Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Modern Day Kandinsky (On Jean-Marc Vallée's Café de flore)

Café de flore (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2011)
**** (Masterpiece)
*****
Jean-Marc Vallée’s Café de flore, which recently played at the Lightbox with Vallée in attendance as part of Canada's Top Ten, is a blessing. When there are so many movies that come out already looking like standardized products, a work as original like Café de flore dispels of convention and in its rebirth leaves only essences and feelings behind. Café also proves the long-standing suspicion that Vallée is actually an auteur as he not only directs the film but he also wrote the screenplay and edited it – look carefully and you can spot him in a signature cameo. After the screening, Vallée mentioned that after completing The Young Victoria (2009), a film that he didn’t have total control over, he wanted to make something edgy. And edgy – hell, I would describe it as dangerous! - is what you get in Café as Vallée’s powerful imagination is on view.

Like the other great Québécois director Denis Côté (cf. 3 + 4 + 1), Vallée’s approach to form is similar to that of Modernist painters and, more precisely, to Wassily Kandinsky’s Impressionist-style paintings from his Munich period. The unlikely comparison offers striking similarities. What these two artists achieve is the creation of abstract visual expressions built from stylized forms that are imbued with symbolic meaning. When Vallée cuts the sound and all you see are figures presented in decisive moments showing unrestrained feeling alongside Doctor Rockit’s catchy track Café De Flore - the effect is that of ecstasy.

There is something free and lyrical to the rhythm and melody of Café that creates an unreal mood and a self-contained world. When Antoine (Kevin Parent) jumps into his swimming pool and some water lands on his daughter’s foot it seems to connote an unexplained spiritual connectedness between the two. Kandinsky was also interested in theosophy, the occult and religion as elaborated in his important essay Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Vallée’s concern with the spiritual bleeds throughout the entire film through representational and abstract forms, the casting and editing, colour and lighting, music and sound. Vallée seeks the essence beneath appearances, where the actions are drowned in style, in hope of sharing unbridled feelings, substance and life. - David Davidson

1 comment:

Mara said...

Amazing point of view on the film. I also think it's a masterpiece. I loved The Kandinsky comparison.