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‘TTYL’ Inverts the Clichés of Modern Montreal Romance

We talked to director Iouri Philippe Paillé about a Montreal nightlife odyssey.

Still via TTYL.

Through many years spent directing commercials, Iouri Philippe Paillé has developed a distinctive visual style, earning his work placement in prominent festivals around the world. In TTYL, Paillé applies his evolving aesthetic to Montreal's famously vibrant nightlife. As the film unfolds, its focus narrows on a man and a woman engaged in an unconventional telephone courtship, offering revealing insight into the city's social codes. Conceived as "a visual and sonic exploration" with a subjective sense of the protagonist's experience, this film nonetheless manages to convey a relatively universal sense of the local sights and sounds. If you've ever found yourself on a late night Montreal odyssey, TTYL should evoke sensations both familiar and invigorating.

In TTYL, you specifically focus on Montreal at night. What is it about the city's nightlife that interests you?
Montreal is known to have a pretty cool nightlife. Bars will close at 4 AM and they're kind of all in the same spot, so there's a lot of action in the part of town where I shot most of the film. There's something very vibrant and fun about it—to even switch bars, go to two or three bars in one night. That's often what we do. So yeah, I was interested in trying to portray that very busy, very vibrant 3 AM feeling on one of the busiest streets in the bar scene.

How would you describe your protagonist's perspective on the city?
In my mind, he has this kind of unique perspective as an artist and a photographer. He has these kind of artistic goggles through which he watches the city and specifically the nightlife. He's always looking for that person that stands out. He's always looking for that odd couple, that outburst of laughter. He feeds off the small things that make the city come alive.

The metro plays a big role in your film. How did that come about?
First of all, shooting in the metro is really hard. I've tried several times. It's a pain in the butt to get all the proper authorizations, but even knowing that, I thought, We're going to give it a shot anyway because I'd love to shoot in there. It plays a pretty big part in Montreal life. It's another scene where you see all these kind of unique, cool people. You're always in that state of observing what's going on when you're on the metro, particularly when it's late at night.

Your film also deals with modern relationships. How would you describe the social atmosphere of Montreal—the way people meet, relate, and interact?
I kind of wanted to invert the cliché of the guy who only wants to date and be all over Tinder and the girl who wants guys to commit. It's not that true anymore. I find that Montreal's dating scene has evolved a lot. I thought it would be interesting to have the girl more into the flirtatious kind of serial dating vibe and the guy being very romantic and wanting to treat girls right. I found it was interesting to portray that part of the dating scene.

Beyond that, how would you describe the general attitude of Montrealers?
I guess we have two modes in Montreal. We've got the summer mode and we've got the winter mode, which are hugely different. In the winter, you tend to stay at home, eat soup, and stick with your girlfriend or your close friends. You have all this contained energy for half of the year. When the spring comes, there's something really magical about the city. It's absolutely stunning to see all the parks fill up. It's incredible. It's just very, very vibrant. Everyone starts going out more. You start hanging out late night in the park. Everyone starts undressing a little bit. There's just this lightness to the whole city. You can really feel it.

As you see it, why do so many musicians, filmmakers, and other artists thrive in Montreal?
I think there's a pride. We love to support what's being made here. There's this kind of magnet to Montreal, this feeling of "Wow, this is where it really happens." There's just this artistic kind of aura that a lot of people are drawn to, so when you become part of that scene, you want to encourage those other artists, no matter what the medium is.

Do you have any favourite Montreal artists, filmmakers, or musicians?
We've got a bunch of really cool talent. I'm really close to the music video scene, so I know a lot of artists and a lot of music video directors. Guys like Kristof Brandl and Jodeb are Montreal music video directors that are striving internationally right now. They are some of the biggest names in the industry. I've also got a lot of friends that play music for a living. I love Valaire's work and they are close friends. They've grown very organically with the time and they've become this great flagship band—you hear them on TV, you see them at festivals. There are so many great artists here in so many mediums.

For those who have never been to Montreal, what do you think they're missing?
The spring and the summer in Montreal and the night scene is really something to witness. I think it's hard to find a city that strives as much where winter plays such a big role. It sounds weird to bring it all back to the winter-summer dynamic, but it's really rooted deep in the identity of the city. For decades, Montreal has been known for its joie de vivre, and it's still very true. During the summer, you really experience this kind of overwhelming joy of life.

This article was paid for by Tourisme Montreal and was created independently from VICE's editorial staff.