Monday, February 21, 2011

Xavier Dolan's HEARTBEATS tracks a doomed, screwy, one-sided love affair

Stay away from the wealthy. That's just one of the many life lessons viewers might garner from HEARTBEATS -- the droll, slow (and full of slo-mo), alternately funny/sad new movie from Xavier Dolan, the fellow who gave us I Killed My Mother (a film TrustMovies still has not seen. When's it finally gonna get a real release?). Dolan's new one tells of gay boy/straight girl best friends who simultaneously notice the curly strawberry-blond locks of a sexily angelic young man (Niels Schneider, below) for whom they both tumble in absolute-forever-after love. They then spend the rest of the movie trying crazily, vainly to consummate that love.

Anyone who has ever carried a torch for someone unattainable will probably fall hard for Heartbeats, and legitimately so, for Dolan -- pictured on the poster above: he wrote, directed, produced and stars in the movie -- absolutely captures the incredible need, the attendant pain, the irrational jealousies, the desire to please and everything else that goes along with this kind of must-have-but-can't fixation.

And because both Francis (Dolan's character) and his best friend Marie (Monia Chokri, above) have set their sites on the love object Nicolas, the movie also delivers a secondary story about how friendship wanes when one of those friends is bound to lose. In real life, friendships tend to include one person who is more forceful and another who hangs back, thus complementing each other nicely. Not here. Both Marie and Francis go after what they want with nails out and teeth bared. But while they are perfectly happy to let each other know what they want, they can't quite reveal their feelings to the love object himself.

All this makes for some fun, a modicum of pain, gorgeously compo-sed shots with enough slow-motion to sink a lesser movie -- Dolan does slo-mo about as well as any director I've seen, outside of maybe Johnnie To -- and lot of frustration, some of which, unfortu-nately, may be felt by viewers. At 102 minutes, Heartbeats is fifteen minutes too long for what it has to say. Which is a shame, because it says (and shows) things quite well until it begins to sag around the two-thirds point.  It perks again, fortunately, for the finale -- which offers a momentary glimpse of independent cinema's favorite French bad boy, Louis Garrel. Dolan's choice of music is excellent, too -- particularly if you're a fan of the song Bang Bang.

From IFC Films, Heartbeats begins its theatrical run this Friday, February 25, at the IFC Center in NYC, and will simultaneously be available via IFC On-Demand (starting Wednesday, February 23).

2 comments:

Mathilda said...

This young guy is definitely talented... and he's only 22 (or 21, don't remember...).

I was actually surprised to see that his next movie is on a crowdfunding website (touscoprod.ca) in order to find money to produce it! But I joined this opportunity to help this talented director, and I really hope that hell get more recognition with Laurence Anyways.

Here is the link : http://www.touscoprod.com/ca/pages/projet/fiche.php?s_id=2

And also an interview he did in french about it (english subs in comments) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHFziRhHFJs

James van Maanen, said...

Good for you, Mathilda! I hope more and more people will follow your example. (I once did something like that for filmmaker Alexis Dos Santos, but as I am no longer making any $$$, I have had to curtail my contributions.) In any case, I think these "group" support systems might turn out to be pretty helpful.