TripAdvisor - Paris
home | art & architecture | books & cds | dance | destinations | film | opera | television | theater | archives
In The Beat That My Heart Skipped,
writer/director Jacques Audiard continues in the neo-noir mode that he so successfully
explored in his last outing, Read My
Lips. Shot in available light (and, therefore, dark and shadowy), using a lot of
jumpy hand-held camera shots, The Beat takes on a nervous visual tone which
reflects the emotional state of its central character, Thomas Seyr (Romain Duris), a
28-year-old involved in the shady side of real estate--slum lording, tenant terrorizing,
Tom is the proverbial chip off the old block; his now aging father, Robert (Niels Arestrup) is in the same business. Tom's relationship with his father is an ambivalent one, classically full of conflict, but anchored in strong emotional ties. Tom's late mother had been a concert pianist and Tom himself had shown promise at the keyboard, but gave it up a decade ago, when his mother died. His life devolved into his current unsavory work, with drinking and women to fill his nonworking hours. When an associate frequently has Tom provide cover for his adulterous escapades, Tom initiates an affair with his wife. Nothing is sacred; his is a cynical, amoral life.
But then his mother's former manager offers Tom the opportunity to audition and he begins to study piano again with a beautiful Vietnamese virtuoso (Linh-Dan Pham) as his coach. He puts the same kind of all-consuming energy into the music that he does into his real estate ventures. He seems at once driven and conflicted, locked into his lucrative life of sleazy violence while yearning for the career in music that could release him.
To his credit, Audiard doesn't provide simple answers or a predictable conclusion, although he retains consistency in the noir viewpoint with its dark and pessimistic cynicism. The film fully develops the character of Tom in all his erratic, high-energy edginess, realized with powerful intensity in Duris' performance which drives the narrative, even when the unnecessarily extensive real estate dealings drag down the middle of the film.
Carla, the deaf girl at the center of Read My Lips, was no angel, but Audiard generated genuine compassion for her due to her circumstances. In contrast, Tom, while an intriguing and fully motivated, persuasive character, never becomes likable or sympathetic. So, as pointed as Audiard's observations are, The Beat is not likely to engender an emotional response, so much as a thoughtful, dispassionate one. Warm fuzzies don't generally occupy noir territory, but then neither does Bach's Tocatta in E-minor. Redemption is not to be expected.
- Arthur Lazere