Title CAFÉ DE FLORE
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Screenwriter: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Hélène Florent, Evelyne Brochu, Marin Gerrier, Alice Dubois, Evelyne de la Cheneliere, Michel Dumont, Linda Smith, Joanny Corbeil-Picher
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 10/16/12
Opens: November 2, 2012
We’re all connected, whether within six degrees of separation or throughout history—the latter point being made in a most pretentious manner by this year’s film “Cloud Atlas.” Thankfully, “Café de Flore” takes only two hours, shaving 54 minutes from “Cloud Atlas,” but Jean-Marc Vallée is just as eager to trot out his film as one that’s almost as arty. That is to say, “Café de Flore,” in trying to show that we’re all connected, links two families that are related in only the most tangential ways.
Director Valleé’s 2005 film “C.R.A.Z.Y” deals with two love affairs—a father’s love for his five sons and one son’s love for his father that compels the young man to live a lie—takes place over a twenty year period. “Café de Flore is similar in contrasting time periods in that one family lives in Paris during the 1960s while another goes about its activities in modern-day Montréal. It takes quite a bit of time for the audience to catch the connect, particularly given the way Pierre Cottereau’s camera provides a dizzying array of match-cuts, leaping from Paris to Montréal. But ultimately, when we do find out what the two groups have in common, we wonder whether the similarity shows them to be connected except by a leap of faith.
In Montréal, Antoine (Kevin parent), a forty-something DJ with an array of almost worshipping fans, had been living with his wife, Carole (Hélène Florent) and two daughters (Joanny Corbeil-Picher, Rosalie Fortier) but post-divorce he has now bonded with the beautiful and much younger Rose (Evelyne Brochu). By contrast, Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) lives in a Paris walk-up barely making do as a hairdresser. Her husband had deserted her when she refused to send their just-born son Laurent (Marin Gerrier) to a institution for children with Down Syndrome. Given the differences in economic standing, the Paris portion is photographed as a gloomy environment while the Montréal digs are shown with clear lensing.
While Jacqueline is devoting her life to her seven-year-old son, betting that she can allow him to beat the odds (those with Down Syndrome are said to have a life expectancy averaging 25 years), she is shattered when the boy develops a huge crush on Véro (Alice Dubois), a classmate with the same affliction—to such an extent that she can barely pull them apart when they hug. She likewise has a difficult time keeping him at home when all he wants to do is get back to his Véro. In a similar manner, Carole, now divorced from her handsome husband, appears to have second thoughts about the dissolution of their marriage when he finds him bonded with Rose.
The acting is spot-on, particularly by Marin Gerrier as Jacqueline’s devoted seven-year-old son who has transferred some of his affections to someone his own age. The soundtrack is great, featuring songs like Café de flore and Speak to Me. But the confusing cuts and the tangential nature of the connection work against the film’s success.
Unrated. 120 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – C+