Let the Sunshine in Screen 21 articles

Let the Sunshine in


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  • This not only feels like Claire Denis' most disorganized film in years. It also feels like her least consequential, which is something I don't say lightly. . . . In general, I appreciate films that dispense with conventional psychological interiority (a part of the title, something fortune teller Gerard Depardieu advises Isabelle to "let in"). But in its own weird way, Denis' film is all about that subjectivity that, to my eyes, just isn't there.

  • An exquisite romantic comedy whose laughs are sad and whose sadness is funny. Denis isn’t a filmmaker who lets the complexity of the human emotions that she either captures physically or insinuates psychologically settle into easy interpretation and understanding, and Let the Sunshine In, her lightest film to date, shades its relationship dynamics with existential panic, insecurities, unabashed biases of class, and, of course, an intimate understanding of the sexual politic.

  • This isn’t necessarily Denis at her strongest, but the ending is a genuine knockout. If the romantic comedy is practically defined by its journey toward resolution — by reassuring audiences that there’s always somebody out there for us — then Bright Sunshine In completely upends the formula, closing out instead on a delirious, hilarious vision of utter dissolution. To say more would be a crime. Suffice it to say that the movie’s mostly enjoyable, but its ending is immortal.

  • This is an obdurate film, but in a new way for her: not the bad-mood provocation of Bastards or the structurally foreboding The Intruder, but relentless in its march from one man to the next, compressing or eliding the connective tissue of other parts of daily life entirely (it’s impossible to tell what stretch of time Sunshine covers). It’s admirable and eminently sympathetic, and I was exhausted by the end. This is not a bad thing.

  • Confined mostly to dialogue sequences, Sunshine lacks the visual oomph of Denis’ best films and feels closest to Vendredi soir, another more character-based effort. Regular DP Agnes Godard nonetheless captures some of the gray sadness of the Paris settings, while a jazzy score by The Tindersticks’ Stuart A. Staples adds to the gloomy tone. For admirers of Denis, it’s probably not a shock that she hasn’t made the cheeriest comedy in history. What’s surprising is how much her jokes can touch us.

  • Essentially a comedy, of a very elegant and mercurial nature, it may strike some viewers as too quintessentially French for belief, being a sometimes prolix exploration of sexuality and social mores, while a fragmented structure will confound anyone hoping to follow the protagonist through the coherent minor key romcom that Denis at times seems to promise. But rather than a chic bagatelle, this proves an acutely intelligent, finely acted and – despite its cerebral edge - emotionally rich piece.

  • A tale of frustrations and desires, otherness and encounters, Denis’ first true comedy — or shall we say, her first genuinely humorous film — proves just as profound and attuned to the complexity of human relationships as her previous work. Although this final sequence begins on a darkly comic note, Denis brilliantly ends the film with a heartwarmingly generous idea, quietly and elegantly blindsiding the audience.

  • Language and its innumerable pitfalls are a rich and endless source of comic anxiety. Flirtation is constantly mistaken for rejection. If the typical Hollywood romantic comedy thrives on canned pronouncements and easy one-liners, “Let the Sunshine In” is very much a movie about people struggling aloud to find the right words to express their feelings, and failing magnificently.

  • Underlying the hi-jinx is a shrewdly observed depiction of the way goal-oriented sexual conquerors manipulate their more ingenuous mates. Denis, radical as ever, is too worldly to settle her tone around soapboxing over bitterness or disappointment. This may be a film that wryly notes the wiles of male opportunists, but in its soul it is Isabelle’s film, and she is a profound character who only deepens with each painful ending.

  • In what is perhaps the most stylistically pared-down of Denis’s films, the camera, fixed mostly on Isabelle and the Other, sometimes half-circles around Binoche, who’s decked out in jet-black tousled hair, neat red leather jacket and spike-heeled thigh-high boots – a trifle tacky, for sure, but again a nailing of an archetype. Her performance is mostly, wonderfully low-key, giving us precisely enough so we don’t miss the shifting of her enigmatic personality from scene to scene.

  • I don’t want to weigh down a delicate comedy of manners by comparing it to the greatest French film of all time, Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, but there are parallels. Denis’s focus is narrower, but like Renoir, she depicts a society whose every action is a denial of the looming threat to its very existence.

  • Witty, warm and wise, this courses through a series of episodes (significant to her anyway) in the troubled love life of an artist who fears she faces a lonely future. One of Denis’ finest films, it boasts a superb performance by Binoche, typically great camerawork by Agnès Godard, and a lovely, funny turn by Depardieu.

  • There’s a stereotypical Frenchness in the story’s emphasis on casual sex and in the intellectual elegance of the dialogue about it, and Denis films her actors in confrontational and vulnerable closeups that give the dialogue a life of its own. Isabelle leaps from encounter to encounter with an ironic abruptness, and her sublime pugnacity gives rise to a riotous tirade during a jaunt in a rich landowner’s ample woods.

  • It's often extremely funny, and through Binoche’s sensual, intelligent portrait of a woman of a certain age, also painfully truthful. Denis’ trademark close-ups on characters implicate us in Isabelle’s fantasies of love – a dance sequence staged as romantic wish fulfillment to Etta James singing ‘At Last,’ the most fanciful of all. But as Denis makes clear, these are our fantasies too. Romance might be dead, but we keep on dancing to the routine.

  • Let the Sunshine In, the closest thing to a rom-com that Denis has made since Friday Night (a film that’s tender yet tormented, and not particularly comedic), feels, thematically and formally, like an epilogue to her favorite theme. It’s gentle yet devastating, like an insincere “I love you” whispered into one’s ear, the duplicity hidden behind upward-curving lips, the pangs of misplaced vulnerability.

  • Just as feelings or insights can shift depending on context, Denis and cinematographer Agnès Godard develop a new cinematic grammar for the film’s lengthy dialogues—the camera swoops evenly back and forth between speaker and listener, expresser and interpreter, and occasionally even crosses the axis to shake up perspective. It simulates the experience of turning a conversation over in your mind, driving yourself crazy rethinking all of its facets.

  • That Denis can produce a work that, without a trace of preciousness, is equal parts indebted to Barthes and Chicago blues, connected as arm is to shoulder to the film-historical legacy of post-New Wave French filmmaking, is only further justification for claim that the 71-year-old is the greatest working director over the last two decades... This is a cinema as rich as life itself, a distillation and decoding of the language of gesture of which our existences are comprised.

  • This rapturous and faintly comic concerto for Juliette Binoche may well be the most pleasurable and original film Claire Denis has made since Beau Travail (1999)... The filmmaker's skill in framing her protagonist's various trysts, moods, and dialogues, sometimes even setting them to music, is matchless.

  • One of my least favorite faux-journalistic hook constructions is "The _____ you didn't know you needed," but it's sort of apt here. It had never occurred to me that watching Juliette Binoche turn men down for an hour and a half would be enough plot for a movie, let alone one so rich, hilarious and sensual. And yet here's this future classic in waiting, the most fun she's had as a director since asking Denis Levant to feel the "Rhythm of the Night."

  • Claire Denis follows up her darkest and most disturbing feature, 2013’s BASTARDS—a gut-wrenching journey into the heart of a prostitution ring that was loosely inspired by William Faulkner—with LET THE SUNSHINE IN, undoubtedly her lightest and funniest work, which was loosely inspired by Roland Barthes. A delight from start to finish, Denis’ first collaboration with the iconic Juliette Binoche is probably the closest we’ll ever come to seeing the Gallic master’s take on the rom-com.

  • For all of Isabelle’s frustrations, this is a film in love with love. It’s infectious. Also, the best closing credits of the year.

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