Saturday, 7 July 2012

Do not waste your time seeing this film

This week I went to see a film, Cafe de Flore. It had had good reviews (and was, I noticed, the staff pick at the Deluxe). The photography and acting were very good indeed, but for almost two hours, I tried to work out what exactly was going on. When it finally became clear, I found it hard not to start yelling at the screen. I'm now going to "spoil" this piece of pretentious, sexist crap by explaining the plot as simply as I can, because it was the plot that was so revolting.

Two interwoven stories, separated in time and place. On screen, Montreal begins first and takes up more time throughout, with flashbacks, but it makes more sense to put Paris first here.


Paris, 1969. A young woman who works as a hairdresser gives birth to a boy with Down's, and her husband leaves her. She devotes her life to helping her child become the best he can be, insisting that he goes to a mainstream school. One day, when he is seven, a girl with Down's joins his class. The children instantly become firmly attached to each other and scream when they are separated. They spend time at each other's houses, but the mother feels displaced from being the centre of her son's life and becomes very distressed by his obsession with the girl. The girl's parents are distressed too, and decide to send her to a special school. The boy keeps asking for her. The mother ties him to a bed to stop him going out to find her. Eventually she takes him to find her, puts both children in the car, and kills herself and them by driving into a tree. 

Montreal, 2011. A man who is now a handsome, healthy, rich, internationally famous DJ married his dark-haired, equally music-loving young girlfriend twenty years ago, and they have two daughters. But he has met and fallen for a younger, hip, tattooed blonde and has moved in with her. He decides he wants to remarry. She is worried about his ex, saying it's too soon. The children visit regularly, but his older daughter becomes upset and in the film's best line, tells him "what Mum won't say - you're an asshole."

The ex-wife is indeed very distressed, sleepwalking and having nightmares about a little boy with Down's. She goes to see a medium and works out that she was his mother in a previous life. Back then she made a mistake thinking he was her soulmate and not setting him free to be with his real soulmate. This time around she has made the same mistake, thinking her husband was her soulmate when really the blonde is his soulmate. She realises she is wrong to stand in his way. He marries the blonde, with the daughters and his now-approving parents standing by. The ex-wife arrives, smiling bravely, and hugs everyone.

I hope you understand now why I'm telling you not to bother seeing this movie.

30 comments:

ChundaMars said...

Why sexist? Sounds like a shit story, granted, but not immediately apparent to me why it is sexist...

Shazza said...

Yeah....not seeing the "sexist" bit.....odd story but where's the problem? So the husband finds his real love in another Woman.....that happens....its called life and its valid if not sad for the wife...but people change. She also gets out of a lie and can find her own happiness now with someone else.

Jane said...

I saw this movie with friends. We all thought it was quite good. granted is probably not for the ordinary person....

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to criticise a movie even if the character demonstrates sexism as it depends more on how that sexism is handled (i.e. whether it is portrayed positively or not). Besides, I actually can't tell which part of this plot summary you find problematic. I mean a man leaving his wife is kinda sad but not bad at all...you have to pursue your own happiness in life.

me.

Acid Queen said...

So great of all you guys to come along and tell the little women not to worry their pretty little heads about the sexism in this movie...

Yer probably right we would be better off baking you dinner huh?

Unbelievable

ChundaMars said...

@Acid Queen - whoa, apt name.
I can't speak for the others, but I was genuinely asking - it's not immediately apparent to me (based purely on the film synopsis in the post) what is sexist about this movie. Would you care to enlighten me, perhaps?
Also, before you get too angry at us "guys", take note of the screennames - Shazza and Jane would appear to be female names, yes?
Still angry?

Acid Queen said...

Was never angry just disappointed

Anonymous said...

A good test for sexism is to swap the genders of the characters and ask if the film still "works". In this case, I don't see why not.

Simoon said...

The idea that the woman should be accepting of the husband's behavior BECAUSE FATE seems pretty terrible to me.

To put it another way - part of the premise of the movie is that there's a force in the universe which makes it fine (actually - more than fine, meant to be even) for men to leave their wives for younger, hipper, tattoeeder women (or at least for this man to.) The ex-wife suffers distress, sleepwalking and nightmares because she doesn't just accept this - the universe punishes her for not just going along with what the man wants. That sounds like a sexist kind of a universe to me.

Acid Queen said...

@Simoon: Exactly

Jane said...

Acid Queen - I really hope you’re not disappointed that I and my friends enjoyed this movie. Just as I don’t need a man’s approval, I don’t need yours, thank you.

Acid Queen said...

I am disappointed when sexism goes unchallenged, yes.

You don't need my permission to watch it, but I don't need your permission to have an opinion on your watching it.

So we can all express our opinions without having to worry about anybody requiring anybody's permission to do anything, yay!

Jane said...

Acid Queen – So I don’t need you permission to watch a movie, but you will judge me for watching a movie that you don’t approve of. Wow you really do need to get out more.

Acid Queen said...

@Jane: So when people watch a movie you don't approve of, you don't judge them? Or does this whole "Nobody should ever judge anybody ever" thing only kick in when you're the one doing problematic things.

I am sure you are a great person and feminist. I just think it's a shitty movie and I don't like it when people defend shitty movies.

God, I would really like it if we could discuss movies without people thinking their freedoms are being infringed.

Jane said...

Acid Queen – Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor …….
“……. Or does this whole "Nobody should ever judge anybody ever" thing only kick in when you're the one doing problematic things” ….. WTF …. It’s problematic that I go to see a movie that you don’t approve of???
“I’m sure I’m a great person and feminist”….. Translation you’re not qualified to have an opinion of your own.
“I just think it's a shitty movie and I don't like it when people defend shitty movies”….. Translation, I don’t like this movie, how dare you or anyone else disagree with me.
“God, I would really like it if we could discuss movies without people thinking their freedoms are being infringed”… We will have a discussion; I’ll talk, you’ll listen and graciously agree with me…..

McFlock said...

Why is it not problematic to have a problem with someone who finds it problematic that someone doesn't have a problem with a film with which that someone has a problem?

Surely having a problem with whatever someone does or does not find problematic is a problem that affects everyone, even those who have the problem with people who find those with a lack of problem to be problematic?

ChundaMars said...

@Simoon - I agree wholeheartedly that the idea anyone should accept anyone else's behaviour "because fate" is ridiculous. This seems to be a relatively common thread in many romantic comedies actually, which goes with the whole stupid "soulmates" rubbish. But, is it really sexist in this film, as in, is it expected of her BECAUSE she is a woman, and wouldn't be expected if she were a man?
Again, genuine question - I haven't seen the film after all!

ChundaMars said...

PS @Acid Queen - way to dodge what I said in my post. Ok, so you weren't angry, just "disappointed"... nevermind the fact that you assumed the 3 posters who questioned whether the movie was actually sexist were misogynistic men who think so little of women as to believe they would be "better off baking you dinner". Despite 2 of them having clearly female names...

Acid Queen said...

In my experience somebody's name is not a good indicator as to whether or not they identify as female or male.

Lots of transmen and women post here, I try to be respectful of them

Acid Queen said...

Jane, google "tone argument".

Even if my tone is as offensive as you think, it doesn't make the movie any better. Whether or not I am a good or polite person isn't the subject of this post.

Simoon said...

@ChundaMars First, I should say that I haven't seen the film so I'm just going on the description above.

Let's suppose that the universe punishes both men and women for going against the whole soulmate thing. So, if the husband had resisted getting together with the new girlfriend, he would have suffered nightmares too. That is, the woman isn't expected to go along with what the universe wants just because she's a woman; men are expected to go along with it too. Would that mean there's no sexism?

I don't think so. We have a universe which happens to allocate soul mates in a way which is awfully convenient for the man in question - he gets to leave his wife and get a younger girlfriend, which is what he wanted any way. He doesn't have to feel bad about this at all, and his ex-wife should be accepting, BECAUSE FATE. The "soul mates" thing invalidates assessing the behavior of the various characters from any other perspective.

If a universe/society is set up in a way which benefits men, just because it (a) rewards both men and women who don't challenge the way things are set up and (b) punishes both men and women who do challenge the way things are set up, doesn't mean we can say that that universe/society is not sexist.

Anonymous said...

If the character in the movie is experiencing all of these things BECAUSE FATE then surely that is a problem with the oppression of religion rather than sexism. Granted these are two similar things, but yeah...anyway I was one of the first commenters and I genuinely didn't see the sexist element at first. I haven't watched the film, just going by what is written above. And I'm female identifying and normally pretty onto it with critiquing sexism, etc, so definitely not the misogynistic male you assumed me to be, Acid Queen. But thanks for the misgendering. Pretty ridiculous from someone who says "Lots of transmen and women post here, I try to be respectful of them." Seems more respectful to actually use gender neutral terms until proven otherwise.

Anyway, I was genuinely curious as to what the author thought was problematic because that was never explained. It has been now so thanks. I'll reserve my full opinion until such time if I ever see the film, but it doesn't seem particularly original or great just from this plot summary (sexism or otherwise aside).

me.

Psycho Milt said...

Sexism, schmexism. Based on Anne E's synopsis, this is a movie in which the universe apparently issues you with something called a "soul mate" and you can get useful, accurate information from a medium, rather than a crock of shit aimed at parting you from your cash. If that doesn't scream "Do not waste your time seeing this film," I don't know what would.

ChundaMars said...

@Simoon - seriously, thanks so much for actually attempting to explain it. More than can be said for others commenting here.

I see where you're coming from - I guess the thing I struggle with here is that it's a fantasy world so it's hard to look at it as if it is a real-world scenario. The whole situation is just such BS that we don't know if (in the movies universe) things DO happen in reverse i.e. men being forced to accept their wives leaving them for younger/richer men "because fate". Hence my reluctance to describe the whole movie (based on the synopsis alone, of course) a sexist, rather than just a load of crap!
Thanks again for actually engaging, rather than hurling insults and storming out ;-)

Duval said...

Why is this a sexist movie??

Gee, it's a toughie. But let me give it the ole college try... Because it further pushes, if not endorses, the insidious and pervasive notion that men can go merrily about their lives in pursuit of what they want, damn the consequences, and it's the assigned role and expected responsibility of women, be they wives, ex wives, mothers, or daughters, to wear the costs and pick up the pieces, and eventually for the good of all concerned to come to terms with this reality.

I hope that helps demystify the apparent foggy sexism for those less inclined to see.

Respects to all.

Duval said...

Oh, and further to that same narrative... not only is it the role and responsibility of women to carry the cost and pick up the pieces of men's life choices, but it's to also facilitate him in his pursuit of. The subtext just gets icky. Honestly, sometimes it's embarrassing being a man. I wonder though, if drawing attention to this "it's a woman's lot in life" was not entirely accidental?

ChundaMars said...

@Duval: putting aside the tone of your posts, thanks for your explanation. Another genuine question: what other examples can you think of about "the insidious and pervasive notion" you talk about? I'm intrigued to see if I've been missing something.

Also, your last line, "I wonder though, if drawing attention to this "it's a woman's lot in life" was not entirely accidental?". What do you mean by that?

Duval said...

@ChundaMars: Don't sweat the tone aspect - online posts are notoriously problematic for such like :)

"the insidious and pervasive notion" ...of gender expectations. I'll give you an example from my own life as I experienced it. I became a single dad to a number of children when the relationship between their mother and I ended. The circumstances around this and why the children stayed with me is beside the point of an example of pervasive gender expectations. There is this view (pervasive notion, if you will) that when a family splits, dad takes a hike and mum soldiers on as best she can in the circumstances (see narrative of movie above). When this "expected" scenario is reversed however, the judgement and scorn on the woman is very noticeable, and nothing like the borderline think nothing of it attitudes men might typically encounter as the absentee parent. To add insult to injury, you then have the glorification of men who are single parents into almost hero status, in stark contrast to the expectations on women to be simultaneous primary caregivers, and work to support the family, and be involved in the community, all while keeping house, and herself in "respectable" condition... less than this, and it's viewed as a failure of the woman. I know because I lived it from the inside as a single dad and saw the juxtaposition of my experience against that of my female parent friends, and saw how my children's mother was viewed and treated in contrast to absentee fathers. This is all getting a bit away from the movie, but the subtext is there, of this and what I formerly wrote on it. As an aside, it good to see more "shared care" becoming more common place amongst seperated parents. Though the issues in that are another discussion entirely.

What do I mean by questioning if the "woman's lot in life" undercurrent of the movie was not entirely accidental? I mean is it possible that the debate we are now having in regards to the themes portrayed in the movie are not by chance i.e. did the movie intend to stimulate debate of this nature by making a social statement?? I don't know the answer, and won't hazard a guess as to the mind workings of the producer et al. It was just food for thought.

Hugh said...

+1, Duval

I haven't seen the movie, but presuming Ann's description is accurate, the problem is not that the husband leaves his wife and finds a new partner, it's that the ex wife's life is somehow ruined until she accepts and facilitates it - even though he's left her, she is still "destined" by some bullshity magical deus ex to be carrying his crap despite getting nothing from him except (let's be charitable) him taking the kids half the time.

ChundaMars said...

Thanks Duval - I'm on the same page now. Well aware of the limitations of internet communication, hence my comment about disregarding the (apparent) tone of your first post!

I agree regarding the "hero status" of the single father, while single mothers are generally expected to cope. Not sure if absent fathers get off quite as lightly in the public perception as you suggest though - there are plenty of terms like "deadbeat dad" that get thrown around, but as I've no personal experience in the matter perhaps I just haven't enough to go on.

As always gender expectation is a double-edged sword - single fathers have a "hero status" precisely because they are apparently going against what comes naturally (in our societies view) and actually being nurturing, which is insulting to me as a father (and I'm sure to you too) to suggest that only women can nurture their children. I've also come across more women than men who express that view (that women are more nurturing than men) and wonder if it is perhaps just defending traditional territory, much as men who resist women moving into positions of power in business probably do.

Understand your last sentence now. Without seeing the movie or knowing anything about the director/producer I guess there's no way of knowing if this was what they intended when they made the film...