A scene from "Caf de Flore." (Handout )
In Jean-Marc Vallée's time-shifting question mark of a movie "Café De Flore," love is a force by turns organic, therapeutic, alienating and enough of a connective tissue to bind two seemingly incongruent stories.
One of Vallée's parallel tales is set in 1969 and concerns a Parisian single mother (an effective Vanessa Paradis) of less-than-modest means committing herself fully to the developmental needs of her Down syndrome son.
The other follows a present-day Montreal DJ (Kevin Parent) as he reconciles divorcing his longtime love (Hélène Florent), the dark-haired mother of his two girls, to be with a sexy blond head-turner (Evelyne Brochu) who entrances him at a party.
Through clever matching cuts, adventurous camera work and the way the title song transports characters from both stories, Vallée is reaching boldly for a cross-generational, ethereally connective ode to the mysteries of the human heart.
At its most intriguing, "Café De Flore" trips through such minefields as dark obsession, devotional fragmentation and heartbreak with a touch that's bizarrely light as air — and one bolstered by strong, lived-in performances.
But it's terribly long and repetitive for so delicately dreamy a diptych, and at times the modern-day story feels like little more than a drawn-out apologia for the wandering male gaze.
"Café De Flore." No MPAA rating. Running time: 2 hours. At selected theaters.