“Heartbeats” is an exceptional French Canadian film, from Quebec. Two best friends, Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Xavier Dolan), meet a beguiling local Adonis, Nicolas (Niels Schneider), who seems interested in each of them. This is a dramatic romance from writer-director-producer Xavier Dolan, who also portrays the lovelorn Francis (and handles at least three other behind-the-scenes roles).
Minneapolis’ Lagoon Cinema will show this enchanting, exquisite film for a week beginning on April 1st.
The two friends are lost in Cupid’s static, if you want to call it that. Nicolas loves spending time with either Marie or Francis – as friends. After having suffered the typical agonies of young love, their desires for Nic’s interest works against them. That may even be Marie and Francis’ respective enemy. They each want love and intimacy – to be rid of the often crazy-making game of love, and into Nic’s arms.
“Heartbeats” starts abruptly with several 20-somethings talk to the screen, describing their very different romantic mishaps and agonies, both real and virtual. It’s a hilarious and poignant tool. This tool, in breaking the fourth wall, reminds you of Spike Lee’s debut feature, 1986′s “She’s Gotta Have It,” which is another story of complicated love. But this ain’t humor. It’s heartache.
After the first talk-to-the-screen montage, which divides the acts, Marie and Francis meet Nic. They find his charms, their chemistry and fun with him won’t be enough; it won’t satisfy any of them, except for him. This is a fun, very witty and urbane take on a love triangle tale.
Our awkward trio forms the heart of the movie. One run-in shows just how frustrated and funny this is. After Francis hears about how much Nic loves mid-20th-Century actress, Audrey Hepburn, he buys a poster of her. Then after bumping into Nic, Francis gives him the poster, expecting at least a kiss, a romantic gesture. There’s a problem: Nic likes the poster, and likes Francis for having given it, but only as much as he likes the poster. Francis clearly feels like crap, rejected: confusion, pain and hope trounced.
Unfortunately Marie and Francis put this on themselves. When you’re hungry for love – no, starving – logic and reasoning aren’t only pointless, but even enemies. Their hungry competition for Nic’s love tests their bond as best friends.
Movie love stories are weird because they’re rarely realistic. Most characters don’t act like we see in life, but like we expect in movies. With “Heartbeats” we have more realism. That’s refreshing. Most movie-goers will probably want something fun and witty. They’ll want this erotic tale of desire and longing to have an insipid format. This’ll satisfy those who liked and chatted about 1989′s “Say Anything” or 2000′s “High Fidelity,” but offer something more.
A few delightful technical things helped “Heartbeats” to be a delight overall. Most American movies’ musical scores support and match their stories and images just fine; it’s often symbolic. The editing, the “montage” in “Heartbeats” goes one better. It’s lyrical. Xavier Dolan lifts his montage to a refreshing and cool level. The images and music are symbiotically connected; they don’t merely match, but are one. This film’s montage is intimate and beguiling; as beguiling as our two best friends find Nic.
The gently intense music video tone in those montages reminds you of the one that helped to make 1991′s “Deep Cover” by Bill Duke stand out; entertainment reporters fawned over its staccato bits of montage. Each shot in the montages flows in-sync with the percussion. Another remarkable montage was used during a party scene: Marie and Francis each liken Nic to art, fine art. As they watch him at the party, they see these images intercut, in their imaginations, with shots of him dancing with another woman. For Marie she sees a god-like statue. For Francis, he sees an impressionist pencil drawing for Francis.
How about a silly Anglicized title? When you speak a foreign language, like French, fluidly if not fluently, foolish or bad translations of movie titles frustrate you. The original title, “Les Amours Imaginaires,” (The Imaginary Loves) describes the plot’s emotional gravity and intensity very well. Many of those people, who watch independent movies, will understand. “Heartbeats” is a très Américain translation: dull, disappointing and off-the-mark. C’est la vie.
If you want a score without using numbers, then “Les Amours Imaginaires” is something to see.