Both Sides of the Blade

Jean and Sara in the sea

Revered arthouse director Claire Denis starts Both Sides of the Blade with an almost subliminal reference to Jaws. A couple wade into the sea. The soundtrack growls ominously. But only for maybe half a second. Then it pivots spectacularly into something gooey, gentle and romantic. We see the faces of the couple. It’s Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon, looking ecstatically happy. They stare fondly into each other’s eyes. They touch and caress each other. They laugh. Later, in their room, they make love. Still later, back at their apartment in Paris, their holiday over, the first thing they do is make love again. But that growl. Something is lurking. We learn what it … Read more

Stars at Noon

Daniel and Trish

Once upon a time Claire Denis didn’t make genre movies. She made film you might designate broadly as dramas, or as French dramas, but most specifically as Claire Denis movies, films often with a strong emphasis on unspoken attraction (see Beau Travail, her masterpiece). But in recent years that has changed. In films like Bastards, a Get Carter-style crime drama, or High Life, a densely imagined piece of sci-fi, or Let the Sun Shine In, an ironic romance, Denis has shown she’s happy to make genre movies, as long as it’s on her terms. Which brings us to Stars at Noon, a Graham Greene-style thriller set in a shady Central American country run … Read more

The Intruder

Louis in Tahiti

Claire Denis’s remarkable film The Intruder (L’intrus) was first released in 2004, rolled out worldwide in 2005 and promptly disappeared. In some countries it was never shown at all; in the US, for instance, it’s only in 2021 that people are getting a chance to see it. It is a deliberately oblique drama, constructed almost as a series of questions – where are we? who is this guy? who’s that strange woman? and what the hell is Béatrice Dalle doing in this film, and why for only for a handful of seconds? Denis has said that she’s done this deliberately, having taken the original idea – an adaptation of an essay by French … Read more

Thursday Till Sunday aka De Jueves a Domingo

Santi Ahumada plays Lucía in Thursday till Sunday

Dominga Sotomayor’s remarkable debut feature is a sotto voce drama about a family on a road trip. Proceeding by suggestion rather than assertion, it is in some respects similar to Pablo Trapero’s early, soapy drama Familia Rodante. There are faint hints of the work of Carlos Reygadas in there too, as well as more than a touch of Claire Denis. This is not bad company to be mixing in. If the long opening locked-camera shot through a bedroom window into a courtyard, where a family is loading a car with baggage and sleeping children, recalls Reygadas’s amazing up-comes-the-dawn opening to Silent Light, then the Claire Denis element is supplied by what follows, as … Read more