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Time Out says
Tue May 24 2011Quebecois writer-producer-director-star and former child actor Xavier Dolan attracted festival attention and praise (though not, bafflingly, a UK release) for his semi-autobiographical 2009 debut feature, ‘I Killed My Mother’. Made when Dolan was barely out of his teens, it probed the spiky co-dependence of a single mother and her gay teenage son (Dolan) with barbed nuance. Frequently hysterical in both senses, it simultaneously echoed and castigated its lead’s callowness, flaunting its influences (from Nouvelle Vague and Bergman to Van Sant and Almodóvar) while demonstrating Dolan’s own stylish, remarkably assured grasp of mise-en-scène, montage and sound design.
His follow-up is a kind of ‘Jules et Jim’ de nos jours in which best buddies Dolan and Monia Chokri go gaga for new boy in town Nicolas (Niels Schneider), precariously trying to maintain an air of nonchalance – not to mention their friendship – in the face of his indiscriminately flirtatious narcissism. That Nicolas’s charms are debatable is beside the point: ‘Heartbeats’ captures with delicious ambivalence the compulsive, self-debasing rush of infatuation, indulgently swooning at one moment (cue Jean Genet drawings and Wong Kar Wai slo-mo) and rolling its eyes in exasperation the next.
As an actor, Dolan conveys charm, petulance and longing with aplomb, and he has cast well: Schneider has the callous beauty of a Caravaggio and Chokri is a delight, undermining the careful composition of her exquisite retro styling with an incrementally curled lip or widened eye. It can seem as if style is all in Dolan’s films, but as well as revelling in its pleasures, they also dissect its limitations – sometimes without anaesthetic.
Author: Ben Walters