Cafe de Flore (Vanessa Paradis, Jean-Marc Vallée)

French disconnection: loose threads make for a frustrating film.

The English phrase “overegging the pudding” describes perfectly Café de Flore, a French Canadian dish egged with so many scraps of material (dream sequences, flashes back and forward, parallel plots, visual metaphors) that for a long time it’s hard to see how it all adds up. When all becomes more clear it’s hard to care.

For 90 of the total 120 minutes two story threads remain frustratingly unconnected. In present-day Montreal, a 40-year-old professional DJ (Kevin Parent) seems blissfully happy with his new young wife while his two young daughters and dumped first wife stew in resentment. Meanwhile in 1969 Paris an uglied-up Vanesssa Paradis plays a single mother struggling to raise a Down Syndrome boy who eventually becomes attached, limpet-like, to a girl with the same condition. 

Unlike Jean-Marc Vallée’s spirited coming-of-age saga, C.R.A.Z.Y., this film shows the writer-director getting lost in his own ambition and losing focus. Although the central theme – the cost of deep love – eventually accrues some weight, by then it’s all a bit late. Fractured narratives are all-the-go thanks in part to the influence of Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, but Café de Flore demonstrates that pulling off this kind of complexity is another matter.

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Cafe de Flore (Vanessa Paradis, Jean-Marc Vallée)
2 out of 5
Opens: April 25
Duration: 120 mins
Genre: Drama
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