Julianne Côté and Catherine St-Laurent in Tu dors Nicole

Stéphane Lafleur, the award-winning editor of Monsieur Lazhar, takes the director’s chair for Tu dors Nicole, which chronicles one summer in the life of 22-year-old Nicole. Her seemingly untroubled existence is interrupted when the arrival of her older brother and his band puts her relationship with her best friend Véronique to the test. Tu dors Nicole screens Friday, March 20 and Sunday, March 22 at the 44th New Directors/New Films, which continues through March 29.

Tu dors Nicole
Stéphane Lafleur, Canada, 2014, 93 min.

Description: With this disarmingly atmospheric comedy, Québécois director Stéphane Lafleur continues to secure his place high among the recent surge of talent flowing from French Canada. Tu dors Nicole follows the summer (mis)adventures of a band of utterly unique characters, centering on the coquettish 22-year-old Nicole (Julianne Côté), who leads an ostensibly carefree lifestyle. When the belatedly acknowledged reality of adulthood begins to nip at her heels and her older musician brother Rémi (Marc-André Grondin) enters the picture, complications prove inevitable. Shot in low-contrast black-and-white 35mm,Tu dors Nicole is a sweet and finely crafted ode to restless youth that, in its seductive and charming way, recalls the likes of Aki Kaurismäki and Jim Jarmusch. A Kino Lorber release.

Responses from Stéphane Lafleur:

On what drew him to filmmaking:

It’s really the poetic strength of films that brought me to it.

On the creation of character and story:

My writing usually starts as a combination of different key elements, instead of a precise story. For Tu dors Nicole, [the influence] was summer at night, friendship, a band in a house, and this blurry phase between adolescence and adulthood.

[Lafleur expands on his influences leading to Tu dors Nicole in a recent Cult MTL interview: “I came up with the idea of setting it in the summer because your early 20s are an in-between period between adolescence and adulthood in the same way that summer functions as the in-between period for students. You’ve tried all kinds of things and you’ve pretty much lost your innocence, but you’re not quite an adult yet, despite beginning to have responsibilities.”]

On directing the actors:

I don’t rehearse a lot. I do some readings of the script with the main cast to make sure we’re all going to do the same movie.

[In Cult MTL’s interview, Lafleur speaks to the challenges of working with nonprofessional actors: “I have to direct them a little bit, but it was a bigger problem with my first film. My tone is more established now. The actors have a reference point, having seen the other films, and they know what kind of universe they’re stepping into. There’s always a good bit of humour in my films, and it’s always the same style of humour where I don’t want the actors to try to tag the joke or try to heighten it. The characters aren’t aware of the joke: they’re living it. My acting directions are generally pretty precise because what I want is for everyone to be in the same film together on an even plane. Sometimes I’m not happy with everything, but I might just be seeing the movie too much!”]

On the challenges of recording music:

Since there is a band in the film, the music part was certainly the biggest challenge. I wanted the actors to play instruments for real and the sound to be the perspective of someone in the room with them. It ended up being technically more complicated than expected.

[In an interview with Scene Creek, Lafleur notes the particular importance of the drums: “The music was a really big puzzle, because I wanted the guys to play for real, so I needed all the music before the shooting, and I wanted the band to sound as if we were in the room with them, not as a studio overdub. I wanted (it) to sound rough. I wanted the drums to take more space than the rest. You can’t fake playing drums anyways.”]

On what's next:

I would like to go into sci-fi at some point, but I’m still looking for the right idea.

[As to how he’d like audiences to receive the film, Lafleur says in his Scene Creek interview that he wants to see young people return to theaters: “I think that people of different age(s) will get different things out of (Tu dors Nicole)…my hope with this film is that a younger audience will find the film, you know, because I have a feeling that it is (an age) when people are leaving and abandoning the cinema…(in terms of this film) we see youngsters coming back.”