Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Streaming tip: CAFE DE FLORE--Catch up w/yet another interesting film from Jean-Marc Vallée

During the recent Oscar telecast, you could hardly miss the gratitude and love in the speeches of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto toward the director who helped them nail this year's Oscar for, respectively, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. That fellow, the French-Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, has had an increasingly interesting career. His "masterpiece" so far would undoubtedly be 2005's C.R.A.Z.Y., a family film unlike any other you'll have seen.

Although this director (and sometimes writer) works quite respectfully and well on projects you'd call mainstream -- last year's Dallas Buyers Club and 2009's The Young Victoria -- Vallée seems most drawn to angst-y subjects onto which he puts his own special stylistic spin. The mesh is good. It works sublimely well in C.R.A.Z.Y. and very well in one of his later films, CAFE DE FLORE from 2011, which is now available via Netfix streaming.

Café de Flore is all about connections. What connects people who live in time periods 50 years apart, what connects a husband and wife through years of marriage, music, love and pain, what connects a Down Syndrome child (below, shampooing) to other people -- from his struggling mom to the DS girl he comes to love above all else.

If I tell you that this movie may involve things like reincarnation and karma, you might want to run screaming from the room. Don't, because Vallée, despite his combination of visual style, music and some very in-your-face performers, has a quieter, more elusive touch with all of this. He stops short of fully spelling anything out, so that the connections are there, all right, but we can make of them what we will.

His stories -- of a young mother and the Down Syndrome child she will not place in a home (with Vanessa Paradis, above, simply marvelous as a mom for the ages), and the long-term marriage of boy and girl who have loved each other (and music) since childhood and now must come to terms with infidelity and change -- are sometimes incredibly moving and rich. The fact that these connections are neither always plain nor simple, yet we feel them and slowly begin to understand them as the movie stretches out before us (this is a two-hour film), also makes it easier to accept them.

Kevin Parent (above), Evelyne Brochu (wearing the cross, below) and Hélène Florent (at right, below) turn in excellent work as the modern-day threesome, trying to do right by each other and themselves. Don't expect to come away from Café de Flore with every action and nuance pinned to the floor. Leave yourself room to expand and change your mind about what/who is good or bad and what you can and cannot handle or believe. I suspect that's what M. Vallée would want. His movie helps us achieve it.

Café de Flore can be seen now via Netflix streaming and on DVD.

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