Dream Life from 1972 is the first female directed Canadian narrative feature to come out of Quebec and has never been released before in the United States. The movie is about two young women named Isabelle and Virginie who are colleagues at a film production company. The two quickly become friends and discuss their desires and what they are looking for in the perfect man. Of course, life does not always goes as people dream.
The film lives up to its title, playing out as a series of events without a plot. Instead of a story to tie everything together, ideas of desire, lust, love, and friendship are overriding themes. One moment, the two women are picnicking nude in a cemetery, the next they are just hanging out in a kitchen talking. The only connective tissue is the two women. Dream Life feels like the idealized thoughts of a very specific time and place.
Filmmaker Mireille Dansereau takes a huge risk as movie that is comprised of what are essentially dream sequence can wear on an audience. That never happens thanks to the great camerawork in Dream Life. There is a sensual quality that conveys the mood, but what may be more impressive is the framing. The camera is a roaming eye that brings a dreamlike feeling to even the most common situations.
Dream Life is ahead of its time. Second-wave feminism had seen activity throughout the world since the 1960s. While this movement did tackles themes of sexuality and family, Dansereau’s film went a little further. This is seen most in the family life Isabelle and Virginie long for. To them, the ideal home is one where the two of them will raise a baby. There is also a lack of friction between the two. The story focuses on the bond between the women instead of looking for something to threaten the relationship. This would stand out in a story from today’s world and is almost unheard of in the early 1970s.
The film is beautiful and revolutionary and will speak to cinema fans. In lieu of a carefully crafted story, Dansereau uses subtle commentary to progress her tale of women’s liberation and hope. Its relatively lighthearted tone sets its apart from other feminist works and the direction adds to the surreal aspect. Dream Life is a unique film that earned its place in feminist film history.
Dream Life is now playing at the Metrograph in New York City
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