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Movie review: 'Heartbeats,' 2.5 stars



2.5 stars
Written and directed by Xavier Dolan
Starring Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri, Niels Schneider
Rated R

“Heartbeats,” set in Montreal, has Frenchness in its soul.

The film pays beautiful, self-conscious tribute to some of the visual tropes and fourth-wall-shattering storytelling techniques that characterized the French New Wave, the period during the 1960s in which filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut modernized cinema.

“Heartbeats” aspires to incorporate those devices in its deconstruction of the free-flowing sexuality and complex intersection of love and lust that characterizes millennial romance.

Yet the second feature-film effort of 21-year-old director Xavier Dolan comes across as a rather insipid, empty affair.

In telling the story of three gorgeous twenty-somethings — two of whom (played by Dolan and Monia Chokri) fight for the affections of the third (Niels Schneider) — the filmmaker offers no probing or lasting insights into their strained connections.
Instead, Dolan seems content to center his film on one slow-motion montage after another, falsely presuming that his audience would settle for the on-screen beauty without wanting more.

The actors are submerged in a layer of artifice so thick that it’s impossible to regard the characters as anything but pawns in the writer-director’s cinematic game. Similarly, the movie — while full of visual pleasures — never quite shakes the sense that it is a full-length perfume ad masquerading as something more. 

Playing at IFC Center

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