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Joseph Proimakis [Film Festival 05.24.10] Canada movie review drama romance

Year: 2009
Directors: Xavier Dolan
Writers: Xavier Dolan
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Joseph Proimakis
Rating: 6 out of 10

Xavier Dolan follows up on his festival-loved debut, I killed my Mother (J'ai tué ma mère), with a playful thing of beauty, a jazzed up version of Godard’s Jules et Jim, which breezes by like a breath of fresh air, showing signs that the 21 year old Quebecker filmmaker, might very well become the Quentin Tarantino of cinema d’ auteur. If only he manages to hold back on his self-appreciation, and makes sure to tone down his baffling need to say it all in one breath.

Starting off with an introductory batch of faux interviews of poor young things sharing their experiences from loves long lost, Dolan sets up the tone of what’s to follow in the next 97 minutes, and then serves up the theme in a short but sharp, brilliantly economic scene: Francis (Dolan) and his best friend Marie (Monia Chokri), are tossing the salad (literally), while darting short inquisitive glances at Nicolas (Niels Schneider), a golden-locked treat that wets their appetites and soon turns them on each other, as he ignites the title’s heartbeats along with a race to his trousers.

For the next hour or so, the two friends gradually become sour enemies, both tripping each other up, trying to find what makes Nicolas tick, and gain the advantage, while messing up their rival’s chances: Francis shows up in a restaurant he knows Marie is sure to take Nicolas to, while Marie has Francis second-guessing his choices of attire when he’s to meet the much desired prey. Nicolas’ mixed messages don’t help much either, as no one (audience included) can truly tell whether he’s straight, gay or bi, or which one he’s more likely to be interested in, if any one at all. Just standing there and looking delicious and flirtatious and driving them both mad by being a constant tease, he pretty much constitutes a living, breathing definition of what one might call an homme-fatal.

Dolan’s taste for the dramatic, is underlined by a series of homages to Sergio Leone, Wong Kar Wai and the whole of the Nouvelle Vague, his proudest shots seeming to be a delightfully strange mixture of over-stylized, dense with pastel colors, long slo-mo panning shots, amplified by violin-heavy background music. A series of such shots used to trail Marie’s silhouette wearing tight colorful dresses to the arias of an Italian cover of Bang Bang, stand out as the film’s most memorable moments, while their juxtaposition with a similarly shot, a-la ‘50s attired Francis, walking in the opposite direction, allude to a Mexican stand-off, for the eyes of the beautiful prize.

Dolan’s cinematic eloquence and visual flair make for a refreshing experience, though at just 97 minutes, it does feel rather long. It’s rather uncomforting to see the surrealistic intermissions also spotted in his debut feature, show up again here, quite heavier and quite more unfitting, severely hurting the film’s rhythm. The fake interviews, also a narrative tool used in his previous film, work much better in amping up the nihilistic mood of a film the director has been quoted to call “an essay on love's downfall”, but one cannot but be concerned on how much of a comfort zone these elements of distraction constitute for the film-maker, who still remains in need to either experiment more with his method of story-telling, or settle for a more conventional form of approaching it, in order to lay it out in a less style-over-substance way. If he cares about that, obviously.

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Jandy Stone (12 years ago) Reply

Given your just-above-mediocre rating for this (which sounds from the description like something i'd like), I'm curious what you thought of J'ai tue ma mere, which was one of my favorite films last year.

Sounds also kind of like Bertolucci's The Dreamers, which, of course, has a huge debt to the New Wave. Oh, and Jules et Jim is Truffaut, not Godard.


Il Buco (11 years ago) Reply

Wow This review was written by a true film lover -- one who doesn't even know who directed "Jules and Jim." Why should anyone pay any attention to someone so ignorant?

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