Let the Sunshine In
Starring Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois, Alex Descas, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Philippe Katerine, Nicolas Duvauchelle, and Gérard Depardieu
Written by Claire Denis and Christine Angot
Directed by Claire Denis
Rated: unrated but contains coarse language, sexual content, and nudity
Runtime: 94 minutes
NOTE: movie is spoken in French with English subtitles
Playing Friday through Thursday at Metro Cinema
8712 109 St. in Edmonton. More details can be found at www.metrocinema.org.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Juliette Binoche. She is beautiful, talented, and ultimately watchable as she has a disarming sense of putting viewers at ease no matter what film role she chooses. You don’t get to be the first actress to win the European ‘Best Actress Triple Crown’ (for winning the best actress awards at the Berlin, Cannes and Venice film festivals) for nothing.
And so it came with an abundance of disbelief that she starred in acclaimed director Claire Denis’s new film with its clunky Americanized title Let the Sunshine In. Binoche plays divorced Parisian painter Isabelle who has some of the worst luck with men. She seems like she has everything going for her but still she hooks up with a string of philanderers, non-committal jerks, and – how do the French say – les salauds. Honestly. The men she spends her time with are ingrates and emotional barbarians.
Which is fine, in theory. In films, we need to have conflict in order to propel the story. What we also need is dialogue that doesn’t make us want to reach into the movie and bark at the characters in person: “Say something! Say anything! Just spit it out!” Watching Sunshine is like being set up in a psychological stress test to see how much drivel you can take before you scream. I think I lasted 15 minutes. Let’s see how well you do.
It’s a shame, really. This film had everything going for it, not the least of which was Denis at the helm and Binoche carrying the entire piece. She’s in nearly every frame. There’s even Gérard Depardieu, who could read Molière while gurgling water in his mouth and I would still pay full price to watch. The scenery is Paris: how could you go wrong with that? Every interior and exterior shot is art.
Still, you couldn’t drag me to rewatch this. Denis was trying to subvert the romantic comedy by really dissecting Isabelle’s love life (or love lives as it were) through an adaptation of author Roland Barthes’s book A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. I read that Denis admitted the film kept only remnants of the original, primarily the sense of agony. It felt like pulling teeth, I’m sad to say. Well done, Denis. Agony indeed.
Don’t believe me? Perhaps you should give it a try yourself. After all, the film opened the Directors’ Fortnight at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize, somehow.