In a box office filled with teenaged blood suckers, the second coming of feet that are happy, and finallies to stoner comedies, it’s pretty obvious that Hollywood is in a season of creative draught. That’s why when I went to see Café de Flore (2011) in an nearly empty theatre (the only other patrons being senior citizens) I was glad to be reminded that hope for creativity, in this industry that seems to be interested only to sequels and spin-offs, is still alive and kicking up here in the north. Café is the latest from Quebecoise director turned filmic DJ Jean-Marc Vallèe, who returns to his specific brand of musically driven filmmaking that gathered the worlds’ attention in 2005 with his earlier release C.R.A.Z.Y. Now six years later, Café shows that Valle’s passion for mixing stunning imagery and philosophical flare hasn’t wavered a bit.
Café omnisciently traverses through the trajectory of three different story lines, often shifting terrains in a ghostly fashion, alternating between various time periods and events that are shown in a manner that wilfully disorients. Vallèe is no stranger to having his films span over the course of a lifetime, but this film dashes routine story telling aside in search of a style that is surprisingly more mature than his past work. Café tells the story of middle aged DJ Antoine Godin (Kevin Parent) who after leaving his wife of twenty years for his considerably younger mistress Rose (Evelyne Brochu), feels that his life is incomplete. Meanwhile Antoine’s ex-wife (Hélène Florent) is deeply troubled by their divorce and starts to have terrifying nightmares in which what she calls a ‘little monster’ haunts her. Throw in the other plot about how a strong willed single mother named Jacqueline (Venessa Paradis) whose determination for her mollycoddled Down Syndrome son (Lucas Bonin) to have a ‘normal’ life becomes a psychotic obsession, and you have your hands full with this plot. Café makes us work at every twist and turn of the story, and in the process of our connecting the dots Vallèe delivers his own doctrine about the enduringly trangressive nature of love and the odyssey of human existence. With this said, Café isn’t a film for everyone, but for those who can deal with the film’s brainteaser style, a true reward is to be had.
In Café, Vallèe maximizes on the use of nostalgic songs where most directors who overuse cinematic musical scenes (Zack Snyder ahem) fall incomparably short. Vallèe enlists some big name sounds (Sugar Ros, Pink Floyd, The Cure) in an effort that helps to translate the film’s moods and thoughts into smooth crystalline scenes. Café asks us: how does one show the multifaceted nature of human relationships and co-dependency? Vallèe’s answer of course: with stark visions and a damn good soundtrack. Oh and I know it’s not ‘cool’ to do this anymore, but without giving too much away this is a film that you will want to sit through the credits for because there’s a real pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.