REVIEW: Les Amours Imaginaires (2010)

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Xavier Dolan became a instant prodigy on to the international cinema scene when his debut J’ai tué ma mere (I killed My Mother) won three awards at Cannes in 2009.

His follow-up was Les Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats in English) about a three way love triangle. In the movie, Francis, a gay Montrealer, played by Dolan and his close friend Marie, played by Monia Chokri both become infatuated with a young socialite named Nicolas. As their tumultuous love for Nicolas deepens their close relationship begins to suffer. The two friends become embroiled in a struggle to please Nicolas.

The theme of idealization is explored to great effect. There is a scene at a party where Marie envisions Michalangelo’s David, the artist’ own physical ideal when staring admirably at Nicolas.

Romantic obsession begins to take hold of the two friends as they vie for the affection of someone who will never return their love. Like I killed My Mother, his follow up is about Dolan’s struggling with his own homosexuality. The film is also a meditation on the senselessness of love and why its own madness is what makes it so appealing.

Dolan is undoubtedly a big talent. Monia Chokri who plays the muse of the film shines the brightest in front of the camera. Her archaic hairstyle and fashion sense would remind everyone of the French actress Anna Karina. And that provides a clue in who Dolan draws his cinematic inspiration from. None other than the French New Wave.

Three-way conflicts were a hallmark of Jean-Luc Godard and other new wave directors like Francois Truffaut. Dolan may have drawn his inspiration from Truffaut’s own Jules and Jim. But Les Amours Imaginaires has many more references to Godard’s early work.

Everything down to the scene settings, cultural references and camera shots are deliberately taken from Godard’s early classics such as Breathless and Band of Outsiders. The characters too represent the remnants of the 1960s-style cultural rebellion that Godard’s films often explored that still thrives in Montreal.

One final stylistic note, the film also includes sequences of characters not related to the main story discussing relationship issues. Dolan’s manages to make it relevant to the story and continues the tradition set by Godard in Masculine Feminine. The third sequence however does run a bit too long.

Rating: 4/5 Dolan is a promising young film-maker.

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