Les amours imaginaires / Heartbeats

I saw French/Canadian film Heartbeats by Xavier Dolan last night at the Plymouth Arts Centre.  It made a nice contrast to watching ‘The Pitmen Painters’ at the Theatre Royal the night before.

I enjoyed Heartbeats.  – not a good title, they should have found something closer to the title in French…Imaginary Love?  – That’s what it was about…

A story of unrequited love. Love that only exists in the imagination. Painful self obsession. Longing for something that doesn’t exist.

Two friends in their twenties –  a gay man and straight woman both fall for a blond curly haired student absolutely oblivious of their infatuation.

I loved the recurring image of the two friends filmed from the back. Two square backs standing next to each other in the kitchen chopping food while trying to avoid glancing over at the ‘self satisfied Adonis’ in the middle of their party.

& I enjoyed the picture of unrequited love, the way Dolan (actor and director) avoided showing us the scenario through Nicolas’s (The Adonis) eyes. It was a brilliant portrait of young obsession and fantasy, the fact that it didn’t matter who the object of attraction was, the myths were being created in the minds of the infatuated. To be honest it was a bit of a painful reminder of what I was like some years ago. Utter self involvement, inventing stories and myths around someone I hardly knew to the point that coming out of the self and actually having a conversation was impossible.

There was lots of slow motion and lots of Dalida’s Italian cover of Sonny Bono’s”Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down). & lots of retro fashion and perfect hair. I liked the lack of dialogue, the intensity of the inner world…the difficulty of saying anything ‘natural’.  The little character reveals – Marie (Chokri) taking out cigarettes to shut out the world, Nicolas (Dolan) keeping a tally on his bathroom wall every time he was rejected –  The styalised world of these characters with their perfect clothes suddenly in contrast to their peers. The moments of theatre – at the end, Nicolas approaches them at another party and Francis (Dolan) just lets out a crazy animal kind of scream.

I was less keen on the series of interviews with characters not seen until the final party (and then only there as tokens I think, a little attempt to integrate the interviews and suggest continuing stories…) – They were interviewed (as if documentary) talking about love and obsession. Obviously contextualising the themes of the film, making up for a lack of analysis within the actual story. Not necessary. Of course the camera work and the slo mo and the use of soundtrack,  cuts to images, sex as a series of freezes have all been done before but they work here, they had a new kind of gloss and a coherence, they created a world. The reference to other films just added a layer. But the interviews didn’t work. The interviews in ‘My Own Private Idaho’ were fantastic because they were real, they made the form exciting, they weren’t considered (initially they were just research). But here they were calculated and felt like a time filler. – It also took us out of the small obsessive world of the characters. – Let the viewer do the zooming out…

The final image….suggesting the next victim…a circular story…I also didn’t need. It suggested something sinister. That these friends are looking for their prey. But actually it was the simplicity of the story that I liked, the lack of any kind of plot, or game. Nicolas could have played them, but he just stepped back. The friends could have played each other, but didn’t…

But anyway I can’t get over how the director managed to write, direct and act in this. & how old is he? Grrr.  Try to do that in the theatre and you get laughed at.

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