4 January 2009

HEARTBEAT DETECTOR (Dir. Nicolas Klotz, 2007, France) - 'Misguided and Disappointing'

Art house cinema often brings with it a pretentious set of ideals, excess baggage that can easily work against certain films, especially those originating from France, a country which continues to be viewed as the protector of real cinema. Released in 2008, 'Heartbeat Detector' stars the consistently impressive Mathieu Almaric and is directed by the relatively unknown film maker, Nicolas Klotz, who by many critics standards has finally been promoted into the ranks of the under rated and promising film makers category. It is a film about corporate mentality and how the history of a well established and respectable corporation can have its origins in an ugly past that many would prefer to overlook in favour of maintaining the status quo of capitalism. Klotz's film has received many awards at various film festivals and was one of the best reviewed films of 2008. I am surprised why critics have embraced such a flat, disengaging and empty film as though it was challenging and even ground breaking in the context of the narrow types of films made by French cinema today. Apart from a fine, zombie style performance from Almaric who most recently 'sold out' by offering to become another victim on the list of 007, Klotz must have been deluded if he thought he was setting out to direct some kind of world cinema anti corporate critique as his visual approach is both suffocating and deeply frustrating. Using Brechtian devices, now the hallmark of Michael Haneke and once pioneered most impressively by Godard, have become an obvious clique of world cinema, and in this case it simply leaves the spectator bored. I will not accept the view that boredom is the exact emotional response Klotz is trying to provoke in the spectator because this simply seems like an easy Nouvelle Vague get out of jail excuse of trying to justify what is a lethargic, anemic and emotionless cinematic experience. The strangest and most annoying sequence is the much celebrated 'rave' which not only unfolds in long, pointless takes and makes use of nauseous strobing but also wants to offer some crude, unintelligent statement on how corporations are repressive. Haneke's 'Cache' is one of the few recent world cinema films that can lay a claim to the over privileged status of masterpiece and though Klotz and Haneke both deal with the tricky subject of a nation's past and the guilt it perpetrates on today's generation, the failure of Klotz's film lies in his misguided stylistic execution of what is undeniably a provocative and relevant subject matter. I had expected a great deal from 'Heartbeat Detector', perhaps too much, and instead I came away feeling very disappointed.


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