Café de Flore (15)

Dir: Jean-Marc Vallée

Stars: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Evelyne Brochu, Hélène Florent & Marin Gerrier

In his last two films, C.R.A.Z.Y. and Young Victoria, Jean-Marc Vallée has tackled the subjects of love and familial relationships. In Café de Flore, he keeps one foot in the ‘60s whilst dipping the other in the present; combining two stories, which, on the surface may not seem related, have transcend the barriers of time.

In 1960s Paris, Jacqueline (Paradis) gives birth to Laurent (Gerrier), a boy born with Down syndrome; decides to devote every inch of her life to him in the belief she can make him better. They are each other’s universes until a girl called Véronique with the same condition joins his class. In present-day Montreal, Antoine (Parent) is a successful international DJ living with his soulmate, Rose (Brochu), and seeing his daughters every other week. However, for twenty years he was with his first wife, Carole (Florent), the mother of his children in a relationship he thought would last for ever. Can lighting really strike twice?

Café de Flore is a deep and powerful film; tackling love, obsession, addiction and the spiritual threads that connect two people together. There are several scenes which are reminiscent of The Tree of Life but, unlike Malick, Vallée manages to keep everything together through a strong and arresting narrative structure. Vallée employs quick cuts which allow both stories to converge before suddenly being torn asunder. The use of plethora of visual techniques, memory, dream allow the film to unwind in a non-linear fashion which suits the metaphysical and spiritual undertones which abound throughout Café de Flore; the camera coming in, and out, of focus, mimicking the characters confusion and inner turmoil.

Music is integral to both strands of the story, with a specific track used as emotional triggers to represent the relationships between Jacqueline and Laurent, Antoine and Carole & Antoine and Rose. Sound is used in the same way as focus, linking between threads, and signifying emotional shifts. There are exceptional performances all round, especially Paradis’ portrayal of an obsessive, over-protective mother which is breathtaking.

Café de Flore is an unsettling, poetic trip into the metaphysical boundaries of love and devotion; held together by two strong narrative strands, sublime film-making and astute editing. It is a provocative study of the addictive power of love; a masterpiece of modern film-making.

Catch it now at the Showroom Cinema