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Film Review: Les Amours Imaginaires (2010)

Unrequited love is a phenomenon that is seldom acknowledged on the big screen. Consider any celebrated romance in movie history: Titanic, A Matter of Life and Death, An Affair to Remember ... All of the relationships delineated therein are defined by reciprocal affection. Les amours imaginaires (clumsily translated as 'Heartbeats') departs from this well-worn model, recounting an ill-fated menage-a-trois between best friend duo Francis (Xavier Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) and the joint object of their desire Nico (Niels Schneider), a charismatic, blonde bohemian who has just moved to Montreal from the country.

Visionary director Xavier Dolan - a hot commodity on the independent film circuit who recently captured mainstream attention for helming Adele's Hello video - presents his characters' longing and disappointment with subjective camera work. In one scene, Nico is framed as the epitome of male perfection with rapid cuts from the spurned lovers' unblinking gazes to Cocteau's homosexual drawings and Adonic Greek statues. Another fantasy sequence shows Nico, shirtless against a turquoise backdrop, as cascades of marshmallows tumble from above. These insights into Francis and Marie's interiorities are at once wonderfully artistic and poignantly tragic, offering a refreshing perspective on love that conventional cinema sweeps under the rug all too often.

 Les amours imaginaires' gorgeous cinematography is overrun with vibrant, saturated colours and set to a poppy soundtrack that enlivens the wintry Quebecois landscape. The inspired angles Dolan selects to shoot the film from slow motion tracking shots to decentring the actors - convey the protagonists' brewing emotions and feed into the darkly comic atmosphere. Screening at Cannes back in 2010, the stylistically compelling Les amours imaginaires helped solidify Dolan's position as one of the most promising young directors in the industry today. With his first English language film (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan) set for release next year, Dolan's blossoming career is definitely one to watch in the coming months.


By Yasmin Omar

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