Saturday, November 12, 2011

Café de Flore

A voiceover at the start tells us how Antoine (pretty-man Kevin Parent) is perfectly happy, with a perfect life, a beautiful woman with whom he is perfectly in love, great kids, great job etc. Problem is, for the audience at least, he’s a vacuous international club-lite DJ with bad tattoos, more than a little in love with his upper arm sculpting, we suspect, who dumped his childhood sweetheart-wife Carole for a standard-issue blonde he saw across a loft party dance floor. Of course he spins around when someone says “hey, handsome”. His daughter puts it best: he’s an asshole.

Luckily for this asshole he ends up with the blessing of ex-wife and family all because of some reincarnation/perfect soul-mate rigmarole. In between scenes of modern-day Montréal we follow Vanessa Paradis in late ’60s Paris, as the single parent of a Down’s syndrome boy, Laurent. She’s great with the kid, and her fiery determination to have him outlive life expectancy and conduct a normal-ish life is both impassioned, and nudged over the edge to worn-out craziness with excellent finesse.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée’s cross-cutting between past and present, including Antoine’s punk-rock youth with a foxy teenaged Carole, is for the most part very neat, with several nicely cut montage sequences. Elsewhere, however, he has an irritating habit of slipping glimpses of one directly into the other, as well as dropping in the beefeater from Antoine’s dad’s gin bottles as a vague sort of guardian angel, in a quirk as glib as his protagonist. Many of the montages are scored to annoyingly bland lounge beats: the title refers to a song that Laurent particularly enjoys in the 60s, and the clubbed-up version to which Antoine first spies his (new) true love, but even the original is nothing special.

Vallée has Antoine admit that the tune is “almost banal”, but the “almost” is not true, and we’re nonetheless punished with it ad nauseam; elsewhere, his family mock him for an obsession with an annoying Sigur Rós song, yet we’re subjected to that too, a few scenes later. The point is how music, regardless of its quality, can take on special meaning for a person, depending on when they first hear it, with whom they associate it, and so forth, but it’s a point ill-made and self-defeating if the repetition grows so annoying to those for whom it is not special. Repeated use of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” improves things with its ominous scream and (slightly) more musically complex conjuring of aural bliss, but it’s rather dismal if that’s the best one can say for a movie’s soundtrack.

The suggestive interplay between past and present loses its interest in thudding fashion when the reincarnation theme is specified, then beaten into the ground. But with such a bland soundtrack and protagonist, whose crappy behaviour gets entirely excused by the vague soul-mate nonsense, the film never stood a chance. Antoine wonders at one point about the possibility of dying in a plane crash, and the recurring pretty-pretty image of a jet-stream leading into a bright sun leads one to hope it will have some sort of augural significance. No such luck.

d/sc/ed Jean-Marc Vallée p Pierre Even, Marie-Claude Poulin ph Pierre Cottereau pd Patrice Vermette cast Kevin Parent, Vanessa Paradis, Hélène Florent, Evelyn Brochu
(2011, Can/Fr, 120m)


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The asshole dies in the end. The jet is vaporized. Lucky you.

December 3, 2011 at 8:57 PM  

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