you fall for a taxman? Two women from the provincial French town of Valence
will do exactly that. Their similar tastes make sense, considering they happen
to be sisters. Complications will necessarily ensue in Benoît Jacquot’s 3 Hearts (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Beaulieu is a revenue agency bureaucrat based in Paris, but he sometimes
ventures out into the field for an audit. He missed the last train home on his
first fateful night in Valence—the sort of sleepy town that rolls up the streets
after eleven o’clock. However, Sylvie Berger is also roaming through the
shuttered nocturnal streets. She guides him to a hotel, but they spend most of
the night gliding through the quiet sidewalks together. Little is said, but a
connection is formed. Beaulieu leaves for Paris in the morning, but they make
hasty plans to rendezvous at the Jardin des Tuileries, but a few mild hassles
like a heart attack make Beaulieu prohibitively tardy.
the two would be lovers never exchanged cell numbers or even properly
introduced themselves. That would have killed the mood, which is admittedly intoxicating.
We wish the film would return to that vividly in-the-moment romantic vibe, so
we can understand why Beaulieu will do some truly reckless things later in the
film to recapture it.
the time being, life goes on. Berger agrees to move to Minneapolis with the
underwhelming boyfriend she had just broken up with, resigning herself to a
crummy relationship and cold winters. Returning to Valence on business,
Beaulieu looks for Berger, but instead he finds her sister Sophie weeping in the
tax office over the state of her returns. Of course, the name Berger means
nothing to him. Taking pity on her, Beaulieu straightens out her bookkeeping,
winning her heart as a result. Through a carefully contrived set of
circumstances, he never figures out who the absent sister is until their wedding
plans are well underway.
they finally come face-to-face, it is rather awkward. Sylvie Berger tries to
avoid her new brother-in-law as much as possible, but their mutual ardor is
constantly at risk of boiling over. As Beaulieu becomes rasher, the threat of
scandal grows. Clearly, it is all building to a bad end for several sides of
the love triangle, as Bruno Coulais’s surprisingly moody and somewhat discordant
score has foreshadowed right from the beginning.
3 Hearts could be
considered the dark analog of films like Brief
Encounter and An Affair to Remember.
While the romanticism of the initial meeting is overwhelmingly potent, it leads
to an obsession that becomes toxic over time. Frankly, love at first sight is
not a healthy proposition in 3 Hearts.
will be made of Catherine Deneuve once again portraying the mother of her real
life daughter Chiara Mastroianni, but Madame Berger plays a tangential role in
this drama. The real show is Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg complimenting
and contrasting with each other as the needy insecure Sophie and the reserved but
passionate Sylvie, respectively. They are totally credible as the closest of
sisters, but it is a bit harder to understand why they are both so profoundly
attracted to a wheezing, walking coronary like Beaulieu. Regardless, Benoît
Poelvoorde is uncomfortably compelling as the compulsive, self-destructive
3 Hearts sounds like a straight drama
on paper, its tone approaches that of a thriller. Jacquot constantly maintains
the nagging sense something dreadful might happen in the very next scene. It is
tenser and more unsettling than most infidelity films, including those that
venture further into violent or noir territory. Consistently effective despite,
or because of its openly melodramatic inclinations, 3 Hearts is recommended for Francophiles when it opens this Friday
(3/13) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.
Labels: Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni, French Cinema