By Hemanth Kissoon
“What makes you leave one soulmate for another?” Therapist to Antoine.
A pulsating soundtrack. Dual narratives. Stylish dramatization. This was so close to being great, but writer-director Jean-Marc Vallée fluffed the ending. CAFÉ DE FLORE shares the same dizzying heights and frustrating climax like his earlier C.R.A.Z.Y. Both ended feeling like the ideas were being repeated, almost hammered home; and a sense that there lacked a conviction of how the narratives should be wound up. A shame, as the rest of the works are so compelling.
Montreal 2011 and Paris 1969. Two stories unfold. The modern one follows a hipster DJ, Antoine, who has left his wife, Carole, a woman he has been with his entire dating life and thought of as his soulmate. He is now with Rose, and is described by the narrator as someone who “radiates happiness from every pore”. The late 60s/early70s plot is concerned with Vanessa Paradis’ Jacqueline and the relationship with her disabled son Laurent.
Vallée, director of photography Pierre Cottereau, and the editing, make it all so fluid, engaging and very sexy where necessary. Like Scorsese and Tarantino, Vallée has a real ear for song selection and placement.
Part of the enjoyment is wondering how the two timelines will merge, if at all:
- Is one meant to be fictional and the other real?
- Does a character grow up from one to the other?
- Are they just meant to be compared and contrasted but not linked?
The twist/revelation was unforeseen, frustrating and unsatisfying. The choice made just didn’t do it for me. The atmosphere though is nailed.