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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

entry arrow12:18 PM | Love Duel in Slow Motion

I always like it when I see a film and I recognize significant parts of it as mirrors of my own life. When it also happens to be a well-crafted film, it enters my personal pantheon of cinematic favorites, titles unforgotten and frequently visited. This mirroring reach is not simply an exercise in narcissism nor a search for validation of one's life in the lofty region of high art; I think it is just a recognition that the best kind of art really somehow illuminates the realities of the world we live in, that it gives a spark of recognition of the universal condition.

This is why I responded so much to Québécoi filmmaker Xavier Dolan's sophomore effort, Les Amours Imaginaires [Heartbeats, 2010]. It is far from a perfect film. It is in fact indulgent, but nevertheless. So much of it strikes me as familiar -- although I have never ever been a French Canadian, nor involved in what Dolan has called "a love duel" with a female friend for the affection of an Adonis. But I have been in love, and I have been reckless in some of my passionate pursuits, and I have friends who are exactly like this neurotic, self-centered threesome. Still, the film is basically my life set to saturated primary colors, in slow motion, moving through Dalida's infectious and campy "Bang Bang" cover -- and all in French.

Dolan, who directs and stars in this film, does a creative departure from his searing and angst-ridding directorial debut J'ai tué ma mère [I Killed My Mother, 2009]. It is funny and borrows a lot of the stylistics of Pedro Almodovar and Wong Kar-Wai, which can prove disastrous in the hands of a less nimble filmmaker. But Dolan succeeds, which may be because he drapes his pursuit of a style on a very simple storyline, and peoples his frames with actors (which include himself) who embody with a rawness and rightness the ennui and the narcissism necessary for the characters they portray. The blonde and curly-haired Niels Schneider is Nicolas, the common object of desire. His is the hardest role to play in the film but the actor manages to do something concrete to his cipher of a character, someone without much of a personality but whose drawing power is understood as a given. I had a harder time warming up to Monia Chokri as the vintage-wearing and dour Marie -- which may be because she reminds me so much of a frenemy who is similarly calculating and vicious, but hides all of that behind fake big smiles and much show of friendly concern. Dolan as the gay and sensitive Francis comes off as the more sympathetic one in the trio. But I could not help but ask -- why stay friends when you're so much better off without the other? I could also ask myself the same thing with many people I know.

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