The Beat That My Heart Skipped / De battre mon coeur s'est arr
(Jacques Audiard, France, 2005, 108 mins.)
After the press screening of this inventive re-imagining of James Toback's
Fingers (1978), I heard one pass holder proclaim, "Implausible!" I heard another
take Romain Duris (the hippie drummer from When the Cat's Away, the upcoming Russian Dolls) to task for his visceral portrayal of a classical pianist (too much
"face squinching," apparently). So don't say you haven't been warned.
Maybe I'm in the minority, but I liked the film-and I thought Duris, who looks
like Charlotte Gainsbourg's long-lost brother, was pretty convincing on the ivories. Granted, I quite like Fingers (I own the DVD), but I don't think it's a masterpiece.
And although I don't think Audiard's fifth feature is as good as Read My Lips or
A Self-Made Hero (still my favorite), the former SIFF Emerging Master does a surprisingly credible job at shaping what was very personal material for Toback (according to his DVD commentary) into a film with his own unique stamp on it.
The story, in brief, is that Tom (Harvey Keitel's "Jimmy" in the original) is torn between a life of crime (his father's profession) and life as a concert pianist
(his late mother's calling). If that makes it sound like Mean Streets-with classical music standing in for Catholicism-that's because it is (a little). The tension
comes from Tom's increasingly desperate attempts to reconcile the two.
I guess it goes without saying, but there's no way this tale's gonna end well, and
Audiard somehow manages to find a less portentious way to come to the same pessimistic conclusion as Toback. It's a neat trick. That said, The Beat That My Heart Skipped does get off to a slow start--it didn't really kick in for me till the last act-
and Tom is never a particularly likable character, but he is a sympathetic one.
The Neptune: Sunday, 5/29, at 6:30PM and Monday, 5/30, at 2PM.
Postscript: The Beat That My Heart Skipped made my top 10 for '05.