The French connection
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.