf to the City’s Liliane Lemaître-Auger) meets animator Virginie (Jesus of Montreal’s Véronique Le Flaguais) and the two become fast friends. Over the course of a freewheeling, sun-dappled Montreal summer, the pair deepen their bond through a shared exploration of art, ambition, and desire.

The first feature film directed by a woman in Quebec, Mireille Dansereau's fleet-footed and generous debut moves effortlessly between filmmaking styles and tones with the boundless energy of a young director in love with the medium. A pathbreaking portrait of female friendship and interiority, Dream Life is one of the highlights of ’70s Canadian cinema and a vibrant hidden gem primed for rediscovery.

directed by: Mireille Dansereau
starring: Liliane Lemaître-Auger, Véronique Le Flaguais, Jean-François Guité, Guy Foucault, Marc Messier
1972 / 95 min / 1.66:1 / French DTS-HD MA 2.0

Additional info:

  • Region A Blu-ray
  • Restored in 2K from the original 16mm camera negative by Éléphant - mémoire du cinéma québécois
  • A Feminine Point of View (2023, 22 min.) – New interview with director Mireille Dansereau
  • The Early Years (2023, 23 min.) – Dansereau reflects on her early shorts and documentaries
  • Three of Dansereau’s early films: One Day (1967, 11 min.), Compromise (1968, 26 min.), and Forum (1969, 58 min.)
  • Markets of London (1996, 24 min.) – Dansereau short shot in 1969 and completed 27 years later
  • Trailer for Dansereau’s Deaf to the City (1987)
  • Theatrical re-release trailer for Dream Life
  • Booklet featuring a conversation between Dansereau and film journalist A. Ibrányi-Kiss
  • Reversible cover artwork
  • English SDH subtitles for all five films

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Booklet featuring a conversation between Dansereau and film journalist A. Ibrányi-Kiss
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.66:1
Audio Formats:
French DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English subtitles
Release Date:
September 26th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

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.

Video Review

Ranking:

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.

Audio Review

Ranking:

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.

Special Features

Ranking:

The disc is supplemented by a new, thoughtful two-part interview with the filmmaker, plus many of her shorter works.

  • A Feminine Point of View (HD, 22:37) - New interview with Mireille Dansereau talking about her experiences making the film, including her many difficulties getting her ideas accepted as a woman. The featurette’s title comes from her assertion that she didn’t mean to make a feminist film but made a decidedly “feminine” film.
  • The Early Years (HD, 22:58) - Another new interview with Mireille Dansereau. In this one, she discusses the development of her early short films and the hour-long video documentary Forum (1969). These works are all included next.
  • One Day... (HD, 10:57) - A teenage loner wanders around her suburban neighborhood and ponders her place in the world and what she wants for her future. A melancholy and stylish short film.
  • Compromise (HD, 25:41) - A London-set short about a burgeoning romance between a French Canadian woman and an English man. Cultures and personalities clash in this low-key character study.
  • Forum (HD, 57:47) - A documentary about a meeting between BBC TV director James Cellan Jones, the Living Theater's Steven Ben Israel, and sculptor David Autie about the revolutionary power of art and its subversion by popular media. It gets pretty heated, and Ben Israel spits in Cellan Jones's face by the end of it.
  • Markets of London (HD, 24:25) - A hybrid short that Dansereau shot as documentary footage in the late '60s but ultimately turned into an invented two-handed reverie between a disembodied woman narrator and a disembodied man in 1996. Poetic and lovely.
  • Deaf to the City (1987) Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:10)
  • Dream Life 50th anniversary re-release trailer (HD, 1:55)

Final Thoughts

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.