ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT FILMORIA
In 1960s Paris, mother’s love for her son transcends disability and opposition. In modern day Montreal, a man struggles with the break up of a previous relationship and how it still affects his current one.
Café De Flore is an odd beast of a movie; throughout the running time, the stories switch from past to present, from female to male. While the stories are linked through the theme of love and obsession, it is sometimes difficult to discover what the film is trying to say.
First, we are introduced to Antoine (Kevin Parent), a successful club DJ whose relationship with his new girlfriend is passionate, but is sending his ex-wife Carole (Heléne Florent) into chaos. Carole sleepwalks and silently screams, and has Antoine’s relationship with his children disintegrates; he remembers the beginning of his relationship with Carole, and the moment he first saw Rose. This is an interesting story, as the end of a relationship is never as simple as the beginning. Much of the story is told through music and montage – which makes sense given Antoine’s profession. There is something warm and gentle about Antoine’s story, even though he believes that his life is slowly falling apart, but when he opens up with the people around him, he is inviting and charming. That said, Antoine’s relationship with Rose feels like that of obsession; these are two people who are incapable of living without one another, no matter what the consequences are.
In contrast to this, the story from 1960s Paris is that of Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) and her relationship with her son, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome. Jacqueline is so used to only having her son in her life, that when he strikes up a friendship with a girl at school she becomes irrational and jealous. The relationship descends into an argument between a woman, and a child who could not possibly understand her jealousy.
For most of the film, Café De Flore feels like two very separate films that are only united through music. Every time the film jumps between stories, the audience is jarred, and any empathy of involvement created with the characters is lost as they struggle to remember what is happening in the other story. Each part of the film has a valuable message, relatable characters and aesthetic value, but the audience may spend much of the time wondering why these stories were combined to begin with. By the time the resolution happens, and the link between the stories is explained, it feels too thin and forced for it to be satisfactory.
In all, Café De Flore is the confusing mix of two incredibly different stories. Each of the stories has its merits, but the combination of the two is sometimes bewildering. There are moments of great beauty through the film, not least the use of Svefn-G-Englar by Sigur Ros, but this is not enough to rescue the film from a bland and uninvolving conclusion.