Friday, June 17, 2011

Rants on Les Amours Imaginaires

There is an old episode of Will & Grace where Will and Grace meet and fall for the same guy in their apartment building. The problem? Thanks to the mixed messages he sends, neither of them can tell if he's gay or straight. One minute he's getting up close and personal with Will, showing him how to properly hold a golf club, and the next he's openly flirting with Grace. When the two of them admit to him they don't know his sexuality, he leaves in a huff, never revealing if he was into Will or Grace.

Why am I bringing this up? French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan's second film, Les Amours Imaginaires, takes that episode's basic plotline and infuses it with the arthouse style of early Godard and Wong Kar-wai. If we're being honest, though, Dolan comes across more as an imitator in the vein of Christophe Honoré rather than as someone who completely understands the styles he is mining. He clearly has excellent taste, but he hasn't figured out yet how to pay tribute to his favorite directors while simultaneously developing his own style. As it stands right now, Dolan's "style," if you can call it that, is all hollow pastiche, a superficial front for a complete lack of substance. The most irritating thing about Dolan's aesthetic is that he often uses stylistic devices for no reason other than because it looks cool. The constant, repetitive slow motion is bad enough, but the use of strobe lights during a party in someone's apartment set me over the edge. I'm sure these moments are meant to set the hearts a-flutterin' of those pretentious douchebag hipsters this movie is aimed at so that they can collectively lose their shit at just how great of an artist Dolan is and the interesting, beautiful visual choices he makes that are so much better than any crap you'd see in "regular" cinemas. Please, I saw more coherent camerawork in Justin Bieber: Never Say Never in 2D than Dolan manages in Les Amours Imaginaires.

The Will and Grace of this movie are Francis (Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri). Within the first ten minutes of the film, after an agonizing "talking heads"-style interviews with other pretentious douchebag hipster moaning about the perils of love at 20, Francis and Marie both fall head over heels in love with blonde adonis Nicolas. Lord knows why because the first time we hear Nicolas speak, he drones on an on about something to do with seismographs and studying literature at university in the most blasé, faux-intellectual way possible. Nicolas comes off as a pretty bore, but Francis and Marie fall in love anyways. And they spend the next 90 minutes thinking about him, pining for him, fantasizing about him while having sex with other men and competing for his affections. They both spend so much time and energy crushing on Nicolas it makes you wonder what these characters do outside of their obsession for him. Do they go to school? Do they have jobs? Are they "artists"? Who the fuck knows? None of these characters bare any resemblance to any human being I've ever encountered.

In Les Amours Imaginaires, love is an idea, an intellectual phenomenon that is discussed like philosophy instead of felt like an emotion. It's an interesting idea in theory but about as fascinating as watching paint dry on the screen. Francis and Marie are more interested in the idea of being in love with someone as "fascinating" as Nicolas than they are by actually being in love with him. They hardly know the guy yet they are ready to cry themselves to sleep when he doesn't look their way at a café. This overexaggeration of emotion is another problem with the film. Dolan has no sense of humor about anyone or anything in this film. Every single emotion is deadly serious and shouldn't be taken lightly. This is probably a personal preference, but how dull are films, outside of your typical Holocaust movie, that take themselves as seriously as Dolan does here?

The last scene of the film, which in a surprisingly humorous way shows what immature brats Francis and Marie are, is enough of a corker to make you want to re-evaluate the rest of the film. But then you think back on all the obnoxious slow motion shots and shallow imagery and you realize that the only grade this film deserves is a D, as in dump, as in "I want to take a dump on this pile of celluloid called a film."

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