The Beat My Heart Skipped

(De battre mon cour s’est arrête, Jacques Audiard, France, 2005)


The secret to making a clever remake is to pick a good film that very few people have seen. French producer Pascal Caucheteux is currently on a campaign to remake American films from the 1970s. His first effort, Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) was excellent, and his second selection is even more inspired: James Toback‘s remarkable Fingers (1978), starring a young, hyper-nervy Harvey Keitel.

It is difficult to rate Fingers as even a cult movie, since it has been so difficult to get one’s hands on until the DVD release of 2004. So Caucheteux and director-writer Jacques Audiard (Read My Lips, 2001) can safely assume that people will mistake the most derivative elements of this new film for original inventions.

The core in both films is the same: a young man is torn between the criminal vocation enforced by his father and the cultural sensibility bequeathed to him by his mother. This schism is dramatised in starkly melodramatic terms: when the anti-hero is not bashing up the underprivileged to collect protection money, he is sitting at a piano emoting like Glenn Gould over classical music.

Romain Duris (familiar from Tony Gatlif’s movies) does an excellent job of reinterpreting Keitel’s immortal performance. Audiard employs a different style to Toback, making the most of a handheld camera, nocturnal settings and an edgy, splintered approach keyed to the central character’s subjective perceptions.

While contemporary techno beats replace the crazy doo-wop soundtrack of the original, Audiard sticks closely to many of Toback’s best scenes including the painful spectacle of Tom auditioning for a major musical impresario.

The Beat My Heart Skipped is a well-made, involving film, but there is a puzzling absence at its centre. Fingers is, above all, a film about male sexual dysfunction, and the psychotic behaviour that results from the hero not measuring up to society’s ideal. Audiard erases almost all of this (apart from a now meaningless reference to castration), leaving only a crime story with a dose of politics, a curious new subplot involving an Asian music teacher, and eccentric high-culture elements.

© Adrian Martin June 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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