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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Cafe de Flore

Two seemingly distinct stories about love join together in the most surprising of ways in this French film starring Vanessa Paradis.
By Tara Rivkin
April 22, 2012
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By Tara Rivkin
April 22, 2012
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French Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee is famed for masterfully ingraining music into his films. The name of his most recent work comes from the chill out song 'Cafe de Flore' by Matthew Herbert, a song that holds extreme resonance for the characters, connecting them across time and place. The music in the film — dominated by the otherworldly Sigur Ros with a smattering of electro, pop and dance in between — is not merely decorative or utilised to invoke emotion; rather, it galvanises people in the most intense of ways and serves to remind them of the tragedy of love lost. In the world of Vallee's characters, music is life altering and transcendent, a profound expression and experience of love.

Vallee presents us with two seemingly distinct stories, tales that will be joined at the end in the most surprising of ways. In modern-day Montreal, DJ Antoine (Kevin Parent) is deeply in love with his partner, Rose (Evelyne Brochu), but is emotionally displaced by his ineffable connection to his teenage sweetheart and ex-wife Carole (Helene Florent), the mother of his two children. Antoine questions during the film how one can have two soul mates in a lifetime. "If it's a soul mate," he asks, "it's not supposed to end, right?" Carole, in turn, is haunted by the disappearance of a love she thought was "written in the stars".

The other story, set in an unspectacular Paris of browns and greys in 1969, follows Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) and her obsessive devotion to her son, Laurent (Marin Gerrier), who has Down syndrome, along with his fervent attachment to a little girl also with Down Syndrome called Veronique (Alice Dubois). How the two stories converge will be divisive for audiences — some will be in awe of the magnitude of it all while some will walk out and roll their eyes.

I was unfortunately in the latter camp. The final revelation let Cafe de Flore down in my opinion, but it didn't take away from the beauty of it as a whole. The film has a hypnotic quality that truly entrances. The use of photos of times past; stunning, ethereal visuals; and the inclusion of scenes showing Antoine and Carole as teenagers bound by love and a shared passion for music infuse the film with a sense of nostalgia and history that renders it dreamlike and sad. It won't be to everyone's taste, but if you appreciate good music and a complex, interesting story, then this might have something for you.

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