Emotional Fault Lines in Cafe De Fiore

By Koc, Alsegul | CineAction, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Emotional Fault Lines in Cafe De Fiore


Koc, Alsegul, CineAction


"The aftershocks of an amorous earthquake" is how I can describe director Jean-Marc Vallee's latest film Cafe de Fiore. As such, it leaves an unsettling aftertaste on the palate as you exit the movie theatre. This, by all means, is a refreshing experience. Few films I have seen recently have troubled me as much as Cafe de Fiore. The film is not without its flaws as Vallee turns it into a daring experiment, by writing, directing and editing it himself, casting a non-actor in the lead role and time/space lapsing between 60s Paris and contemporary Montreal. Perhaps out of an auteur-itch on his part following Young Victoria (2009), Caf de Fiore delves head-on into the sensibilities of its characters the way popular and critically acclaimed CR.A.Z. Y. (2005) never did. Though the latter two films share music as the guiding thread that ties the past and the present, love lost and found, escapism and brutal reality, Caf de Fiore sets a dangerously bare emotional timbre. Like Antoine (played by musician Kevin Parent), a successful DJ who likes to cut off the music during a set only to restart it to a heightened awareness and renewed energy of the audience, Vallee leaves much unsaid to amplify the horrors and joys of letting go and starting anew.

Caf de Fiore spins around two stories: In 60s Paris single, working class mother Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) raises a much adored son Laurent (Marin Gerrier) who has Down syndrome. In contemporary Montreal Antoine confides guilt ridden doubts in therapy about having left his long time lover and mother of his two daughters, Carole (Helene Florent) fora newly flourished infatuation with a younger woman, Rose (Evelyn Brochu). If this were a mid-life crisis 'under control', things would have gone back to 'normal', the family restored and 'that woman' defeated a la Hollywood where 'that womanhood' is the ultimate target of a paternalistic witch hunt with consequences as deadly as Fatal Attraction. Vallee takes the spectator elsewhere to a rather painful rite of passage where each and everyone involved even those in the periphery have to suffer to the point of forgiveness. le to demande pardon!" Carole, the abandoned one says to Antoine after a frantic car ride, showing up unannounced, deranged at Rose and Antoine's tainted-blissful love-nest. In this cathartic moment, instead of an act of violence the audience possibly anticipates like Pavlov's voyeur-canine, Carole and Antoine hold each other tight, joined by Rose. The viewer could assume it had to be Antoine who needed to ask for forgiveness first. That is where Vallee moves us to the grey zone in which life takes place: one cannot break free unless the Other lets go. The release has to be empathetic, mutual. One is bound to the Other. …

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