Thursday, August 11, 2011


I haven't got much sleep these last couple of days because no matter how late i get home, i end up watching this movie from beginning to end. I always put it on before i go to sleep just to watch one or two scenes and then i find myself watching the whole thing. Claire Denis' 'Friday Night', adapted from a book of the same name, is the ONE film of hers that i didn't fall madly in love with after seeing for the first time like i have with all her others ('Nenette & Boni', 'Trouble Every Day', 'No Fear No Die', etc). But like 'Ghost Dog', Steven Soderbergh's 'Solaris' and 'Sex, Lies & Videotape', its grown on me over the years. 'Friday Night' has the power to change the opinion of a guy like me who isn't too big on romantic films mainly because they're always sappy and are usually only made with women in mind. But 'Friday Night' is different.
After moving out of her apartment, our main character (Laurie) gets caught in a ridiculous traffic jam due to a transportation strike which has put Paris at a standstill. But for some strange reason she seems to be the only person who doesn't care. She sits in her car in bumper to bumper traffic listening to music and watching people ditch their cars to walk home. Eventually she offers a mysterious man (Jean) a ride in her car (even though they don't get very far due to the traffic), and in a kind of unspoken agreement they decide to spend the night together. Without making an obvious reference to an older movie like many of Denis' contemporaries (jarmusch, von trier, tarrantino) do, 2 strangers meeting up to have sex with each other is kinda similar to 'Last Tango In Paris'. Yet 'Friday Night' is still Denis' own film and she borrows nothing style-wise from Bertolucci. It has the dreamy atmosphere that you should expect from a "Nenette & Boni to Intruder era" Claire Denis film. In my last big Claire Denis blog entry (PINNLAND EMPIRE: The Cinema Of Claire Denis) i talked about the effect that The Tindersticks (the band that has been scoring her films for the last 15 years) had on her work once she started working with them. And 'Friday Night', scored by Tindersticks member Dickon Hinchliffe, may be the perfect example. Before their music graced her films, Denis' style was a bit more grounded in gritty realism. 'No Fear No Die' was a film about underground cockfighting and 'I Cant Sleep' dealt with a sociopathic serial killer that targeted old women. Once she made 'Nenette & Boni' her films got more and more dreamlike ('Friday Night' kinda feels like a dream you don't wanna wake up from) culminating in 'The Intruder' (Denis' 2004 film), which was like one long epic dream.

Last Tango In Paris

Friday Night

The fact that 'Friday Night' mostly takes place in a car and/or a small motel room, gives the film a lot of intimacy. And when there's scenes that don't take place in a small space, the camera is right up close & personal in the actors' faces. And like much of Denis' other work, there isn't a ton of dialogue. 'Friday Night' falls in to the same category of films like 'In The Mood For Love' (or just about almost anything else by Wong Kar Wai).

The movie really plays of body language. There isn’t much spoken out loud in the film, even though we retained nearly all the dialogue from the book. There are perhaps one or two bits of dialogue which we suppressed during the filming, because the actors did not want to deliver them. - Claire Denis

In The Mood For Love

Friday Night

'Friday Night' is often overlooked for a couple of reasons: It's essentially the "middle child" between two of Denis' greatest films (trouble every day & the intruder). A small film like this is easy to look past when it's sandwiched between a bloody vagina biting "horror"/drama/romance (trouble every day) and a 2+ hour surreal epic filmed in 3 different countries (the intruder). Its also overlooked because its the one Claire Denis film that doesn't feature any of her "regulars" in lead roles. In fact, the only 2 commonly used Claire Denis actors that are in 'Friday Night' appear in quick cameos (Gregoire Colin & Florence Loiret Caille). This is a great movie, and you don't have to like "arthouse" films to enjoy it. I wouldn't recommend this as an introduction to Claire Denis, but if you're a fan of her more recent work and have yet to see this, I highly recommend it.

Friday Night (2003)

Beau Travail (1999/2000)

Another thing i picked up on while watching 'Friday Night' is a common shot that Denis uses (which i shoulda put in that last big entry i did on her). In many of her films there's always a point of view shot from the perspective of the inside of a car (or a train in the case of '35 Shots Of Rum'), often times quickly catching someone in the headlights before they quickly fall out of frame. There's a particular scene in 'Friday Night' that looks exactly like a scene in Denis' earlier film 'Beau Travail' (below).



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