Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Best of Black Sheep: CAFE DE FLORE

Written and Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Helene Florent and Evelyne Brochu

When it comes to love, sometimes it feels as if there are greater forces at work and that we have no control over who we’re drawn to or how deeply we can feel. For some, a love as untamable as this is often considered to be destiny, as if it were written in the stars long before we were ever born. This sense of romance intertwined with fate runs rampant if Quebec filmmaker, Jean-Marc Vallée’s latest feature, CAFE DE FLORE, a love story that needs more than one lifetime in order to work itself out.

With CAFE DE FLORE, Vallée finds a voice as a director he seemed to have lost in his last outing, THE YOUNG VICTORIA. While the period piece was certainly beautiful and had its moments, it played out as, well, already played out. None of the urgency or energy Vallee created with his previous feature and biggest hit, C.R.A.Z.Y., was anywhere to be found. Perhaps it was a language thing because in returning to French language filmmaking again, Vallée is alive in all the choices he makes. And he would need to be on top of every moment in order to make this complex tale come off right. Vallée cuts back and forth between a present day Montreal romance involving a husband (Kevin Parent) who leaves the woman he’s been with since he was a teenager (Helene Florent) for another (Evelyne Brochu) and a complicated relationship between a mother (Vanessa Paradis) and her mentally challenged son (Marin Gerrier) taking place 50 years earlier in Paris.

Whether you enjoy CAFE DE FLORE or not will depend on whether you buy into the connection between these two plots. Vallée tells them both with great style; at times, the editing unspools like a record being mixed and scratched by a DJ, surely done to compliment the main character’s career as one. In fact, a general connection to music is a theme that runs throughout and ties characters together when nothing else is working.   Love itself, and the relationships that spring from it, is hard enough to figure out on its own and Vallée infuses this journey towards understanding into his storytelling. To his credit, Vallée inspires a fair amount of curiosity but the anticipation he builds throughout the film ends up being slightly more satisfying than the destination.

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