De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)

(2005) ** Unrated
107 min. Wellspring Media. Director: Jacques Audiard. Cast: Romain Duris, Aure Atika, Emmanuelle Devos, Niels Arestrup, Jonathan Zaccai.

James Toback's well-regarded 1978 film Fingers gets a French remake in The Beat That My Heart Skipped, which must be payback for all of those American remakes of French films. The two films share an extreme, dualistic plot—glorified street thug finds new motivation by returning to the piano—but the French version lacks spontaneity, authenticity, or suspense.

In the leading role originated by Harvey Keitel, Romain Duris of L'Auberge espagnole ably maintains the basic tension of volatility and sensitivity that defines Tom, a man torn between the example of his street-tough father and his concert-pianist mother. If Keitel looked the part of a roughneck doomed to failure, director Jacques Audiard plays the other side of the fence by casting Duris, who looks more natural behind a piano than he does going for the throat.

Director Jacques Audiard, who made the sleek thriller Read My Lips, attempts to make The Beat That My Heart Skipped naturalistic, but his hamhanded touch with the obviously symbolic plot elements results in a static accounting of polar personal themes: for or against society, for Mom or for Dad, for artistic self-expression or mob-mentality self-destruction.

Mostly, the unsympathetic Tom proves petulant and deluded at how difficult it is to play the piano, but his sexual tension with all women, from his piano instructor to his best friend's wife, generates passing interest. Predictably, the young man's two worlds come to a head, and he must choose a path, but after having your strings pulled for a sometimes tedious 102 minutes, will you still care?

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