Café de Flore
Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent and Hélène Florent
I have nothing against independent films and nothing against experimental films. I’m just saying that the combination of the two is generally disastrous. As sad as I am to admit it, Café de Flore is no exception.
The film cuts between two seemingly unrelated stories: one that follows DJ Antoine in present-day Montreal and another that focuses on Jacqueline, the struggling single mother of a child with Down’s syndrome in 1960s Paris. Antoine, “acted” by Kevin Parent, is torn between his feelings for his current girlfriend and his ex-wife. Jacqueline, the ever-exquisite Vanessa Paradis, is extremely protective of her child who has a crush on another child who also has Down’s.
I say that the stories are “seemingly” unconnected, because the editing and cuts between the two are disorienting at best. The film builds to a “swerve” ending that ultimately reveals that the stories are quite connected, if in the most ridiculous fashion imaginable.
Ignoring the predictable narrative, the editing must be remarked upon. Abrupt editing is fine, but jarring cuts from scene to scene, especially when the story jumps forward and backward 50 years with little to no warning, is just inexcusable. If your narrative is going to jump around in time, your editing should help the audience seamlessly through the transition, not alienate them from it.
I tried to like Café de Flore. Really, I did. The experimental genre just isn’t cut out for time-jumping narratives, I suppose. Instead of a beautifully-crafted film with a neat idea, we get the French-Canadian equivalent of The Lake House with worse acting and editing. In the time it takes to watch Café de Flore, you could just watch Monsieur Lazhar twice and be all the better for it.