Sonntag, 31. August 2014

Venice Film Festival: 3 coeurs (Three Hearts)

French director Benoît Jacquot's "3 coeurs (Three Hearts)" is an imperfectly conceived but mightily directed, superbly performed drama d'amour. The plot construct is light: a man and a woman lose sight of each other after a chaste but impassioned chance encounter, only for the man to later meet and marry the sister of the possible love of his life by accident. A major failing of the film, in fact, lies in the question whether such an innocent secret from a random episode in life justifies the thunderous emotional grandstand that follows.

On the other hand, it plays exactly to the strength of the French to explore the far reaches of the human mindscape, to probe those quietest of feelings we don't know how to articulate, aren't even sure of. Watching the characters delight in, struggle against and hurt under invisible excitements and devastations wordlessly but eloquently, you see this is the people possibly equipped with the most advanced inner sensory technology. This couldn't be realized cinematically, of course, without empathetic performers, and all three principal actors here excel. Benoît Poelvoorde recovers from the other, disposable competition entry "La rançon de la gloire (The Price of Fame)" to deliver a raw and sensitive performance, registering all the primal urges rushing through the mind of an unintentional cheater. Chiara Mastroianni looks splendid and imbues her character's vulnerable nature with detailed shades of color. And then there's Charlotte Gainsbourg with her strong eyebrows and masculine nose, effortless charm and delicate femininity, once again radiating both rebellion and fragility with those soulful, utterly unreadable glances. Hers is a Frenchness to die for. In a limited role, Catherine Deneuve eats and smokes her way through the film and remains a formidable presence the way only Catherine Deneuve can.

There are a couple of abrupt voice-over expositions that are pretty problematic and the droning, darkly ominous score dictates rather too bossily the tone of the scenes, exacerbating the impression of over-dramatization. On the whole, however, it's an engrossing, technically superior film that reminds you how thrilling it is to find such intimate workings of the heart mapped out on the big screen.

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