Writer|Dir: Claire Denis, Christine Angot | Cast: Juliette Binoche, Gerard Depardieu, Valerie Bruni Tedeschi | 94min | Comedy drama
Claire Denis opens the Directors’ Fortnight with her comedy debut UN BEAU SOLEIL INTERIEUR starring Juliette Binoche, Gerard Depardieu and Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi as Parisians keen to find love the second, third or possibly twentienth time around. Previously known as Des Lunettes Noires, a more edgy and intriguing title that conveys the romantic pleasures of the time discretely known as ‘un certain age’, this drole satire will make you chuckle knowingly rather than laugh out loud.
Binoche plays Isabelle, a recently divorced mother around 50 who is keen to rediscover the joy of sex and lasting love again and all the other things that make’ la vie du couple’ worth living, after the pressures of raising a family. Surrounded by a series of smucks – to put it politely – she feels that romance is already a thing of the past. Isabelle is ‘special’ in that mercurial way that becomes amusingly familiar as Denis’ insightfully intelligent narrative unfolds. She had reached a time when wisdom and experience informs everyday life, but when it comes to love we are still teenagers. She welcomes the familiar routines of daily life, but so do the men she encounters particularly one pompous banker (Xavier Beauvois) who is the ultimate control freak who is useless in bed, but she falls in love all the same. Clearly unable to leave his wife, Isabelle then moves on to Sylvain (Paul Blain), a louche and seedily sensual man she meets in a bar where they dance to they strains of “At Last’ , and of course you know it wont’t be. Then there is alcoholic actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who satisfies her sexually but is too fond of himself to really fall for her. Isabelle is looking for chemistry but also someone from her ‘milieu’, but at this stage most of the available men are single for a reason: they are either geeks or deeply unattractive, but totally unaware of it. And ex husband Francois (Laurent Grevill) still serves as a ‘friend with benefits’, occasionally popping back on the scene, although her daughter is only glimpsed briefly.
Apart from the acutely observed witty script, the emotional nuances of Binoche’s performances is what makes this so enjoyable. UN BEAU SOLEIL is a complete departure from her dramas such Beau Travail and White Material and is most like her 2002 outing Friday Night. And the final scene where she visits Gerard Depardieu’s psychic is such a perceptive interplay between clever dialogue and intuitive performances it’s a joy to behold. MT
DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2017