Archive for February 28th, 2019

© 2019 by James Clark

Filmmaker, Claire Denis, is old enough to remember the supernova that was Ingmar Bergman. Lucky her. Lucky us.

A while ago we noted, in her film, White Material (2009), how the protagonist comes up far short of the magic  having been glimpsed–glimpsed on the order of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957)–despite remarkable courage and intensity. Now, in the film, Let the Sunshine In (2017), we have a second instance of her gifts and dilemmas, this time anchored by, Smiles of a Summer Night (1955). The protagonist of White Material had felt that taking a standpoint in Africa would suit her rigorous needs far better than Paris. The protagonist, Isabelle, in our hunt today, embraces Paris and its subtleties, and especially its promise of what is called love. Let’s see what her plunge into the City of Light can do for her, and us.

Isabelle’s meander in that Tout-Paris (the City’s “advanced” visions) ominously reminds us of the tone-dead coterie of Desiree, in the cited film, from 1955, who easily tolerates carnivorous bores. As such, we’ll use here the same means of explication as before, namely, giving pretty short shrift to the overrated fancy pants, and putting on the high-beams for a seemingly demented but feisty oldster, like Desiree’s mother/dowager/oracle, functioning at the outset of the twentieth century. Now, in today’s very challenging film before us, we have a troubling facsimile of the distant, old Swedish laser, in the form of a Gallic, psychic, clairvoyant, medium, quack—no oracle, but a self-contradictory bloodhound.

The introduction of the latter brims with wit and sinewy earthiness, being, in fact, a hybrid of both the very sharp dowager and her inconsistent servant, Frid. Thereby, the first step, of the erratic Parisian phenomenologist-oldster, involves him being smacked by a blonde girlfriend who has parked her car outside his eccentric Belle Epoque cabin, which could be a windmill without the sails.  His howl from the slap brings to mind Frid’s new girlfriend, Petra, as inured to smashes as a linebacker. Even before this conflict, we have a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, flickering out lasers like the whirling motions of a windmill, and thereby implying a visitation from a distant past. The driver, now saddened, follows up with, “We’ll  never see each other again?” (This being a frequent situation in the preceding actions.) The avatar of good relations makes the chilly reply, “I don’t think so.” Her sad face in close-up reanimates Petra’s lament to Frid, “Why have I never been a young lover? Can you tell me that?” And it also reanimates Frid’s reply: “We are denied the love of loving. We don’t have the gift… Nor the punishment.” The new Frid, on departing the car, asks himself, “How could I have believed in her?” Petra and Frid head for a tempered marriage. The marriages of the dowager appear to have been even less than that. The difficulty of specifying where Isabelle’s heart lies remains to be explored. (more…)

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