The latest film by French auteur Claire Denis is made for two groups of people: fans of Denis’ elliptical, even baffling style, and fans of Juliette Binoche who want to see the actress give a masterclass in nuance and subtext. Most of the film’s text is sub-, actually; it’s based on Roland Barthes’ philosophical work A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, and doesn’t have a traditional narrative. Binoche plays Isabelle, a Parisian artist carrying on a number of casual affairs, still reeling from her breakup with François (Laurent Grévill), with whom she has a daughter. One lover—doughy, arrogant, married banker Vincent (Xavier Beauvois)—treats her carelessly (“You’re charming, but my wife is extraordinary”); others are thoughtless, boorish or just plain wrong for Isabelle. Binoche plays her as a complex, dissatisfied woman, overly apologetic in situations where she feels vulnerable, boldly confident when she’s feeling powerful. She says “I don't know” a lot and discusses love ponderously with her friends. There’s no payoff or resolution in the usual sense—as a movie, it is very French—but you may find yourself spellbound by Binoche’s expressive, tender, deeply sympathetic performance.
Director: Claire Denis
Producer: Christine De Jekel and Olivier Delbosc
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois, Philippe Katerine, Josiane Balasko, Sandrine Dumas, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Alex Descas, Laurent Grévill, Bruno Podalydès, Paul Blain, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Gérard Depardieu