Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Un beau soleil intérieur
France/Belgium, 2017. Curiosa Films, FD Production, Ad Vitam Production, Versus Production, Centre National de la Cinématographie, OCS, La Banque Postale Image 10, Arte/Cofinova 11, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Cinémage 10. Screenplay by Christine Angot, Claire Denis, based on the book by Roland Barthes. Cinematography by Agnes Godard. Produced by Olivier Delbosc. Music by Stuart A. Staples. Production Design by Arnaud de Moleron. Film Editing by Guy Lecorne.
Juliette Binoche is exquisite as an artist in a perpetual emotional freefall, unable to deal with the dissolution of her marriage and now looking for something meaningful in a series of men who are as confused by her as she is baffled by them. A married banker (Xavier Beauvois) whose rough edges turn her on leads to a moody actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who drowns his sorrows in beer, with a distraction from a colleague (Alex Descas) as a brief intermission before an attempt at true love with a charismatic tough she meets in a nightclub. Claire Denis turns away from her more familiar style of dialogue-free, beautifully composed explorations to instead pay tribute to chatty Eric Rohmer comedies but with her own cynical bent. Binoche keeps pace with the furious screenplay that has her debating her emotions with men and her thoughts with women, but these characters aren’t engaging in light souffles of philosophical banter in Parisian cafes in an effort to amuse: Denis is actually working at something darker and more upsetting, the possibility that no true connection can exist between people. Binoche, in her inability to choose the right people and then not know when they’re not right for her, lets the sunshine in, but whatever it illuminates is something she cannot or will not see. Rather than be frustrated with this protagonist who seems to refuse to learn, however, Denis’ bouncy pace and deeply sympathetic sense of humour make her an avatar for our own worst fears on the subject, plus the eroticism is as charged and intimate as it is in her more pensive films. Gerard Depardieu provides the great cap to this elegant, intelligent experience, while Josiane Balasko is superb in a brief supporting role.
The Criterion Collection: #976
European Film Award Nomination: Best European Actress (Juliette Binoche)