Café de Flore

Café de Flore featured image

November 18, 2011
Reviewed by Marc Glassman

Café de Flore
Jean-Marc Vallée, dir. & script
Starring: Vanessa Paradis (Jacqueline), Kevin Parent (Antoine Godin), Helene Florent (Carole), Evelyne Brochu (Rose), Joanny Corbeil-Picher (Juliette), Rosalie Fortier (Angeline), Evelyne de la Cheneliere (Amelie)

The buzz:
Vallée is one of the hottest directors in Canada: his film C.R.A.Z.Y. won 11 Genies and was a national box-office hit and his English language follow-up Young Victoria, which starred Emily Blunt and including a fine cast of character actors, did very well internationally.
It’s safe to say that the Canadian film industry is rooting for this film to be a hit.

The genres:
Romance, mystery, supernatural thriller

The plot:
There are two stories that only come together in the final scenes.

In contemporary Montreal, Antoine, a very hot DJ, is completely in love with his girlfriend, Rose. His daughters, estranged wife Carole and parents are bitter and angry over the affair. Antoine’s older daughter taunts him by playing “Café de Flore,” the song that defined her parents’ love, whenever she can.

In 1969, Jacqueline, a single mother living in Paris, is determinedly raising her son Laurent, who has Down syndrome. The two love each other deeply and, in a way, all is fine until a new girl arrives at the care centre where Laurent goes every day. The two fall deeply in love, driving Jacqueline into deep despair. All she can think about is the love her boy used to express only to her, especially when he played on the phonograph the hit record “Café de Flore.”

But this is also a tale of reincarnation. Carole has intense dreams that bring her back to Jacqueline’s story. How are the two related? And when will tragedy strike these two tales of—admittedly very curious—menage-a-trois?

The performances:
Attention will be spent on Vanessa Paradis, the French singer and actress who has had a long-term relationship with Johnny Depp. She’s fine in a de-glamorized role as Jacqueline. Others are good, too, but the only standout—apart from Paradis—is Kevin Parent who truly gives depth to the character of Antoine.

The direction:
Superb. Vallée paces the film brilliantly and always knows where to place the camera. The actors are fine and act “en famille;” they seem to know each other very well.

The skinny:
That darned reincarnation plot, which pulls the two stories together, is going to limit this film’s box-office appeal. Bold prediction: audiences won’t “get” reincarnation and will dismiss the film. Too bad—it’s worth seeing.

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