Attended my first CUFF (Calgary Underground Film Festival) film tonight and it was great. CAFé CAFé is a witty, romantic comedy film about bohemian life in Montreal. There is great cinematography of the streets of Montreal with some “postcard” shots thrown in for good measure. Tourism Montreal should be promoting the film as it shows the authentic gritty Montreal that tourists love, not the glitzy Hollywood-sanitized video that Tourism organizations usually produce to impress unsuspecting tourist. It was full of graffiti, pillions, traffic and construction scenes, as well as fountains, gardens and pedestrian streetscapes. For the everyday tourist it was a $10, 82-minute trip to Montreal (good preparation for our planned trip to Quebec this Fall).
The film is full of twists and turns as the quirky characters that make up the cast struggle to find low paying jobs to pay the bills so they can pursue their passions – art and love. How trite? How romantic? However the twists, turns and surprises makes for an entertaining romp
What is really strange is that the film is “fueled” by Calgarians? It is produced and written by Calgarians who live in Montreal and perhaps see the city in a different light as outsiders tend to do. Montreal’s sense of place was a long way from Calgary’s “engineer eccentricism.” While there are pockets of bohemian life in Calgary (or as we like to call it now, the “hipsters” we’re no match for Montreal where making art in all its various forms is a major business. The film is a bit like Loose Moose meets Ship & Anchor on the way to Café Beano… or maybe Green Fools meets Higher Ground on the way to Palace Theatre.
In an ironic twist, the only French-speaking character in the movie (with subtitles for us Anglophones) is the red neck “marketing manager”/waitress of Café Joe who seems bent to find somebody to go with her to the Monster Truck show (usually the Calgary stereotype). One of the most memorable moments is when she gives a rant at the end of the spoken word night (titled Brainscapes) basically telling all the lovesick hipsters to get over themselves and grow up. Contrastingly, the Calgary character who has moved to Montreal to do her Masters in Italian studies is portrayed as the hip intellectual.
Interesting there are no Starbuck or Tim Horton jokes, no lattes, no Americanos and no London Fogs, no Double Double references in the movie. Café Joe (not unlike Central Perk in the TV show Friends) is a throwback to mid 20th century days of Pyrex coffee pots and Styrofoam cups. There are no Ipads or Apple laptops in any of the café scenes - writers use paper and pens. It paints a picture of Montreal as a “stuck in the ’50 and ‘60s” place where the Beat generation never left.
I gave the film a 5 out of 5. It was fun, entertaining and visually impressive. It was as good as any film I have seen at the Calgary Film Festival and most that I have seen at the Globe over the years. It wasn’t intellectually pretentious, yet it had its “Bazinga” moments. It was both a satire and a spoof. And as Ms. B said, “it was Canadian!”
It was fun to be in a theatre where the audience was fully engaged - clapping, laughing and shouting out. It was more like being at a university football game than at the movies – and that’s not all bad!
Kudos to CUFF!