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Fantasizing a Nostalgic Love & Reconstructing Family Co-Dependence

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By Roger Costa

BOTH SIDES OF THE BLADE

Once you’ve intensely loved someone, it never really goes away. Something remains inside, as a remembrance of pleasurable moments, instantly arousing accordingly to the emotions and circumstances. For Sara that’s something really serious and directly affective in her life. Since she just returned home from a romantic getaway with her partner, with whom she’s been living with for almost a decade, she has no idea what her unbalanced desires will cause over the course of the next days. Her partner, Jean, has recently been released from jail, a once prestigious athlete now struggling to get back on track and reclaim his reputation, and accepts forming a business partnership with his best friend, Francois, who used to be Sara’s lover before him. When she gets a glimpse of him on the street, her emotions are stirred up by past memories and uncertainty, allowing herself to embody her vulnerable and ambiguous sides. She keeps it to herself, but the desire consuming her is completely visible on her face, even though at moments she is wearing a mask. (The film presents real street-activity scenes of a COVID-era recovering Paris). That intensity is revealed with honesty when she describes her mixed feelings, nostalgia and fears of “seeing him again” straight to Jean’s face, causing him a sudden sense of disappointment and male rivalry. She wants to make sure he understands she is committed to him and will do anything to preserve their relationship. As the men go on setting up their business, she fails battling against her emotions and seeks him out. She can’t help but surrender to the nostalgic eroticism fantasized and now has a chance to experience a romantic double life. She becomes the center of an incendiary love triangle, divided by her former flame and the man she is betting a future on. Juliette Binoche couldn’t be a better choice for this timely, emotionally-charged feminist character. The sensational and internationally-renowned French star gives one of her most ravishing and remarkable performances as the protagonist, a woman going through a midlife existential crisis and has a unique sexual awakening. Re-teaming with master filmmaker Claire Denis, with whom she previously worked on the gorgeous “Let The Sunshine In”, Binoche seductively anchors the narrative with her luminous, irresistible presence. But she isn’t the only one shining through Denis’ enigmatic take on modern love, solitude, emotional confusion and generational conflicts. The director sensitively observes and explores themes such as teen angst, the refugee crisis, racial, moral and generational conflicts, Black communities vs. white privilege, loneliness, the hopes of youth for the future, the role and consumerism of technology in our daily lives, also extracting superbly convincing performances from the brilliant Vincent Lindon as Jean, perhaps France’s current leading (and most daring) actor, and the handsomely reliable Gregorie Colin as Francois. Denis also infuses other intriguing characters, such as Marcus, the multi-racial son of Jean, who is dealing with his inclinations to violence, and veteran actress Bulle Ogier (“The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie”) bringing serenity as the emphatic Grandmother.

Winner of the Best Director Silver Bear Award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Denis conceived an intense moral drama, a timely psycho-sexual thriller. It is also a dynamic and relevant multi-character study and a feminine odyssey superbly performed by an actress whose name should become an Adjective.

(IFC Films. 7/8. Film at Lincoln Center and IFC Center, NYC.)

MOON, 66 QUESTIONS    

You never know when that time to put your life on hold in order to help a loved relative or parent will come. At some point in life, everyone is called to actively perform the reason we exist: help one another. In Greek director Jacqueline Lentzou’s potent, chilling and sensitive feature debut, a young woman must return to Athens to care for her estranged father who is suffering from a debilitating health condition. Artemis is there not because she wants it, but rather because she knows she must fulfill her familiar duties. As she tries to reconnect to him, through other people’s perspectives, she personally explores her truthful reactions to it, questioning herself, her lost relationship with her father, the way she imagines he is, and the limits of what she describes as love. On the other side, her father is ingeniously keeping some facts from her, and when she finds out his secrets she realizes the importance of tolerance and acceptance, and the priceless value of time.

Beautifully acted and dramatically convincing, Lentzou composes a puzzled story of reconciliation and new beginnings, inventively told with different formats and colors, and filled with a fresh sense of discovery.

Nominated for the Teddy Award in Berlin, it is a masterly done work of great sensibility and perception that examines the longing, anxieties and twisted reactions of a warmth-needed father/daughter bond.

(Film Movement. 7/8. Laemmle Theatres, Los Angeles and On Demand.)


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