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I wish I could pin down Claire Denis' charisma. Watching in a row her 1994 'Je n'ai pas sommeil' and this one, there are some quasi-generic features that help defining what it is about Claire Denis.
All in all I sympathize with the opinion of the viewer who said this is a heartfelt dissection of familial ties. I thought the comment was succinct.
And yet the reviewer who said the new rice boiler was a new start and the funeral at the ending was sufficient occasion for the 35 rhums theory to be 'celebrated' by Lionel, was the one who made me start. I am not at all sure that the new rice boiler stands for new beginnings. And while the end turns around an occasion of mourning, I was under the impression that what is depicted yet never shown was Jo's wedding: her white dress, her mother's necklace, the furtive clad-as-groom appearance of Noe hesitating in front of the two doors, etc, mark for me, although this can be a total mistake, a familiar Denis device: nothing is as it seems, and that means that.
Let me explain a bit my remark. Denis is an economist by formation. What does economy in Denis' film account for, ultimately? And this makes me go back to my preliminary question, that is, What is it about Claire Denis? Oscillating between a somewhat anthropological b-movie, with its clinical, sometimes random like a jotting, drab shots of ordinary time (preparing food, consuming it -note the remarkable scene of three people in a row, in the kitchen, eating standing a silent, quick meal- the repetitive routes of suburban trains etc) and its elated reverse, sudden side with small scale yet condensed and beautiful though emotionally complex rituals (notably the dance in the bar sequence)that seemingly discharges packed-up emotion and pressure from the unexplained portions of raw, elliptical meaning. There may be an overt tone of post-colonial discourse, she may even have detested her studies, it may smell like a b-movie, or, bluntly, like another introvert-and-what-the-fuss-about french film, but I think it demands a very strong hold to tackle with understatement and finesse the issues, the faces, the spaces and the tissues of human economy, rubbing shoulders with the imperceptible and the unsaid.
Aside procedures in the film, and I mean by aside non-cinematic ones, highlight what is going on, more to the spirit of the auteur. Take in the opening credits the way the names of the actors appear: all in three rows, watermarked, and then highlighted, appearing like noon-ghosts; or Tindersticks' score: in the beginning the Messian-like onde mazenot throws a note of otherworldliness, only to be dismissed by a almost naive, post-colonial (sic) subdued, carousel music, that weave together at the end in a defying way, as in general the music slides in and out of the film, casually and perplexedly, not frightfully important yet - yet...
nothing is as it seems, weighs down its cliché. And that is that, the tautologies that are offered in the film, like the father's stubborn silence (what a perfect silence!), cannot, in the end be humanized into clichés. A neighbor who is a lover, or was one, a missing, an absent, a dead parent, or an all too present one, centrifugal urges to leave this way of life, because ghosts overpopulate the seemingly tepid urban scenery, a friend and a colleague who leaves his job and encounters death, the encounter of life-as-promise, ties who are untied or untidy, all this is loose and shiny, even in the autumnal Parisian light, and maybe, narratively, they leak out as everyday clichés, the way one takes the train. Unless they drink 35 rhums.
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