Let the Sunshine In

I normally avoid reading movie reviews before going to a movie, but my computer thought it important to suggest I read the review of this one by Richard Brody in the online version of the New Yorker, and since he is one of the only movie critics I read anything by anymore, before I knew what was happening I was halfway through his article and my head was swimming and I said out loud, “What the fuck are you talking about, Brody?” I may go back and read it after I write this; maybe it isn't actually as weird as I thought. I do love that guy, though, and after watching this movie I have entirely new levels of affection for Juliette Binoche and Claire Denis. You can use the internet to remind yourself of all the movies Juliette Binoche has been in; it's like an A to Z survey of legendary art movie directors. Yet, I never had that much sense of being amazed by her, so much (to be fair, I've seen only a fraction of what she's been in), so it was nice to see her in something (this) in which I'm really impressed by her. And I had to look up Claire Denis (first to see if she was a she—the French always confuse me with their names, among other things), and realized I had seen a couple of her films—very different than this one, though. I'm not sure what this movie reminded me of—it's kind of bugging me, I should be able to come up with an apt comparison—but maybe some other review will fulfill that. Anyway, I really liked it, and maybe it's better to just think of it as a unique oddity.

If it wasn't for my helpful computer suggestion and Brody's article, I might have missed this movie altogether, because that title kind of says to me: “Randy, skip this piece of shit.” But when I realized it was French and about relationships, the first thing that came to mind was the beautiful young woman and crusty old guy thing I've seen a million times. And the first scene is this woman, Isabelle (Binoche), and a guy Brody describes as “corpulent” having sex (I wanted to mention that, because corpulent is a word I'd never use, and it cracks me up). Juliette Binoche is now in her 50s, but still, it's almost like this is an allusion the “French movies.” And all men over the age of 14 are corpulent, except for maybe American movie stars who know they're going to be doing one of these fake sex scenes, and thus have a trainer. I don't know why these fake sex scenes exist in so many movies and TV shows—I hate them. All they do is make you think about how you're watching a movie fake sex scene, because if it was pornography it would be pornography, and better “acted” in some regards, more true to the action. And if it was a “real” scene we were looking in on (as with every other scene in the movie), to not avert your eyes wouldn't just make you an eavesdropper, but a pervert. These fake sex scenes aren't fun for anyone; though maybe for some actors, at least, it's a day at work that's about as far from writing reports and creating spreadsheets as possible.

There might have been a time when it was enticing to see naked actors, but I grew up in the Seventies when it was more unusual to see someone with their clothes on. What really turned me on, very early in this movie, was that blue lamp, and that whole room, really, and just everything visually, which became a struggle to keep up with while reading the subtitles, because these people could talk. Of course, talking in French, which sounds so crazy to me, and as usual is a reminder of my regret at never learning another language, which I could have done in the time I spent incapacitated by hangovers. I probably need to see this movie again because of how much I missed—especially this scene when some of the characters were suddenly out in the country—this beautiful image of bare trees and broken fences—and what were they talking about? Because my parallel mind path had me asking why am I struggling to communicate when I should be meditating in the woods. Maybe someday I'll get there, but probably not, actually.

I made a note of the cinematographer, Agnès Godard, watching the credits, as I've seen her name a lot. She has shot most or all of Claire Denis' movies—impressive, because collaborations like that are kind of rare, if just because of the difficulty of scheduling—you really have to make a point of it. Also, it was kind of bizarre to see Gérard Depardieu, since there was a time when I went to a lot of film festivals and it was kind of a ritual to make a note of how many of the movies he was appearing in at each one. But I haven't seen him in awhile—it's a weird part here, and kind of like putting Orson Welles in your movie—but I liked it. It made me think someone should make a movie about an aging internationally famous rock band on their last reunion tour of the USA with Gérard Depardieu as the lead singer who spends lots of time philosophizing over coffee in late-night Denny's. It's called Godzilla vs. the Rest of Us, and hey, that idea is up for grabs, just give me a shoutout.

This movie, then, is a series of encounters of Isabelle with a series of characters, some of them professional, some men, some lovers, but there isn't a traditional narrative that I can remember and recount, and I wouldn't anyway, if there was. It's more like a movie stripped down to what I find most interesting, including the language, which may not mean anything, and the faces, that always mean something, but what? I am left with the sensation of having gotten to know some people—I mean, real people—and since there is no bigger mystery than people, it's like I've been introduced to a mystery, or many, really, with no answer. Of course, maybe there was something I'm missing. No, actually, I know there is a lot I'm missing, and that's not only okay, it's exciting. I feel like I'd like to see this movie again. I feel like I've been saying that a lot lately—either I'm getting feeble-minded or I'm picking movies well. It makes me think of how with the good Cassavetes films, the first time you see each one you're pretty much only confused. Maybe that is seeming especially important lately, when everything is overly explained, analyzed, and discussed, while the world gets, paradoxically, more confusing.

Randy Russell 5.31.18