A pleasant gambol through the backwoods of Quebec with a drag singing duo and a mysterious oldster, “Victoria” is most noteworthy as the first feature helmed by key French New Wave thesp Anna Karina since her 1973 debut, “Living Together.” Dramedy about lost souls finding themselves and old wounds being healed has plenty of goodwill, but not quite the sparkle needed to rise above the comfortably familiar. World preemed at Pusan, pic looks to have sturdy fest legs and claims for limited theatrical exposure, predominantly in French-language territories.
Calling themselves “Les Lolitas,” straight guys Jimmy (Emmanuel Reichenbach) and Stanislas (Jean-Francois Moran) are booed off the stage by the handful of patrons witnessing their woeful drag act. Thrown in jail after being involved in what turns out to be an orchestrated back-alley brawl, the cash-strapped singers are bailed out by cool cat Louis Jardin (Woodson Louis), an impresario of sorts who offers the boys big money to tour Quebec.
Talent has little to do with the duo’s sudden change of fortune. Bankrolling the tour of venues along the St. Lawrence River is Louis’ employer, Victoria (Karina), a mute woman who is unable to remember anything since a tragic incident 30 years ago, but is somehow compelled to keep Les Lolitas in her sights.
Jumping at the chance for what seems like a paid holiday, Jimmy lets his libido run wild and becomes involved with Susanna (Sophie Desmarais), a high-strung drug user who appears to be underage. Less lusty than his showbiz partner, Stanislas finds himself attracted to Pauline (Sylvie De Morais-Nogueira), a hotel worker who looks like a younger version of Victoria.
Karina’s screenplay makes little secret of a connection between Victoria and Stanislas, but this is not detrimental to a yarn that’s much more concerned with lonely people slowly finding happiness than with revelations. Given plenty of room to work off each other, the members of this fine ensemble keep pic on track with restrained playing at meaningful moments and amusing flourishes when the script calls for philosophizing on life’s big questions. With restricted screen time, considering her top-billed status, Karina effortlessly brings charisma to the screen in her in her first feature role since “Moi Cesar, 10 ans 1/2, 1m39” (2003).
HD lensing by Philippe Lavalette is clean and unobtrusive, with several eye-pleasing sequences filmed in remote, snow-covered locations. Big plus is the music score and heartfelt songs by French popster Philippe Katerine, who has recorded and toured with Karina during her long musical career. Lyrics relating to love, loss and memory are strategically positioned to fill in the gaps for characters struggling to find the right words. Rest of the tech package is pro.