Monday, June 18, 2007

The Beat That My Heart Skipped: Grade B

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005). French, subtitled.

Romain Duris. Director Jacques Audiard

Duris is a 20’s something thug in modern Paris. He and his partners buy old apartments, evict the tenants and sell. His aging father is also a slumlord and he sometimes asks the son to beat up somebody who doesn’t pay the rent. Duris is a chameleon who can turn from quiet reflection to head-bashing violence in an instant. It’s a fabulous acting job. By chance he meets an old piano teacher who rekindles his love of the instrument and he imagines himself as a concert pianist. He takes brush-up lessons from a Chinese instructor who speaks no French but the music and the body language are enough for them to communicate. When she yells at him in frustration, we know exactly what she means without understanding a word. He struggles with two lives– business thug and concert pianist – right up to the final moment of the movie. The structure is episodic: beat up a guy here, meet a girl there, play a few tunes. There is no suspense except the question of whether or not he will be successful as a concert pianist, and that idea doesn’t hold much water. A person must start playing the piano in the womb and continue a lifelong obsession to even have a remote shot at such a goal. One does not just take a few lessons after decades as a real estate “enforcer.” And anyway, his playing is not so good, so it is quite a shock to find that he is eventually successful, even though he still beats up guys from time to time. That’s got to be hard on the hands. The character is so improbable that it’s difficult to be engaged in the story, which wanders aimlessly from one scene to the next. Still, the acting is great and the directing is stylistic. Worth a look.

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