View Full Version : The Beat That My Heart Skipped (De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrêté) (2005) (France)

07-12-2005, 12:29 PM
Director: Jacques Audiard
Cast: Romain Duris, Niels Arestrup

The official website is here …

At the Berlin International Film Festival, it won the Silver Bear for Best Film Music.

Yes, the catchy title did tempt me to watch the film … I want to know what it is all about … Knowing me, I do not like to read synopsis (which will likely contain some spoilers, no matter how little). However, I notice the poster, and there are captions (from reviews) like … “thrilling” … “suspenseful” … “Alfred Hitchcock style” … etc … So, in a way I prepare myself wrongly for the film … ;( … if only they have tried to sell it as a dramatic film … which I think is more apt …

What is commendable?
-- I have to agree that it is among the best films in terms of CHARACTER study … wow! Yes, finally a character that is very real and complex …
-- I have to agree that the above is in part boosted by the outstanding performance of Romain Duris!
-- Definitely the soundtrack (e.g., in violin), or if you like classical music (e.g., the piano), or if you prefer contemporary music (e.g., electro music)!
-- It does try to achieve a lot (in terms of theme) … hmmm … but does it really succeed?
e.g., It dealt with family, father and son, (deceased) mother and son
e.g., It dealt with friendship and love, loyalty versus betrayal, etc
e.g., It dealt with violence versus peace … a new life versus an old … a dream versus harsh reality … work versus leisure (i.e., art/music) … etc
-- Overall, I am impressed with how AUTHENTIC and REAL the entire film comes across … every scenario is so believable even though they may involve worrisome or frightening situations … you can believe all these things do happen to this character … wow …

What is problematic?
-- The problem (if any) is … the film does not really pick up for the pace of a thriller … every time you think something will happen, nothing very much happens to follow through and sustain it … ya, something does happen, but it is over too soon and not very thrilling … kind of a let down …

* possible minor spoilers *
e.g., in the beginning, they were carrying these bags of “unknown” squeaking creatures and the audience wondered what they were … soon they scurried all over the floor … some screams … they left … nothing else happened …
e.g., subsequently, the father asked the son to threaten the restaurant owner … when he eventually did, he set fire … in the struggle, he reached for a knife … and it was at the owner’s throat … then … nothing happened …
e.g., his friends negotiated a different contract … they argued … again nothing happened …
e.g., his father requested him to get back at the Russian guy … he finally located him and identified him … the Russian guy went up to his room … nothing happened …
e.g., before his big day at the piano audition, his friends woke him up in the middle of the night … loud bangs on the door … oh no … would something happened to his hands? … oh no … did you guess it right … I shan’t tell you anything …
* end of minor spoilers *

-- In a way, the many “minor” subplots are fantastic in helping to understand his character, the mood swings, etc. However, as a whole, these many subplots and events might actually mask the main theme (if any) of the movie. Also, to a large extent, it affected the overall coherence and pacing of the movie …

If you are looking for a character study or a great performance by the lead, I say GO FOR IT!
If you are looking for a thriller … hmm … I would say, I am still thinking if it is indeed *really* a thriller …

P.S.: My friend actually considered the film “strange” and “boring” …

Chris Knipp
07-15-2005, 08:53 PM

A movie that never skips a beat

Review by Chris Knipp

The premise is far-fetched but simple. Approaching thirty, Tom Seyre (Romain Duris) is working hard as an enforcer and violent rent collector for his dad, a scumbag real estate tycoon (Niels Arestrup). But a chance encounter starts him thinking he might be the talented concert pianist he once dreamed of, in the image of his late mother. Without stopping his usual work he tries to prepare an audition.

Based on a flop more admired in France than the US, James Toback's 70's Harvey Keitel vehicle about a violent would-be pianist, Fingers, this compulsively watchable, thrillingly accomplished new movie by Jacques Audiard (De Battre mon cœur s'est arrêté, still showing in Paris as it opens here) echoes his previous compellingly offbeat Read My Lips in grafting together two separate moral universes. Read My Lips depicted the odd alliance of a firecracker ex-con (Vincent Cassel) and a mild-mannered but angry hearing-impaired office worker (Emmanuelle Devos). It was an intriguing piece -- but seems low energy in retrospect compared to this. Audiard has made a powerful actors' movie in which Duris blooms, a powerful actor now, playing in effect both the Cassel and the Devos parts and acting out the resulting implosion of violence and frustrated artistic passion with astonishing zest. It's hard to believe he was the tame college student narrator of Klapich's L'Auberge espagnole three years ago.

Duris as Tom is good-looking but vaguely burnt-out, his eyes a bit crazy, his hair neatly coifed, his jaw firm, has mouth a smiling snarl. The camera is on that square jaw every minute. Uniformed in boots, smart pants, tie and trim leather jacket, he's an elegant young hoodlum who can switch to a dark suit for a real estate hearing or audition, or wipe the blood off his cuff to enter a café or concert hall. He's angry all the time but brings vibrant energy to both of his conflicting lives. Tom finds a beautiful longhaired young master pianist called Miao Lin (Linh Dan Pham) to coach him in piano. These encounters with the keyboard he approaches like a prize fighter going at a punching bag. If he's an artist it's the hairy-chested, coiled, macho kind. How can you teach anybody pianistic excellence? The impossibility of the process is signaled by the teacher's speaking no French. She harangues Tom in Vietnamese, or just says in English over and over, "again" Or "no." Or "no smoking allowed." A cup of tea in the kitchen at end of session. Tom goes at the same piece over and over, a Bach Toccata. This relationship is an "oasis of calm" in Tom's otherwise loca vida -- the contrasts in such a piece as this are telegraphed without much subtlety -- but the unconventionality of the pair helps the scenes to avoid cliché. And the intensity is just as focused in these quiet moments.

There are other strong relationships. Tom isn't isolated; he works with partners, one of whom uses him to hide his two-timing from his wife. Arestrup, who looks like a French version of late Brando, is superb as the blowsy, burnt out father, a big sensualist, an irresistible presence, always smoking drinking and eating, soft but nasty, irritating but impossible for Tom not to love and protect. Tom pursues Minskov (Anton Yakovlev), a Russian Mafioso his dad has tangled with, and winds up sleeping with Minskov's French girlfriend as well as somebody else's wife. Every encounter he has is reckless and intense. Duris doesn't fail us in any of this. Emmanuelle Devos is his dad's new girlfriend, whom Tom first calls a whore and rejects and then wants to hire on to calm things on the home front. Where's it all going to end? Despite all that's going on, as one French critic said, "there's no fat" in this picture. The pushes and pulls of the hero's dilemma make for fabulously kinetic editing and the action never goes soft. A final sequel resolves things. Some say it's milder than the American version, but that's overlooking the visceral punch of the action throughout. The dialogue underlines that just as in Read My Lips, people aren't communicating too well. It may be music is all that links them.

The shortcomings of such a movie are its simplifications. The crooked real estate life like the classical pianist life can be no more than impressionistically dabbed in. And there's an occasional danger that Romain Duris -- who studied piano for months with his pianist sister for the keyboard sequences -- may be trying too hard sometimes. Since Tom also loves electro which he listens to with big headphones in his car -- as the word is Duris himself does -- classical music maybe doesn't grab the film as wholeheartedly as it ought to. You can't expect profundity but from the sound of Fingers, this is more accomplished filmmaking. It may not have as much conviction, but this is wildly entertaining. And more than that, it's a movie where everything comes together, scenario, actors, editing. Audiard, who showed us dark secret places last time, now reveals himself a virtuoso of violence and passion.

Posted on Chris Knipp website. (http://www.chrisknipp.com/writing/viewtopic.php?t=431)

oscar jubis
08-03-2005, 10:26 PM
Walked into this film with high expectations created by Audiard's A Self Made Hero and Read My Lips but concerned about anybody playing a character previously played by personal fave Harvey Keitel. It's been years since I watched James Toback's Fingers but I'll venture to say that this remake is the better film (I'll re-watch Fingers if I find the time). The relationship between father and son seems more resonant here. Plot changes, such as making Tom's lover the wife of his adulterous partner, make the plot more interesting, adding complexity. The Beat That My Heart Skipped satisfies on various levels. It's the type of foreign film that would, if properly distributed and publicized, attract fans beyond the so-called art-house crowd. It's a character study with elements of "thriller" and politically-conscious bits about corruption and the vulnerabilities of the emigrant poor. The Beat That My Heart Skipped plays by the rules of conventional narrative cinema without seeming staid or rehashed for a second. Recommended to everyone who's willing to read subtitles. Oh, Romain Duris is just fine. He makes the role his own.

*The US release of a subtitled film only months after it premieres in its country of origin should become a trend, but it won't.

Chris Knipp
08-04-2005, 12:38 AM
Good to hear from you on this, did you see it in NYC? This is definitely one of my summer's and probably year's best. Duris has seemed more conventional before and this is a great role for him. If only. . . .

It's interesting to see and compare Fingers as I have recently done; some scenes are copied closely, even to the color of the dad's jacket, but this is a better movie and also a more complex one, though a worthy source at the same time; one can see the originality and the suggestiveness in Toback's work here, which he doesn't always have.

I didn't see Fingers when it was new though I did see Blue Collar. I've always avoided movies and I avoided that one. It sounded too high concept to me. I'm glad the French thought otherwise because this to me is Audiard's best so far, though I liked the others.

Chris Knipp
08-14-2005, 05:34 PM
Terrence Rafferty's Times article "Incroyable! The French Remake a U.S. Film" (I think you can still find it here (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/03/movies/03raff.html?ex=1278043200&en=efe69f7bab964782&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss) ) is a valuable sideline of this discussion. Raffterty not only compares The Beat My Heart Skipped and Fingers but talks to both directors.