Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. France/Germany/Switzerland, 1994. Arena Films, Orsans, Les Films de Mindif, France 3 Cinema, M6 Films, Agora Film, Vega Film. Screenplay by Jean-Pol Fargeau, Claire Denis. Cinematography by Agnes Godard. Produced by Bruno Pesery. Music by Jean-Louis Murat, John Pattison. Production Design by Arnaud de Moleron, Thierry Flamand. Costume Design by Claire Fraisse. Film Editing by Nelly Quettier. Toronto International Film Festival 1994.
Claire Denis hasn’t quite reached the style of wordless mystery that would make films like Beau Travail and Friday Night so hypnotic, but she’s on her way there with this alternately funny and captivating ensemble piece. A Lithuanian woman (Yekaterina Golubeva) drives to Paris in search of a man from her past, locating her great-aunt who contacts her hotelier friend Line Renaud (who is dazzling) to set her up with a room and a job. Living in the hotel is a cabaret performer (Richard Courcet), whose brother (Alex Descas) lives across town with his young son and hasn’t resolved his estranged situation with his wife (Béatrice Dalle). The plot revolves around a rash of murders of old ladies in the City of Lights but character detail is far more important than any kind of comfortable narrative resolution here. There are overlaps in people’s lives as the plot teases the identity of the killers, enriched by glimpses into just a few of the cultures that make up the mosaic of life in Paris, the variety of elements kept under smooth and confident control by this remarkably talented director.