Claire Denis's "Friday Night" effectively captures some of the intense sensations of a sudden sexual encounter but its brevity of plot is a letdown.
By RANDI MILLER
"Friday Night," the latest film from "Chocolat" director Claire Denis, is an adaptation of Emmanuele Bernheim's novel chronicling an erotic night of anonymous sex between two ordinary-looking, nearly middle-aged Parisians. Unfortunately, the movie is light on plot and dialogue, heavy on mood and style; it's a filmmaker's film that will appeal to very select audiences. I would even argue that it is the cinematic version of writer Erica Jong's "zipless fuck" fantasy, only without the ancillary social and psychological discourse.
The movie is about a one-night stand that an unmarried woman named Laure (Valˇrie Lemercier) has with a stranger named Jean (Vincent Lindon) the night before she is to move into her boyfriend's apartment. After packing up her belongings, Laure gets in her car and begins the drive to a friend's house for dinner. She suddenly finds herself stuck in a city-wide traffic jam caused by the Parisian transit strike of 1995. Jean, a pedestrian, knocks on her car door and asks to come in out of the cold. Without hesitation, she opens the door. After much ado or should I say voodoo that they do they find a dingy motel nearby and the magic begins.
|Original title: Vendredi Soir.|
Directed by: Claire Denis.
Written by: Emmanuele Bernheim.
Cast: Valˇrie Lemercier, Vincent Lindon, Hˇl¸ne de Saint-P¸re.
In French with English subtitles.
The mood throughout the film is depressing. It begins as lonely and depressing, and ends as depressing, though the loneliness is replaced at the film's conclusion with a sense of fulfillment. The opening scenes depict Laure as isolated from human contact a wash of gray-brown shots of cardboard boxes and cityscapes provide the setting as Laure, alone, packs up her belongings. The only sounds are of her humming and talking softly to herself, the rip of the duct tape as she packs the boxes, and the disengaged voice of her boyfriend on the answering machine. Further, Laure's sexuality is introduced here as boxed up, hemmed in, unrealized. She tries on a provocative crimson skirt and then tosses it into and seals up a cardboard box to bring to her boyfriend's apartment, arguably sealing up and compartmentalizing her desire. She then bathes alone, the camera lingering on the vulnerable expanse of her back. The only sound is that of the water dripping from the washcloth.
The gray-red-brown color palate and the silent action/wordless exchanges continue during and after the lovers' union lingering camera shots of his hands, her eyes, the butt of the burning cigarette. This is not what I would have expected from a film about a woman's take-back-the-(k)night tale. Nor from a film that so painstakingly sets a mood of sadness and then introduces a mutual desire that is instantaneous and palpable. I would have expected a logical breaking point in the mood upon the lovers' union; for the colors to morph into noticeably more vibrant hues and music to emerge with the consummation of their attraction, cascading crescendos simulating their orgasms. Especially since the feeling of loneliness is ultimately replaced with a sense of contentment as Laure smiles and skips through the streets.
The style a study of sound and sight is admittedly effective. I found myself physically feeling the cold of the winter, the heat of the car and the motel's manual heater, the aching desire for physical contact.
However, not much happens in the film aside from the affair and the uncomfortable feelings of sadness, loneliness, and longing fulfilled, all so skillfully conjured by the filmmaker. The movie is really just an evocative, style-heavy depiction of human disconnection transformed into a fleeting erotic relationship. Usually I enjoy art-house flicks and movies about female empowerment. This film, however, can be safely missed.
|JULY 9, 2003|
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