Wednesday, March 16, 2011

HEARTBEATS (LES AMOURS IMAGINAIRES) (2011)

Written & Directed by Xavier Dolan

Where & When: Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA. March 8, 2011  1:50PM


I first became aware of Xavier Dolan when I saw his semi-autobiographical first film, "I Killed My Mother (J'ai Tue Ma Mere)" at last year's Outfest Film Festival. I really loved this delightful film but I shocked to learn that the lead actor of the film also produced, wrote and directed the film and he was only twenty years old at the time. The French-Canadian filmmaker would also pick-up three awards for the film at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Now at twenty-one, Mr. Dolan has returned with his latest, "Heartbeats", in which he has not only repeated all of his previous film duties, he even found time to create the costumes. This film was screened in the Un Certain Regard category at last year's Cannes Festival and won the top prize at the Sydney Film Festival.

The story is the classic love triangle that seems somewhat inspired by Truffaut's "Jules & Jim" except "Heartbeats" is much lighter in tone and the golden haired beauty is now a boy named Nico (Niels Schneider).

Francis (Dolan) is cute, aloof and gay. Marie (Monia Chokri) is stylish, dramatic and straight. They are close friends who completely understand each other. While attending a party, they witness the blond Adonis charming everyone there but they are not particularly impressed by him. However, when Nico invites each of them out separately so they can all three spend time together, they both see him in a different light and as a potential love interest.

Nico enjoys having a good time and he loves to flirt which leaves Francis and Marie unclear on who he may actually be interested in but each feels they have a good shot. Since neither one dares to ask Nico directly on his intentions, perhaps fearing his answer, Francis and Marie are forced to share him while quietly resenting the other. Nico becomes an obsession to both of the friends to the point where he consumes Marie's thoughts and Francis masturbates using Nico's dirty clothing but we are not sure whether it's because of true feelings or simply just winning him from the other.

During a trip together at Nico's parents' weekend home, jealousy and misunderstandings lead to a physical brawl between Francis and Marie while Nico stands back watching, slightly amused.

Will these two friends come to their senses or will they allow a pretty face to tear them apart?

While I found "Heartbeats" to be bright, captivating and sharp, I didn't find it as compelling as his debut, "I Killed My Mother" which dealt with the complex relationship between a mother and son in an insightful and humorous way. "Heartbeats" feels like the emphasis is more on style than substance but that certainly doesn't mean the film doesn't have something to say about relationships, romantic and friendship,and how complicated, frustrating and wonderful they can be. However, there are several nameless individuals, inter cut throughout "Heartbeats", sharing their views and experiences about love but they really don't add much to the film and feels more like filler. I think it would have been better to keep the focus on  the three main characters.

At such a young age, Mr. Dolan shows so much skill and confidence right now as a film maker that he puts to shame some older directors who have made many films for many years and still haven't made anything particularly memorable. I think Mr. Dolan has a promising future ahead of him and I can't wait to see what he does next.

"Heartbeats" is an appealing work filled with youthful energy and dazzling elegance by an important new film maker that you should pay close attention to right away.