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"If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it's yours
forever. If it doesn't, it wasn't meant to be." Anonymous
Love is about holding on to someone, but it is also about knowing when to let go. This theme defines Jean-Marc Vallée's Café de flore, his second film since the 2005 hit C.R.A.Z.Y., and one of the most poignant films in recent memory. Not only does Café de flore repeat Vallée's earlier success, but goes far beyond it in its extraordinary ability to capture the intensity of deeply-felt human emotion. The title refers not to the famous Paris café, but to a jazzy song with the same name that serves as a connection between each of the film's two parallel stories. In addition to the title song, music plays a large role in the film as it did in C.R.A.Z.Y. with songs from Pink Floyd, Sigur Rós, and The Cure supporting key points in the narrative.
Unfolding with a non-linear script that includes multiple flashbacks, flash-forwards, and cross-cutting, the stories take place in two time periods over forty years apart. In the present day, Antoine (Kevin Parent) is a well-to-do middle-aged disc jockey who lives in a suburban home with his partner Rose (Evelyne Brochu) and his two daughters from a former marriage (Joanny Corbeil-Picher, Rosalie Fortier). Everything looks wonderful on the surface except that Antoine is visiting a psychiatrist to handle his feelings about what he feels is betrayal of his family. Antoine's first wife Carole (Hélène Florent) is distraught and yearns for reconciliation with the man she has always thought of as her soul mate since they came together as teenagers out of a shared love of music.
Carole is urged by friends to let go of Antoine and move on, but she is obsessed with getting him back, telling her friend, "I've never kissed another man." She takes drugs to help her sleep, sleepwalks in the middle of the night, and has dreams and waking visions of a strange woman in Paris many years ago experiencing a similar pain in her relationship. To help her understand her visions, Carole visits a spiritual adviser who tells her that her dreams are not a coincidence. The parallel story is set in Paris in 1969, Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis), a single mother cares for her young son Laurent (Lucas Bonin) who was born with Down's syndrome. She was abandoned by her husband after Laurent's birth because he did not want to be a "missionary."
Jacqueline is a devoted mother, showering her son with love, and intending to ensure that he lives past the norm of twenty-five years for a person with his condition. When she enrolls him in a normal school, she constantly protects him from bullies and also from teachers who are not willing or able to deal with him. Jacqueline wants to train Laurent to defend himself by learning how to box but, when he rebels at the idea, she teaches him to strike back through words which he uses to peak efficiency at the right moment.
When Laurent is seven, he develops a close attachment to Veronique, another Down's syndrome child, an attachment that threatens his mother's obsessive protection and leads to an unforeseen turn in their relationship. Café de flore is a passionately performed and spiritually resonant film, one of the best I've seen this year. Reminiscent of Terence Malick's Tree of Life with its voice-overs reflecting the inner thoughts of the characters, it is a haunting experience and the mystical connection between its two stories will keep you in a Donnie Darko-like state of puzzlement long into the night and beyond.
Firstly, disregard the two previous reviews, for they are both negative
and underrate a great film. 'Cafe de Flore' is not quite for everyone,
which I can understand. However if you truly want to see this film,
ignore other opinions, otherwise you will miss out on a potential Oscar
There are two separate stories occurring. One is about a woman in the 1960s (Paradis) who has to raise her son on her own, because he has Down's syndrome. The other is about a music jockey named Antoine (Parent) who is ready to marry again despite the bond he shares with his ex-wife, who was also his first love. His eldest daughter purposely plays certain songs which remind him of their marriage, since the central idea is how music recalls certain memories. Every time a certain song is heard in the background, one is bound to step inside the characters memories.
The other story is the beauty of a mother-son relationship. Paradis is genuine in this role, especially being a real-life mother herself. Her makeup ages her to portray her role well. We see how she encourages her boy to learn despite his disabilities. Remember, this was an era where children like him were discriminated and often sent to institutions.
'Cafe de Flore' is truly a story about the power of love. You have to follow closely, therefore if easily distracted the flashbacks may confuse you. The constant repetition of Pink Floyd, which was also a signature band for Jean-Marc Vallee's 'C.R.A.Z.Y.', is synchronized to perfection. The visuals and acting performances are moving, as the film unfolds by layer, to at last reveal how both stories are connected.
If you can make the leap of faith required in the final portion of the movie, this is a beautiful, haunting work that will stay with you long after you have left the theater. There is no question that this movie asks a lot of one's suspension of disbelief. But I think that movie goers should give it the benefit of a doubt. This is a very unconventional love story, and it may be the most thoughtful movie every made about the idea that one person can be another person's soul mate. The tension of course arises when what does one do when one finds a deeper, more meaningful soul mate. This is a complex work with a totally different way of investigating its romantic themes. It uses music beautifully as a thread that joins elements of the film together, binding emotional themes together and providing transitions between the two stories that it tells. I can't think of another movie that finds such an unique approach to telling its tale.It is also the best Canadian film that I have seen in years. One of the very best movies of the year.
(Read the full review at nickplusmovies.blogspot.com)
Jean-Marc Vallée returns to his beloved Québécois roots with his latest work, "Café de flore", one of the many films that screened at TIFF back in September (and that I was lucky enough to see). The story is composed of two interwoven narratives that-- only at first glance-- seem completely unrelated to one another.
The first story is set in present-day Montreal and centers on a recently divorced father of two girls, Antoine Godin (Kevin Parent), who leads a successful life as a professional DJ. Despite having found true happiness in his relationship with his girlfriend Rose (Evelyne Brochu), he feels a little remorseful for having left his ex-wife Carole (Hélène Florent), for whom he still cares deeply. Antoine understands that she continues struggling to move on with her life, heartbroken. And to make the situation in which they find themselves even more difficult, their eldest daughter persistently plays their nostalgic love song with hopes of reuniting her parents.
The second story is set in Paris in 1969 and focuses on Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis), a self-sufficient, loving single mother who becomes the embodiment of perseverance and selflessness as she promises to devote herself both physically and spiritually to her son Laurent, who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. She spends every minute of spare time with her beloved young boy with the goal to elongate his limited life expectancy. One day, when Laurent begins to be infatuated by Véronique, a new girl in his class-- who, incidentally, also has Down syndrome-- Jacqueline is struck by an overwhelming feeling as she fears that her inseparable bond with the only person she loves will be be lost with time.
Up until the very end of the film, it seems like the only link between both stories is the music the characters listen to (the jazz album "Café de flore" appears in the second story while a certain remix is featured in the first one), but as we progress further into this mystical mystery, we learn that there is something much deeper tying together the characters and their stories of love and loss.
Knowing that "Café de flore" would be composed of intertwined stories, I was initially a little reluctant to seeing it and very worried that its structure would collapse within the first few minutes of the film. To my pleasant surprise, this modern approach to storytelling proved to be ultimately rewarding. I believe credit is due to the film editor, who is-- believe it or not-- Jean-Marc Vallée, again. It's nice to hear that he had control of almost every visual aspect of his own work of art. With Vallée's perfectly orchestrated editing, the audience is able to follow the story without ever sensing an abrupt switch between story lines. In the film's entirety, not once did I feel that some scenes were fragmented or disjointed from others. Vallée always progresses deeper into his creation by carefully and seamlessly shifting between narratives just at the right time, creating a smooth, fluid tempo. Briefly, everything flows like a river.
Just like in "C.R.A.Z.Y.", music is a vital element to this film. Jean- Marc Vallée selects many tunes with ethereal, ambient qualities to match the profound thoughts and feelings of all the characters. While he features some more Pink Floyd ("Speak to Me/Breathe"), he makes of Sigur Ros's "Svefn-g-englar" the film's most haunting musical piece-- by far.
There are far too many impressive performances in "Café de flore" to name. Vallée must be what one would call an "actor's director", because he seems to continuously squeeze out the most confident, natural performances from all of his actors-- young or old-- in order to achieve his goal to craft a realistic family drama. He even went to the lengths of finding two children who have Down syndrome in real life for the roles of Laurent and Véronique (these are two "performances" that will make your jaw drop). This is proof of his everlasting adherence to realism as a filmmaker.
In sum, "Café de flore" is a sensual, deeply touching chef-d'oeuvre that will have you shivering every minute in pure emotional awe. It never comes across as overly sentimental, but rather genuinely heartfelt. I can't recall the last time I found myself on the verge of tears while simultaneously smiling at the bittersweet beauty of a film. Come to think of it, there isn't a single movie from 2011 that I could recommend seeing more than this one. I believe it's an essential viewing for anyone who has felt the most fundamental of human emotions. (That means you... I hope)
Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I usually dislike indie films and their lack
of plot (Las Acacias) or often, even endings.
This was a real movie, about real emotions, and really imperfect individuals. Beautiful energy as added with the music, the emotions were aptly and strongly felt with its aid.
The subplot of past lives makes one wonder whether or not one believes in it, and if so how much? Just breathtaking. Even if you don't love it as much as I do, it is a worthy film worth viewing and giving an open hearted chance to. Who knows? You might be moved, you hard nosed cynicist, you :)
All i can say is that I loved this film. Just saw it last night. it's a challenging, intriguing, mesmerizing, intoxicating look at love through two intertwined, overlapping stories -- set in past and present and both in different time periods -- about a man going through a divorce and the mother of a down's syndrome child. You can't explain it. You have to experience it. And whether you believe in past lives or not (i don't and the director says he doesn't either), you will go on an unsettling emotional journey watching this visually stunning, amazingly acted movie. Vanessa Paradis is heartbreaking and almost unrecognizable. The addictive Cafe de Flore music inspired the director to write, direct and edit this film himself. The score is modern, mind-blowing but also includes some classic rock, including some from Pink Floyd.
I scared myself when I cried with the Sigur Ros song in the film, out
of blue, in the dark cinema with only 3 other strange people there.
This is a film about dream and love, and what are you supposed to do if your dream is all about the one you love, and what if you spend all your life protecting a dream that never meant to belong to you. This is the question in front of Jacqueline and Carole. After all, having a dream that connected to human beings is a dangerous thing to do.
Using two parallel story lines is no more a novelty in film making. Yet the film does not give us much information on the relation between the two very different storiesa single mother, Jacqueline, with her Down's syndrome son, Laurent, in 1960s and a couple (Carole and Antonio) facing betrayal and the sequential mental stress today. The only correlations between them are Carole's strange dreams and "Cafe de Flore"the songs with the same name that people from two spaces and times happened to play. Two and a half hours is a long duration for an independent art film, and in most of the time, these two stories are separately told, slowly and beautifully, and I thought maybe that's it, there would be no overlap between the two stories, until Carole figured out her connection with the mother and son from the last life.
I watched Cafe de Flore by myself in a small cinema in the suburb of London. Tranquillity is all you need when encountering a beautiful film like this. Crying like a baby in the cinema, I had to sit there for a while until the film credits finished in order to give myself some time to look normal before going out. And the film is such a great comfort for some reason, it's cathartic.
The original soundtrack is another important reason to make the film so moving. Interestingly, Sigur Ros's music video svefn-g-englar featured with Down's syndrome dancers, could be the initial inspiration of Cafe de Flore?
IMHO there are two categories of movies: the ones that impress me when I see it, like Hollywood blockbusters which shock me with stunning visual effects, or action scenes, or dramas. There is another category, that don't produce much of an impression when I see it, I get even bored wondering myself why did I pay the ticket for it. But.. suddenly after a couple of hours, or days, they become alive inside me and haunt me after. "Cafe De Flore" is one of those! It doesn't have a story to tell, it is pure art. The authors plant a seed that is intended to grow inside the viewer. It doesn't try to convince you of anything, doesn't draw a conclusion in the end, just places frame after frame and leave the interpretation to you. I would rate it 8 out of 10. regards, Andrei
This film is simply beautiful.
It's not complicated. It is simply a movie about love. The images are beautiful and the actors are beautiful. The story line is just there to weave from one example of love to another. It (the movie) caresses many facets and types of love.
I stopped trying to understand what anything meant about 5 minute into the movie. I just went along for the ride. I found the movie touching - a good reminder of what life is all about.
I highly recommend it. It's a great way to pass a few hours in the presence of beautiful emotions and images.
Cafe de Flore proposes two somewhat strange parallel story lines, that of a single mother of a Down's Syndrome boy in 1960's Paris, alongside that of a narcissistic professional DJ living in modern day Montreal, Canada. Throughout the film I expected these two disparate stories to somehow meet in some tangible form, but this part of the film remains a bit of a mystery... perhaps staying in some kind of spiritual realm. That aspect of the film is somewhat confusing, and may be a bit off-putting to many viewers. I thought it a bit strange, but overall I think this is a great film. Even though this parallel story line is pretty bizarre, the filming, especially the Paris scenes, are superb, the acting is great, and the connection between mother and son is incredible. I thought the character of the young Down's syndrome girl could have been fleshed out a bit more, but apart from that its a very watchable film with great music and well crafted performances. Nice work.
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