Review: Friday Night

Think of Claire Denis’s petite masterpiece as In the Mood for Love by way of Chantal Akerman.

Friday Night
Photo: Wellspring

On the eve of moving in with her boyfriend, Laure (Valérie Lemercier) gets stuck in the traffic jam to end all traffic jams. Over the radio, a traffic commentator encourages Parisians to carpool, and though seemingly afraid of the people around her, the lonely Laure begins to look for someone to ride shotgun. It’s easier to walk but the enigmatic Jean (Vincent Lindon) gets in nonetheless. The sound of car horns, irate commuters, and Dickon Hinchliffe’s remarkable score work as aphrodisiacs, inciting a lovely chain of events: Jean smokes, Laure plays music, they bicker, and he runs off. She follows him through side streets and together they rent a room for the night at a local hotel. Think, then, of Claire Denis’s petite masterpiece Friday Night as Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love by way of Chantal Akerman, whose All Night Long and Night and Day similarly examined the possibilities of last-chance love affairs. This is a breathless evocation of one woman’s uncertainties, flights of fancy, and elusive joys. Based on an Emmanuelle Bernheim novel, the brings to mind another startling life-in-miniature: Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour. Agnes Godard’s tight framing and ethereal compositions contemplate Laure’s sense of claustrophobia, not to mention her fear of becoming unavailable. This magical realist, near-silent translation of Parisian love is at once devastating and ravishingly full of joy.

 Cast: Valérie Lemercier, Vincent Lindon, Hélène de Saint Père, Hélène Fillieres, Florence Loiret-Caille, Grégoire Colin  Director: Claire Denis  Screenwriter: Emmanuelle Berheim, Claire Denis  Distributor: Wellspring  Running Time: 86 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2002  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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