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In the new film auteur sweetheart Xavier Dolan's sophomore effort we receive a stylish and vague story about a passion for love. A love shared by two friends Marie (Mona Chokri) and Francis (the all-star Xavier Dolan) towards a sumptuously corny blond-haired egotripping Adonis Nicolas (Niels Schneider) a.k.a. Nico. Set to some ear-tasty music fronted by a french Dalida sung version of "Bang Bang" we receive a story about the tensions, exasperations and unfulfilled promise of expectations. Intermingled occasionally by quasi-documentary tidbit lessons of love from random people strangely balancing on the edge of mockumentary territory.
All the above is set as a backdrop to a plethora of homages to french New Wave, Jim Jarmusch, Audrey Hepburn and... Wong Kar-Wai. Albeit the nods to Kar-Wai are more than slight, as to an extent it basically felt like Dolan was basically attempting a quasi-farcical remake of the Asian pivotal work "In the Mood for Love". All inclusive. Featuring slowed-down long trailing shots, coloured cinematography, brilliantly focused sensual scenes, retro music and even an extremely overdone love poem to cigarettes and smoke. After basically ripping off Christopher Doyle's cinematography Xavier Dolan pasted together a piece of post-post-modernism, but without any of the subtle magic, power and enticement of Kar-Wai's original. The additional issue lies with the overusing of slow shots coupled with barrages of music, that lack ingenuity or class, instead bring about a repetitiveness problem and most of time seem like a tasteless parody of Doyle. Not to be too hard on Doyle even Kar-Wai himself was unable to imprint his own style into a Western film ("The Blueberry Nights"), which seems increasingly to prove that his solutions are specifically best made in Asia. Nonetheless I would go as far as to say that Dolan intended such strong borrowing after noticing the strong story similarities, as both movies are not about love itself, but about the longing for love.
Leaving the issue of almost blatant plagiarism the movie does show a lot of promise on a purely plot level and to some extent this promise is fulfilled. After slowly plodding out the story itself it does manage to engage, even though neither Dolan or Chokri have the stage presence or impact to actually convey their emotion. Almost no tension is created between characters and I found most scenes lacking dramatically. The only actor who managed to deliver was Schneider, but his role was being an egocentric and slightly clueless love-boy, so as such he was a secondary character.
The movie faces additional issues with overly worked lines with pop-cultural reference and tough words, which intend to convey a feeling of intellectuality, but are essentially unable to gloss over the fact that this seems forcibly awkward bordering on banal. Additionally other dialogues lack focus or the initially interesting idea is overused to absurdity (especially regarding people losing their head and gibbering nonsense under high emotionality). Given the movie lasts over 100 minutes with ideas for about 30-35 minutes of intriguing plotting the rest is filled with slow-motion shots with music, some uninspiring chatter and some utterly pointless forgettable side events. Despite some admirable qualities "Les amours..." seems a bit childish plot-wise and before anyone can really take Dolan seriously he really seriously needs to... well... grow up...
To add to insult the interloping interviews, which occasionally cut into the main story, lack focus, are mostly tiresome and forcibly intellectual self-styled hipster sobbings. Save for one woman with glasses, which actually adds some interesting depth to the movie. Plus the ending three minutes or so of the movie are pointless, petty and basically are a result of the overzealous director wanting to inflict some badly focused revenge...
On the positive side the use of music is perfection, whilst the cinematography is spectacularly beautiful and drenched in colour. The movie was impressive on a script level to the extent that given a bit more experience and a touch of ingenuity Dolan can actually reach the stars and make a classic movie. But this attempt is just a far cry to divinity.
I am fully aware that this may be a minority opinion, but I can't gloss over the fact that watching this movie was tiresome, uneventful and had an overwhelming feeling of repetitiveness. To sum it up: Xavier Dolan is no Tony Leung, Mona Chokri is no Maggie Cheung and "Le amours imaginaires" will never be "In the Mood for Love".
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