25 November 2017
“It is a feminist text as much as it is a critique of feminism” – Richard Bolisay on Let the Sunshine In.
As a masters film student at University of Sussex and editor of Lilok Pelikula website, Richard Bolisay provides his unique viewpoint on some of our CINECITY 2017 selections. First up in the series, Richard saw Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur).
Director: Claire Denis
Writers: Claire Denis, Christine Angot
One might be tempted to say that Let the Sunshine In is a departure from the refined seriousness and violent tendencies of Claire Denis’s films in the past, a distinguished cinematic tone for which she has received rightful acclaim, but that would be an incorrect assumption. For although it enters the romantic-comedy territory as often as it leaves it, and is characterized by this seemingly harmless and light touch, Let the Sunshine In is in itself both serious and violent: a splintered picture of a divorced artist who keeps trying to find the romance (and love and sex and everything in between) that will satisfy her. The film is still very much like Denis’s other works in how the depth is foregrounded casually, how the psychology of the characters is emphasized with almost equal regard for abstraction and accessibility.
With Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments as inspiration, Let the Sunshine In allows its middle-aged protagonist, Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), to exercise her agency in her personal and social life and in her romantic and sexual affairs. It is a feminist text as much as it is a critique of feminism, and the film is steeped in conversations that let the audience come close to her — not understand her — for she is way too complex to be understood in less than two hours.
As Isabelle moves from one man to another, and as every one of them fills her with different shades of disappointment, one expects her to lose sight of her priorities, to be hopeless once and for all, but Denis just makes her miserable but not forlorn. Even towards the end, in a completely whimsical turn when she visits a therapist who tries slyly to seduce her, Isabelle is seen beaming, unable to control her smile as she gains new hope in finding her man.
Viewers may find fault with the lack of a rigorous narrative design, but Binoche, with her luminous presence and nuanced performance, serves as the film’s structure, its hook and centrepiece, its thunderbolt and lightning. Only she can play Isabelle with elegance and madness, with terrifying aplomb. One looks at her and is hypnotized by her stare. Her body language reveals as much as her facial expressions do. It becomes understandable that Isabelle attracts men but cannot keep one: she belongs only to herself. And Binoche, even with a simple close-up, conveys such complexity rather exquisitely. — Richard Bolisay
Keep an eye out for more of Richard’s excellent film reviews from CINECITY 2017 coming up here very soon.
Richard Bolisay is currently doing his masters in film studies at University of Sussex.
You can follow Richard on Twitter.