As fast as he can run, Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde, 2012’s LE GRAND SOIR) still misses his train. He can smack and stomp, but it leaves without him. He decides to stop at a brasserie. He orders a water and considers his options. When he turns to his right, there stands a woman with long brown hair.
He follows her into the street and asks where he can find a hotel. He and Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg, who worked under Lars von Trier in ANTICHRIST, MELANCHOLIA and NYMPHOMANIAC) strike up a conversation and share cigarettes. There is clearly an attraction, but Sylvie doesn’t reciprocate a kiss. Instead, they stay together all night and watch the sun rise. In the morning, they agree to meet again at the Tuileries Garden in Paris.
At home, Sylvie tells her sister Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni, Arnaud Desplechin; she is also the daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve) that she has met a man. At the hour and location of their scheduled meeting, Sylvie makes good while Marc is held up at work. Sylvie goes home and cries in her husband’s arms. Shortly after, she makes the decision to move with him to Minneapolis. Marc, meanwhile, finds a new love, which turns out to be Sophie.
There is a feeling of dread throughout the movie, partly because of the score by Bruno Coulais, which employs deep, bassy strings that suggest tragedy is to come. (At other times, it is quite delicate, leaving the audience more confused than necessary.) Also lending to this are Marc’s health issues, which pop up often enough for the viewer to be sure of just what his fate will be (and if it’s anything else, consider it a pathetic red herring).
Despite an intriguing plot (which lifts some crucial elements Leo McCarey’s AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, which found Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr planning their reunion at the Empire State Building) and a talented cast (which also includes the wonderful Catherine Deneuve, who plays Sylvie and Sophie’s mother), 3 HEARTS (3 COEURS in its native French) comes off stale and without the emotions that such a story needs.
Just as Marc waited for a kiss from Sophie, the viewer waits for something of interest or originality to happen. And just like Marc, the viewer is denied. Instead, they are given nothing of substance, as underlined by random narration who shows up halfway through the movie to tell them what is going on and what emotions they should be feeling based on it.
By the time the movie reaches his point, it’s hard not to have lost interest, even with Coulais’ strings insisting death is to come. Director Benoît Jacquot (1998’s THE SCHOOL OF FLESH, 2012’s FARWELL, MY QUEEN) has a number of capable ingredients, but has churned out a stale picture that makes no good of its cast or competent screenplay.
3 HEARTS competed for the Golden Lion at the 71st Venice International Film Festival (Sweden’s A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE won the honor). It was also nominated for four Lumières Awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. 3 HEARTS has an overall nice image that captures fine textures and accurate colors.
Audio: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English. The audio is also without any major flaws and offers clean dialogue and atmosphere.
Director’s Talk Interview with Benoît Jacquot (40:04): Conducted at Film Society of Lincoln Center, this interview features Jacquot discussing his inspirations (including Leo McCarey’s AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER), the cast, the style and more. Charlotte Gainsbourg also makes an appearance after being stuck in traffic.