Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Romain Duris as Thomas
Photo: Wellspring

Directed by: Jacques Audiard.
Produced by: Pascal Caucheteux.
Written by: Jacques Audiard & Tonino Benacquista, based on the film Fingers.
Director of Photography: Stéphane Fontaine.
Edited by: Juliette Welfling.
Music by: Alexandre Desplat.
Released by: Wellspring.
Language: French with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: France. 107 min. Not Rated.
With: Romain Duris, Niels Arestrup, Linh-Dan Pham & Aure Atika.
Special Features: Deleted scenes. Interviews. Rehearsals. Filmographies. Trailers.

Rising French star Romain Duris' high-energy performance alone justifies director Jacques Audiard's remake of James Toback's grimy 1978 melodrama Fingers. Transplanted from New York City to Paris, the story remains by and large the same, and the mood equally as threatening, but with a more vulnerable (and less misogynistic) central character. The harsh rough-and-tumble nocturnal activities of Thomas (Duris) and his real estate co-investors instantly set the tone - planting rats in buildings to terrify tenants and destroying apartments before immigrants squatters move in. A collector and a fixer, Thomas wants to free himself from his thuggish slumlord father's shadow and pursue a career as a classical pianist. A chance encounter with a colleague of his deceased mother, who was a pianist, reignites his musical passion, much to his father's skepticism. But at 28, Thomas is too old to be considered for a conservatory. Instead, he ambitiously resolves to become a soloist, tutored by a young Vietnamese woman (a scene-stealing Linh-Dan Pham), who speaks no French.

Unlike Harvey Keitel in the original, Duris has more of an effortless confidence, whether he's practicing his Bach in a bar while listening to techno on his headphones or beating a deadbeat to a pulp as he settles a score for his father. The actor seamlessly bridges the two halves of his character. With a hip swagger, Duris entirely and physically inhabits his role, almost a rarity these days among young film actors. (Perhaps his closest American counterpart is Liev Schreiber.) Thanks to Duris, the black-and-white conflict is believable. But unlike Fingers, Audiard's ensemble is uniformly up to the lead actor's performance, especially Niels Arestrup as Thomas' manipulative father. And much more believable is the relationship between Thomas and the women in his life, each holding her own and seeing through Thomas' machismo facade. Less a thriller (although there are plenty of suspenseful moments) and more a character study, The Beat That My Heart Skipped provides a showcase for Duris, just as Audiard's last film, Read My Lips, had for Emmanuelle Devos (who also appears in Beat). Kent Turner
July 1, 2005

DVD Extras: They range from fascinating (some of the deleted scenes) to frivolous (the ubiquitous coming attractions). The deleted sequences further emphasize the effect music has on Tom as he mimicks his piano playing while doing daily routines, tuning out everything around him. No clues, except for the context, are given as to where these scenes would have been placed. Some are unedited, and others irrelevant (like Tom masturbating next to the piano). The interviews, especially with the producer, are worthwhile for a viewer with a lot of patience. Though many production details are revealed, such as the film's inspiration and the casting of Romain Duris, no visuals accompany these tidbits. And the rehearsals provide a glimpse of what the actors are like off screen but don't do much for the movie itself. Michael Wong
December 6, 2005



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