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CANNES — This ultra-arch comedy will be most appreciated by the very young toward whom it is aimed, but contains a few elements here and there that all age groups will enjoy. “Heartbeats” (Les Amours Imaginaires), the sophomore outing of 22-year-old French Canadian director Xavier Dolan (instantly famous for last year’s “J’ai tue ma mere”) is militantly superficial and revels overmuch in its campy gay sensibility, but is sporadically fun if not taken too seriously.
Handled properly and targeted toward the right demographic, it could be a sleeper hit for some small, hip distributor. Otherwise, boxoffice success seems unlikely, though ancillary markets may provide a nice income stream.
Francis (don’t dare call him Francois), played by the director himself, is gay, gorgeous, and good friends with Marie. One day at lunch, they meet the ravishing, golden-curled Nicholas (who is overtly compared to Michelangelo’s David in one of the film’s many fantasy sequences), just in from the country, and each falls head over heels in love, a process that the film intends to document. Variations on the triangle are rung in several registers, especially the comic (and the sillier the better), and it shall be left up to the reader to guess who, if anyone, is ultimately triumphant.
Here the boys are far more beautiful than the girls, who tend toward the frumpy or the conventionally cute. The real stars of this movie, a kind of “Sex and the City” for post-teens, are the clothes (both retro and ultra-contemporary), the hair styles, and the blazingly-fast bons mots uttered in a French-Canadian version of Valley Girl-speak. (For speakers of Parisian French, the French-Canadian idiom will provide its own special fascination.)
The film is utterly taken with the superficial, which it seems to be trying almost to vaunt into a system of post-Nietzschean values. Whenever a serious thought appears vaguely on the horizon, it is quickly dispatched, either by turning it into a joke or a platitude (alas, not by design). Slo-mo tracking shots, which may be meant ironically, along with ultra-cliched classical music in the score, complete the slaughter.
One of the film’s more interesting features are the mini-interviews that punctuate it, with autobiographical commentary from airheads supposedly drawn from real-life. The self-aware, self-denigrating comments they offer on the meaning of life and love will be cliches to old-timers but presumably deep, though always funny (let’s not get too serious here), philosophy for the film’s intended demographic.
At its very end, “Heartbeats” becomes more endearing as it tries to salvage some shopworn but nevertheless true things about love and life.
Venue: Festival de Cannes — Un Certain Regard
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Niels Schneider, Monia Chokri
Director-screenwriter-editor-costume designer: Xavier Dolan
Director of photography: Stephanie Weber Biron
No rating, 105 minutes
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