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Cannes Film Festival 2017 Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In

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Cannes Film Review: Let the Sunshine In

Sundance Selects

Cannes Film Review: Let the Sunshine In

Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In is an exquisite romantic comedy whose laughs are sad and whose sadness is funny. Denis isn’t a filmmaker who lets the complexity of the human emotions that she either captures physically or insinuates psychologically settle into easy interpretation and understanding, and Let the Sunshine In, her lightest film to date, shades its relationship dynamics with existential panic, insecurities, unabashed biases of class, and, of course, an intimate understanding of the sexual politic.

Juliette Binoche provides the perfect gateway drug for Denis into the realm of the rom-com. In both body and mind, the actress’s Isabelle—a divorced Parisian artist who flits rather fickly from one romantic partner to the next—always commands the audience’s attention and curiosity. And Denis meets her star’s quixotic, swooning screen presence with subtle adaptations of her filmmaking to this new genre form. A scene of escalating banter between Isabelle and the rude, married business man that she’s been hate-fucking offers a variation of the shot-reverse-shot grammar that the actors’ blocking would typically call for, as Denis opts for a single take that floats back and forth in dreamy fashion but also with a sense of needling anxiety.

A Movie a Day, Day 65: 35 Shots of Rum

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A Movie a Day, Day 65: <em>35 Shots of Rum</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 65: <em>35 Shots of Rum</em>

I missed 35 Shots of Rum last year, so I caught up—and fell in love—with it last night on Netflix.

The main characters are a magnetic father and daughter, the self-contained Lionel (Alex Descas) and Joséphine (Mati Diop), a young woman who alternates between radiant self-confidence and diffidence. The two live alone in a compact but tidy apartment in the suburbs of Paris, since Jo’s mother died when she was an infant. Neither talks much (especially Lionel, a Metro conductor who loves the solitude of his cab), so we learn how they feel mostly by watching their eyes and body language. Director Claire Denis seems to be observing rather than directing the action, capturing the rhythms of her characters’ daily lives and their deepest thoughts and feelings.

As they make dinner or clean up afterward, curl up on the couch, or bring home the dueling rice cookers that become a symbol of their relationship, the intimacy between Jo and Lionel is amplified by the small spaces they inhabit

Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day

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Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s <em>Trouble Every Day</em>
Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s <em>Trouble Every Day</em>

Trouble Every Day aches with spiritual dread. Using the iconography of vampire films to illustrate religious fervor, co-writer/director Claire Denis also shows reverence to the medium of film, particularly to the purity of silent movies. There’s almost no dialogue, and what little there is feels like it takes place within the half-heard context of a dream. An early scene on an airplane features Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo) en route to Paris for his honeymoon, his comfort and security literally in midair. He politely excuses himself to the bathroom, stares blankly into the void, and remembers or envisions a murderess, or maybe a dying girl, covered in blood. There’s no sense of shock to the image, but there’s an unsettling fascination with the textures of wet skin and dried blood. The context isn’t so much violence as repressed indulgence. Josh Hartnett may have gone 40 Days and 40 Nights without twenty-something sex or self-gratification, but Gallo’s angst-ridden version of Lent is the perilous and hellish adult version.