Enjoy the story of a middle-aged Parisian artist on the search for love in a story inspired by Roland Barthes's A Lover Discourse. Read below for our review of the film.
Culture Whisper review: Let the Sunshine In
It begins as it means to go on: a sex scene which swings between passion and dissatisfaction, sensuality and awkwardness. It’s our slightly uncomfortable introduction to Isabelle (Juliette Binoche, on formidable form), a recently divorced painter who, rather fittingly, uses bed linen to create expressive artworks that sit somewhere between Chinese calligraphy and Jackson Pollock.
Also sitting somewhere between the conventional and highly unconventional is her rocky love life, the focus of this slick, sensitive and very French romantic comedy inspired by philosopher and critic Roland Barthes’ musings in A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, and directed by Claire Denis, perhaps best known for 1988’s Chocolat.
Isabelle’s beau in this full-on opening scene is an ostentatious banker (Xavier Beauvois) with a great apartment and a terrible attitude…and a wife. We soon realise this is just one of several affairs Isabelle finds time to juggle. She’s also dating a youngish, deeply insecure actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), who also has a wife…and kids.
There’s a gentle giant and follow artist (Alex Descas), too, and a tall-dark-handsome fella (Paul Blain) she slow dances to Etta James with while on a country retreat, much to the chagrin of gallery owner (Bruno Podalydès) who is hot on her tail. She even tries to patch things up with her ex-husband who turns her off with some new moves in the bedroom she’s sure he’s ‘copied’ from somewhere – the internet, we assume.
Isabelle’s bandying back and forth between these guys verges on madness and you wonder whether her chronic unhappiness is the result of the men she picks or stems from the search itself? Is she trying too hard or not hard enough? It’s a question that hovers over the whole film, but the long and tortured – and, ultimately, very absorbing and entertaining – conversations Isabelle has with her suitors, and which make up the bulk of the film, make you question the very act of questioning itself.
After all the verbal sophistication, the characteristically vague advice she receives from a relationship therapist (Gerard Depardieu, making a surprise appearance as the credits roll) to just be, to find an ‘inner glow’– ‘un beau soleil intérieur’ (the original title of the film) – actually seems fairly sensible.
But you certainly wouldn’t want this film to be any less sophisticated. Binoche slips into her role with such effortlessness that you forget you’re watching one of the most recognisable European film stars. And dipping into her complex character, older than the women we usually see in rom-coms, is refreshing. Isabelle suffers, yes, but all that pain is converted, by turns silly and sweet, into pure cinematic pleasure.
|What||Let the Sunshine In film review|
|Where||French Institute, 17 Queensberry Place, London, SW12 2DT | MAP|
01 Apr 18 – 30 Sep 18, Air times vary
29 Apr 18 – 30 Apr 18, April 29 and April 30 at 8:40pm and 6:40pm. Running time: 94 mins
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Culture Whisper members click here to book|