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Stéphane Lafleur talks drums, sound and exploring the neighbourhood in Tu Dors Nicole

Talk about your first impressions. When we first meet Stéphane Lafleur in a suite of a downtown hotel, we are surprised to see how he looks: almost more of a rocker than a director, (we soon find out first impressions can be correct) and wearing a blazer layered over a t-shirt of Electric Würms, a Flaming Lips side project that released an album translating to “Music that is hard to twerk to”. And talk about your first impressions in film. The opening shot of Lafleur’s Tu Dors Nicole, (which translates to You’re Sleeping, Nicole), is Nicole (Julianne Côté), naked from the back. Lafleur explains that, “What I wanted to set with that first scene is that she’s not fourteen, you know, she sleep(s) with guys, that’s part of her life”, and regarding the familiar address of the ‘Tu’ form, “(I)t’s your friend, Nicole is your friend”.

This black and white film, shot in a way to almost look sticky, was not without its difficulties. Says Lafleur, “The main challenge of this film was to film the hotness of summer, the canicule, it was a challenge to do it in black and white and also the fact that she’s an insomniac and we play with the rising sun and everything”. As the light was compromised by black and white, sound became an essential element. He continues to say, “(W)e had to use the sound (to signify the changing day), and bold sound…if its crickets, it’s night, if its birds, it’s morning. We had to use some, you know, clichés of cinema to achieve that (effect)”.

As with any great film, LaFleur recognizes that form mirrors content. He explains that “(Tu Dors Nicole) is (a movie for people)…I tried to play with…sensations and motions related to this…period of life (young adulthood), and backyard and go out at night and wander around the neighbourhood and see (through) the windows, and see how people were living”. He further mentions that “You know…it’s pretty hot, and the sounds of the crickets…being part of that, you know, ghost town, or whatever”.

While filming in black and white presented its own challenge, so too did LaFleur’s commitment to using live music. He states, “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. He reveals that “Being a musician myself…I’ve got a folk band, I’m the singer and guitarist of a folk band in Quebec…my inspiration was Fugazi, I listened to a lot of that music. I still do”, and that “I was intrigued by Whiplash, because of the drum(s), of course”.

As to how audiences will react to the film, Lafleur confides that “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”.

It is clear Tu Dors Nicole leaves a lasting impression.