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Isaach De Bankolé,
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Hélène de Saint-Père
The tension between wanting something from someone and the fact that it must be given freely and not asked for is at the heart of this film with its typically brilliant performance from Juliette Binoche. Does Isabelle (Binoche) really know what she wants? It seems to be long-lasting romantic love. She hasn't had a lot of luck in that area, despite being beautiful, charming and successful in her career as an artist. We first see her with an unappealing married man. After a lengthy discussion with him, she seems to give up and moves on to a handsome, much younger actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle). He's also married and undecided about divorcing his wife. A typical dilemma, but for Isabelle it seems to be a pattern. These men are simply not available. Later, at a dance club, Isabelle meets someone who seems quite interested, even if he looks like an aging rock star (the kind who didn't get fat). We soon see the same conflict develop: Isabelle wants something the man cannot give, or not right away anyway. There follows a very brief flirtation with a friend of a friend and Isabelle ends up meeting with a counselor of some kind (Gérard Depardieu) who seems to tell her that her life has simply gone as it should...most enigmatically, that she will meet a man who understands and connects with her, but he too will not be "the one". The counselor says that Isabelle must become aware of her "beautiful inner sun" and be content with herself as she is.
In some ways this recent work of Claire Denis can remind a viewer of a film of Eric Rohmer, LE BEAU MARIAGE in particular. Endless discussion about what the protagonist wants. Simply wanting something from someone is not enough to make it happen. But the cinematic style of Claire Denis is miles away from Rohmer's. The editing alone puts UN BEAU SOLEIL INTÉRIEUR firmly in the art film category. Editing and narrative technique, mainly carried out through one-on-one conversation are sometimes elliptical and leave a viewer to decide what has happened. There is also an odd 'nature walk' with strangers who have a lot to say about seemingly nothing, causing Isabelle to go mad for a moment. Perhaps this is to show the extent of her frustration with life and with people in general. Denis chooses to end the film with the counselor scene: a long sequence composed mainly of close-ups of Depardieur while the final credits run, superimposed over the actors' faces.
An often funny film, very compelling thanks to Binoche's exasperating yet amiable characterization.
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