has the potential to be a collective experience, uniting people who are utterly
unaware of each other’s existence. One
swinging sixties lounge tune will connect characters of radically disparate
eras and temperaments in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Café
de Flore (trailer
here), which was to open this Friday in New York, but was bumped to the 9th, post-posting.
will be difficult for Jacqueline as a single working mother in 1967 Paris. Her husband walked out when their son Laurent
was born with Down-syndrome. Undaunted,
she will fiercely dedicate herself to her son, to an extent that might prove
too intense. Four decades later, Antoine
Godin seems to have it all. Blessed with
two healthy daughters and a blossoming career as a techno DJ, he ought to be
happy, but isn’t. Partly this is due to
his codependent ex-wife Carole, who resents his prospective fiancée Rose. He met the younger woman in AA, which is both
good and bad. In each storyline, a tune
called “Café de Flore” will persistently pop up.
rapidly cuts between the two narratives, unfolding them nearly
simultaneously. Viewers have to keep on
their toes, even though cinematographer Pierre Cottereau clearly delineates the
drab 1960’s from the high gloss of contemporary Montreal. Frankly, viewers will need to find their sea
legs during the first act, but the bravura work of Vallée, who served as his
own film editor and screenwriter, is worth the effort.
viewers will most likely be unprepared for Flore,
especially if they are familiar with Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y. and The Young
Victoria. While on the surface, the
critically over-lauded former film addressed similar themes of family
dysfunction, Flore takes a radical
turn into the metaphysical that would be spoilery to spell out in any great
detail. Nonetheless, Vallée develops it credibly
and organically. The title song, licensed
from British electronic DJ and occasional big band leader Matthew Herbert, also
travels nicely between the two time periods.
Paradis gives a career performance as Jacqueline. It is a complex and emotionally raw portrayal
that hits the audience with staggering force.
Though thoroughly de-glamorized, the face of Chanel is still quite a
striking presence. Bilingual indie-folk-rocker
Kevin Parent is also quite compellingly as Godin, but in a less showy way. Unfortunately, Hélène Florent is stuck with
the thankless story-facilitating role as the mopey Carole. However, there is an immediacy and
vulnerability to Évelyne Brochu’s Rose that is rather shocking.
Granted, Vallée is a name director, but Flore is still the surprise of the year. It is a deep, rich film with whiff of the
otherworldly (but in no way should it be considered a genre film). Assembled with genuine artistry, Café de Flore is highly recommended for
mainstream adult audiences when it opens next Friday (11/9) in New York at the
Angelika Film Center.
Labels: Canadian Cinema, Jean-Marc Vallee, Kevin Parent, Vanessa Paradis