2011, Movies

Cafe de Flore (2011, Jean-Marc Vallee

This is one of those maddening movies that eschew conventional narratives but lack the visuals, editing or other techniques to make the lack of story compelling. That’s not to say there isn’t a narrative here – there are two – but it’s fractured to bits and the hooks the audience are given are character development (of characters we may not like) and an endless number of music cues (many of them set to Pink Floyd and a few set to one Sigur Ros song).


Add to this the element of mysticism, and you’ve pretty much lost me.

We have two different stories in two different times and places: we have a now-sober DJ who is struggling with leaving his wife even though he’s ostensibly very happy with his new girlfriend, and we have the parent of a child with down syndrome in Paris, 40 years earlier. The film jumps around an absolute ton, between these two times, and even back into the DJ’s past (so really, three different times). It’s deliberate and, at times, effective.

There are some individual moments of true poignancy, though often those moments are cut too early, as this is a highly stylized (i.e. highly edited) film.

This is one of those meditations as film, rather than a straight narrative. This film is a meditation on love and memory. But I’d be inclined to find it more compelling if it were more interesting visually (rather than occasionally interesting and mostly jarring or generic) but my real problem with the film is the phony spirituality that links the two stories together. Dramatizing the way we remember love (and the way we feel about particular loves) is one thing, and this film does an okay job of it, but we don’t need reincarnation to make sense of these feelings and memories. Honestly, I don’t know what reincarnation adds to these depictions. Maybe it would be idiosyncratic to just have these two stories with no connection – or a non-fantastical connection – but I think I would like the film more.

It’s thought-provoking anyway, even if it’s messy and unnecessarily mystical.



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