Tuesday, October 3, 2017

NYFF Spotlight: Let the Sun Shine In

I’m thrilled to be covering a number of selections from the 55th Annual New York Film Festival, which takes place September 28th-October 15th.

Let the Sun Shine In
Directed by Claire Denis
NYFF Screenings

Finding love can be a complicated and time-consuming task. People go about it different ways, in some cultures using matchmakers and setting people up to be together forever before they ever even meet. Dating apps and websites are very popular these days, and they use algorithms, formulas, and expressed traits to couple their users off. Regardless of the way in which people meet, finding common ground and staying together can be difficult, no matter how many times people have tried it before. The search for companionship and love has understandably been the subject of many films and will surely continue to be the case for many future projects as well.

Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) is an artist in Paris navigating the social scene and searching for the ideal romantic relationship. She has many partners, all of whom she finds appealing in some way but utterly off-putting in others. Among them are a married man (Xavier Beauvois), a young actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a hairdresser (Paul Blain), a very nice colleague (Alex Descas), and a fortune teller (Gérard Depardieu). None seem to stick, though Isabelle can’t seem to quit any of them in her pursuit of the one lasting fit.

To list the names of the men in this cast almost seems extraneous since this film is carried entirely by Binoche. The French actress, who won an Oscar twenty years ago for “The English Patient,” has been steadily working in international cinema over the past three decades. Here, she feels totally comfortable as a woman who can’t decide just what she wants and constantly sabotages her relationships with unreasonable expectations of each one of them. It’s a tour de force performance on par with many that Binoche has delivered in previous films.

At times, this feels like another Binoche film, “Certified Copy,” which presented its events in a way that made the truth and its ultimate direction unclear. That’s definitely true here, since these samplings of Isabelle’s love life are just fragments of her attempts to find herself. There isn’t a destination in mind other than the edges of the same circle. Most puzzlingly, this film offers up a full scene that plays over its ending credits, complete with dialogue, demonstrating that this film is meant to be a continuous story. It’s a bizarre and entirely unsatisfying way to end a story that bristles with occasional intrigue but doesn’t appear to be headed anywhere in particular.


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