Today: February 25, 2024
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Heartbeats

Audiences who keep up with film festivals, or read unbearably pretentious magazines that are solely sold in Shoreditch and Soho, will more than likely be acquainted with Xavier Dolan

Audiences who keep up with film festivals, or read
unbearably pretentious magazines that are solely sold in Shoreditch and Soho,
will more than likely be acquainted with Xavier Dolan, the current darling of
French-Canadian cinema who won minor acclaim after his debut J’ai Ma Mere (I
Killed My Mother) became a talking point among critics. An actor/director, he
is praised both for his fashion magazine approach to cinematography and his
retro-chic persona. However, a sizeable majority he’s just that: a poser of no
particular substance.

After only one film there were those who let hyperbole get
the better of them, going so far as to compare Dolan to Godard, Truffaut and
Bertolucci, which is sort of like comparing Scarlett Johansson to Marilyn Monroe
– they’re leagues apart. Interestingly, he denies having ever seen or heard of
the auteurs he is accused of being inspired by though one suspects degrees of
horseshit.

Perhaps, the choice of subject matter did little to distance
his work from Truffaut; a love triangle between three carefree
twenty-somethings making it fairly inevitable that Jules & Jim would enter
the conversation at some point not to mention the techniques he employs and the
subsequent disregard to integrate them into the mise-en-scene (slow motion set
to music, minimalist plot, etc).

It is to Dolan’s credit he injects this familiar scenario
with some originality, pitching the characters’ sexualities against one
another; Francis (Xavier Dolan) is a beautiful bi-sexual hipster; Mari (Monia
Chokri) is straight, also a hipster, and dresses like a “housewife from the
fifties”; Nicolas (Niels Schneider), also straight, acts as their Adonis-like
object of desire. Competitive and consumed by obsessive love, they fight tooth
and nail to win Nicolas’s affection, willing to resort to extreme disloyalty to
one another to do so. Occasionally, throughout the film, talking heads suddenly
come onto screen, as if being interviewed for a documentary on the topic of
failed romances and unrequited love, mirroring Francis and Mari’s own
unsuccessful attempts.

So, has Dolan’s second effort, Heartbeats, done anything to
try and convert his detractors? The answer is a resounding no. Dolan has kept
his 1950s quiff, along with his penchant for close ups on his own face and
compiling soundtracks that sound like the mixtapes in Top Shop. Coupled with an
aesthetic caught somewhere between a Levis and an American Apparel commercial,
Dolan’s film skirts dangerously close to being superficial, risking becoming an
enormous vanity project for him to prance and preen at leisure across 90
minutes of celluloid. Anyone in doubt should look at the poster.

Despite all the negative aspects to Dolan’s filmmaking,
Heartbeats is nonetheless entertaining, if too dependent on its pleasing visual
style to convey meaning, like a Wes Anderson film minus the acting talent.
Maybe a few more years to grow up and Dolan will deliver a richer, finer, more
accomplished film but until then he will continue to make friends and just as
many enemies.

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