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aka - Cafe De Flore
Canada 2011
Directed by
Jean-Marc Vallee
120 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Cafe De Flore

Synopsis: In present-day Montreal, globe-trotting DJ, Antoine (Kevin Parent) has a gorgeous girlfriend (Evelyne Brochu) and shares custody of his two daughters whilst remaining on good terms with his ex-wife Carole (Hélène Florent), who still desperately loves him. And in Paris in 1969, single mother Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) lives in a small apartment with her son, Laurent, a Down Syndrome child on whom she lavishes her love.

We all at times are given to ponder the strangeness of life and wonder whether there is any meaning behind the veil of appearances. It is a tendency more suited to European film-makers such Krzysztof Kieslowski in The Double Life Of Véronique rather than their Hollywood equivalents who, as with Vincent Ward's What Dreams May Come (1998), tend to the mawkish. Whichever way it goes it’s not an easy area to tackle.

Jean-Marc Vallée deserves marks for trying with this ambitious and impressively well-made film although he falls somewhere between the two poles. The strength of his film is its European sophistication, its weakness its tendency to tidy Tinseltown resolution.

Café De Flore is a relatively oblique film which flips back and forth between its two narrative strands seemingly at will and adding to the disorientation using flashbacks within each segment. For most of the running time the only apparent link between the two time frames is the song which gives the film its title. As with Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005), music is the bearer of trans-temporal significance. Some will find following this hard work but the quality of film-making is high and for some the non-linearity will be a welcome change.

Where this is all heading is far from clear until about 20 minutes from the end when Vallée folds one timeline into the other. It is at this point that some may lose sympathy with the New Age wooliness of Vallée's story. The writer-director covers his back by having one of the character's voice the sceptic's point of view but essentially he presses on with his argument, leading to a denouement which will be, even for those sympathetic so far, a little too glib.




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