The French con­nec­tion

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

AT ANY sin­gle mo­ment in Cafe de Flore, there can be no straight­for­ward ex­pla­na­tion for what is hap­pen­ing.

Even the film’s writer- di­rec­tor Jean- Marc Vallee re­mains at a loss to con­vey with words what he is driv­ing at here.

Nev­er­the­less, there is some­thing mys­ti­cally cap­ti­vat­ing about Cafe de Flore that can­not be de­nied.

Shift­ing abruptly be­tween two time frames, the film’s nar­ra­tive drops coded hints of a link be­tween in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned DJ An­toine ( Kevin Par­ent) in the present day and Lau­rent ( Marin Ger­rier), a small Down syn­drome boy grow­ing up in the late 1960s.

As dis­parate as each half of Cafe de Flore is from the out­set – not even the oc­ca­sional in­ter­jec­tion from a nar­ra­tor can bring the two sec­tions closer to­gether – the film’s abil­ity to switch un­pre­dictably from one to the other with­out break­ing its mag­i­cal spell is a se­ri­ous achieve­ment. So too is the level of nat­u­ral­is­tic act­ing Vallee has coaxed from a pre­dom­i­nantly ama­teur cast.

Watch any scene in which young Lau­rent is hang­ing out with his de­voted sin­gle mother ( Vanessa Par­adis, pic­tured) and it is im­pos­si­ble not to be touched in the most un­ma­nip­u­la­tive of ways.

Per­haps the big­gest creative roll of the dice made by Vallee in­volves his re­peated use of care­fully cho­sen grabs of mu­sic to serve as por­tals be­tween the par­al­lel sto­ry­lines. This de­vice does take some get­ting used to, but the ef­fect in­ten­si­fies in power as pro­ceed­ings wear on.

In some ways, like the al­ter­nately glo­ri­ous and no­to­ri­ous The Tree of Life, Cafe de Flore lays out an open- ended ob­sta­cle course for both heart and mind.

Stay the dis­tance as best you can and so much will stay with you for some time to come.

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