Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Heartbeats (May 17, 2011) (32)

I never saw Xavier Dolan's first feature from last year called I Killed My Mother, but I heard very good things about it. When his second feature, Heartbeats, came out, I was interested to see it. To say Dolan is a wunderkind is an understatement, having written, directed and acted in two highly regarded films by age 22. (Shit. My life is a fucking waste.) He is super handsome, gay and lives and works in Montreal; he embraces youth culture and is very smart and apparently very well-versed in film history.

Heartbeats is about two friends, Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Dolan) who both fall in love with the same guy, Nicolas (Niels Schneider). It is never clear to them nor to us whether Nicolas is gay or straight, so it seems totally reasonable that they could both have a chance. They both pursue him with cold-bloodedness, possibly ruining their own friendship in the process and possibly making themselves unattractive to him.

More than anything, Heartbeats is an examination of narcissism and how the presence of a narcissist makes those around him feel amazing. The magnetic power of such blind self-confidence is intoxicating for the less-than-confident souls who follow them. I feel like we have all been in a situation where we fall for a person (in a sexual or a friend sense), until we realize that we don't even register on their radar, because they are so narcissistic. Once they drop us, because we no longer help them with whatever they use us for, there is an emptiness left in us. We've just given something of our own away in exchange for the illusion of something substantial that was never there.

Dolan has a really beautiful style reminiscent of early Almodovar or Lynch films. He uses a soundtrack beautifully as well as slow motion and daring lighting choices. (Slow motion is very hard to pull off well and is hardly used these days because it is so hard to do right; Dolan does it wonderfully.) There is a melodramatic quality to the story, that the characters are just playing "types" and that the forces of the story are bigger than the characters inside it. Though I normally don't go in for such false formality, it works interestingly here in a near-operatic way.

One major gripe I have is that Dolan uses an epilogue after the story has effectively wrapped up that somewhat ruins the previous culminating scene. There is a suggestion at the end that although Nicolas might be a narcissist, Marie and Francis are partly to blame for falling so head-over-heels for the guy. I think this subverts the argument of the film and would have been better to leave out. It also suggests that the duo are bitter jerks, rather than helpless victims. I'm not sure I like that idea as much.

Clearly Dolan is a writer/director to look out for in the future. His maturity surpasses his years and his technique is second-to-none.

Stars: 3 of 4

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear! We are in complete agreement. I would also mention Wong Kar Wai as a major influence on this film. To me the slow motion worked very well...the first two times. Three or four times was pushing it a bit, but forgivable. Interestingly, I think the first film is a better movie overall but this film shows serious growth as a visual director, key of course to creating great movies. can't wait to see his next one.