Café de Flore (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
January 22, 2014 by Dennis Amith
For those who take the time to watch this film thoroughly and think about the characters and their relationship and how the timelines correspond with each other, you realize that “Café de Flore” is no doubt a wonderful film. “Café de Flore” is highly recommended!
© 2012 Adopt films. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: Café de Flore
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 120 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Color, 16:19, Stereo, French Dolby Digital Stereo with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Adopt Films
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2014
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by Jean-Marc Vallée
Producer: Pierre Even, Marie-Claude Pulin
Co-Producer: Nicolas Coppermann, Vanessa Fourgeaud, Jean-Yves Robin, Jean-Marc Vallee
Cinematography by Pierre Cottereau
Casting by Constance Demontoy
Production Design by Patrice Vermette
Set Decoration by Flroence Babin-Beaudry, Genevieve Burt, Guillaume Bedard, Nicolas Clouatre, Helene Dubreuil, Julien Fallu, Sylvain Fyfe, Jay Lavigne, Luc Poirier
Costume Design by Ginette Magny, Emmanuelle Youchnovski
Vanessa Paradis as Jacqueline
Kevin Parent as Antoine Godin
Helene Florent as Carole
Evelyne Brochu as Rose
Marin Gerrier as Laurent
Alice Dubois as Veronique
Evelyn de la Cheneliere as Amelie
Michel Dumont as Julien Godin
Linda Smith as Louise Godin
Joanny Corbeil-Picher as Juliette
Rosalie Fortier as Angeline
In 1960s Paris, a working class woman gives birth to her first child, Laurent a Down Syndrome son. Undaunted she embraces the challenge of raising her beloved offspring as normally as one would any other child. Her husband abandons them both. She bravely brushes this additional hiccup aside as Laurent replaces her spouse as the perfect man of her dreams. As Laurent approaches school age Jacqueline’s aplomb becomes obsessive and cloying. Her increasingly self-destructive attachment to her son is raised to a fever pitch when, at the age of seven, he meets a Down Syndrome girl (Veronique) and experiences his first crush. His sudden desire for independence, and his attraction to Vera, are the catalysts that transform Jacqueline from a loving mother into something resembling a lover scorned. What emerges is a love triangle of potentially tragic proportions.
In 21st century Montreal, a forty year old divorcee, Carole, is trying to restart her life after her divorce, two years earlier, from Antoine, a devastatingly handsome, successful touring DJ. Soul mates who’ve been a couple since the age of fifteen, their divorce is a schism that might prove impossible for either of them to put in the past. Making the transition even more difficult for Carole is the fact that her two daughters, one teen, one tween, are about to gain a stepmother, a stunningly beautiful, heartbreaking blonde, a woman about to ”steal” away the perfect man of her dreams. The young girls are being cruelly pulled in two different directions, Antoine’s father, a recovering alcoholic, seems to side with his ex-daughter-in-law, and Carole is succumbing to fits of depression and potentially dangerous bouts of sleepwalking. What emerges is a love triangle of potentially tragic proportions.
From Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”, “The Young Victoria”, “C.R.A.Z.Y.”) comes his 2011 film “Café de Flore”.
Considered by some as a Vallée masterpiece and considered by others as too surreal for one’s tastes, a dazzling film that will no doubt make you think about the film’s plot, will make you want to rewatch the film a number of times.
And now, “Café de Flore” will be released in the United States courtesy of Adopt Films.
“Café de Flore” begins by introducing us to Antoine (portrayed by Kevin Parent), who is out at a family outing with his girlfriend Rose (portrayed by Evelyne Brochu) and his two children, Julien (portrayed by Michel Dumont) and Louise (portrayed by Linda Smith).
Antoine is a successful DJ and is traveling the world, and while leaving his family at the airport, we see him passing by a group of mentally disabled children.
The story then shifts to 1960’s Paris. We are introduced to Jacqueline (portrayed by Vanessa Paradis), a loving mother to her mentally disabled son Laurent (portrayed by Marin Gerrier). We learn that Jacqueline raised her son alone, her boyfriend leaving them because he didn’t want to be a father to a child that was mentally disabled.
But Jacqueline’s approach to her son was that Down’s Syndrome was a medical condition that Laurent can eventually get better. Very protective of her son, her life is Laurent. While working as a hair stylist at a salon, she is often trying to take care of Laurent and making sure he does well at school.
Meanwhile, back in modern-day Montreal, we see Antoine talking to his psychiatrist and learn about his divorce with Carole (portrayed by Helene Florent). Carole was his childhood love and both grew and as Carole has been a loving mother to their two daughters, Antoine, being a famous DJ, starts to fall for the younger, beautiful Rose and eventually leaves his wife to be with Rose.
The film takes us to how the two met but also how his children are dealing with the divorce and their father’s new girlfriend.
As for Carole, she appears to be the connection to both Antoine and Jacqueline’s story.
Carole is very spiritual and believes that Antoine is her one true love, her soul mate and they are two flames. A couple since they were teenagers, her life is in a tailspin after Antoine left her for another woman.
And lately, she has been unable to sleep and her life has been destroyed without Antoine. She begins having these nightmares, but in these nightmares, she sees a mentally disabled child. What is that supposed to mean?
As Antoine wants to move further with his life with Rose, not caring if he hurts his family (who loved Carole as their daughter-in-law), who are not so accepting of the new woman in his life, he wants to marry her. As for Rose, she wants to get married but believes that her Antoine is soulmate.
In 1960’s Paris, Jacqueline becomes shocked when a girl in class with Down’s Syndrome named Veronique (portrayed by Alice Dubois) and her son Laurent, at 7-years-old, become in love. They want to be at each other’s side permanently, which causes Jacqueline some anger and is disturbed that her son has now put this other girl as priority over his mother?
What is the connection of both stories, from two different time lines?
A film that each person will have their own interpretation of what is the true meaning behind the stories, “Café de Flore” is a film that takes experiences by filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée and leaves it to the viewer to come up with their own interpretation.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Café de Flore” is presented in 16:9. While the film received a Blu-ray release in Europe, unfortunately for now, it will only be released on DVD in the U.S.
While outdoor scenes look good on DVD, but certain night time or low-light scenes tend to have quite a bit of compression that you can see clearly. It gets a little messy at times but for the most part, the movie looks good, but I do wish the film received a Blu-ray release.
“Café de Flore” comes with no special features.
When I first watched “Café de Flore”, the first thing that stood out for me about Jean-Marc Vallée’s film is how the film employs many cuts.
To quickly show the life of each person, we are given various short cuts of different duration. For example, for Antoine, may he be listening to music, dancing in his hotel room, looking at Rose, looking at his children, doing a DJ gig in some part of the country. The approach to how these characters are presented was creative, stylish in many ways but for the most part, establishing the livelihoods of each of these individuals.
From their past to their present, how a happily married man got divorced, how a wife lost her soul mate and how a loving mother of a 7-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, lost her son, despite his age, fell in love with a girl who also has Down’s Syndrome.
The presentation of the film is well-done and I like the various shifts in storyline. Some may find it a bit too jarring and non-formulaic but for me, I enjoyed this fresh presentation by Jean-Marc Vallée.
But the film’s strength which those who are familiar with surreal films versus those who despise surreal films or films that are not straightforward, will enjoy the fact that there is quite a bit of symbolism employed, but also a lot of interesting situations which people have debated about online. Is the film about reincarnation? Is it about one dealing with their own personal coping mechanism?
If anything, the film will have each viewer coming up with their own interpretation depending on your perspective of the film or its characters. And just when you think you know what is going on, then comes a photograph right at the end of the film that may surprise you. And just when you think that was the end, another visual image shows up at the end before the ending credits.
And once again, everyone will have their own opinion of what these images mean.
I won’t get into my feelings about what I think the connection is between each of these individuals but I will say that “Café de Flore” was rather bold.
Typically, when one storyline is about soulmates, may it be finding your soulmate or having found your soulmate, how perhaps that concept that was held when was younger, changes as one becomes older and then it becomes the conundrum within realist vs. idealist.
For Antoine, his relationship with Carole when they were teenagers were pretty much sex, drugs and rock n’ roll (music). As they became older, she held onto the believe they were soul mates but as a popular, successful DJ, there’s no doubt that Antoine lived a rock star life and had his opportunities to mess around. And of course, which led to his relationship with Rose.
The performance by Kevin Parent and Evelyne Brochu felt natural, while Helene Florent’s performance as Carole, was magnificent yet painful. Carole’s life is nothing but painful since her divorce and the look of anguish on her face while sleepwalking, looks as if she is being tormented and the fact that she has nightmares of mentally disabled child and Antoine was rather fascinating.
Which brings us to Vanessa Paradis, the singer and actress who gives one hell of a performance as Jacqueline, overly-protective mother of her son Laurent, who has Down Syndrome. Because her scenes are from the 1960’s, the way people view her and her child, as if they are abnormal. So much to the point that she has to let it out and scream!
But it’s seeing this mother turning to something different, when her son falls for Veronique, another girl who has Down’s Syndrome and they become inseparable. Jacqueline begins to feel insecure and possibly jealous that her 7-year-old son, no longer sees mom as her #1 person in the world.
How these two timelines intertwine is rather fascinating, so much that I watched the film three times in a day, because I enjoyed it and each time, I discovered something new.
As for the DVD release, while I wish there was a Blu-ray release of “Café de Flore”, similar to what our European counterparts have received. I would love to have watched this film in HD but as for the DVD, picture quality is OK but there is quite a bit of compression during low-light scenes. Audio is in Dolby Digital stereo.
Unfortunately, we get a barebones DVD from Adopt Films. No trailer, no featurette, no audio commentary, nothing.
While filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée is earning a lot of praise for his Academy Award nominated film “Dallas Buyers Club”, one should still watch his film “Café de Flore”. Is it a masterpiece? Of course, it’s a film that will be subjective, because not everyone will understand it. But for those who take the time to watch this film thoroughly and think about the characters and their relationship and how the timelines correspond with each other, you realize that “Café de Flore” is no doubt a wonderful film.
“Café de Flore” is highly recommended!
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