Monday, October 9, 2017


I’m not into romcoms but the idea of Claire Denis directing one intrigued me (prior to seeing Let The Sunshine In I read quite a few early reviews that described it as such and I kind of have to agree). If you’re familiar with my site and/or my personal movie preferences then it should come as no surprise that I’ll see anything directed by Claire Denis. She’s my favorite filmmaker. One of the reasons she is one of my favorites is because after 40 years of filmmaking (in various capacities) she continues to step outside of her comfort zone. Not completely but enough where it should be recognized. Every one of her films has the same sheen/layer of “Claire Denis-ism” (which is something I like) but she dabbles in different genres from time to time. Trouble Every Day was her horror film. I Can’t Sleep was her murder mystery/noir. Chocolat & U.S. Go Home were warped personal journals/semi-autobiographical tales from her childhood. Friday Night was Claire Denis’ foray in to romance (that’s not to say romance & sensuality don’t flow throughout a large majority of her work but, in my opinion, Friday Night was her first truly romantic film). Let The Sunshine In has a lot of the same elements of Friday Night but it’s a bit more mushy. This might be the lightest movie she’s ever done so far in her career (this is that new territory I was speaking of earlier) but at the end of the day it is a Claire Denis film. There’s plenty of sad moments & crying. But what’s so disorienting (and I mean this in a good way) is that the sad moments and the funny moments happen within moments of each other. One minute you’re laughing out loud and seconds later you want to cry with Juliette Binoche's "Isabelle". It's difficult to keep track of all the emotions. I know that sounds negative but it's not. Let The Sunshine In keeps you on your toes.

Denis also pleases her more rigid fans like myself who like continuity between all of her movies (Agnès Godard is behind the camera once again, Stuart Staples provided some of the music, Alex Descas co-starred, etc). The way Claire Denis shoots Binoche’s (beautiful) naked body is from the same lens that filmed the half-naked men in Beau Travail. I also came to the realization that in the last two decades we’ve watched Nichols Duvauchelle (who plays one of the love interests) pretty much grow up in Claire Denis’ movies.

Let The Sunshine In is the story of “Isabelle” - a divorced mom who still hasn’t given up on love and continues to try and date/hook up even though most of the men in her life at the moment kind of suck (some are still married, some are self-centered, etc). We feel for Isabelle because she is a romantic who deserves love but that doesn’t mean she isn’t frustrating. I enjoyed this movie very much but there were times when I wanted to yell at Isabelle in frustration like a lot of people want to in most romcoms (“WHY ARE YOU GOING BACK TO THAT GUY?! HE'S TERRIBLE FOR YOU!”)
When you take the solid performances and the overall “arthouse” element out of Let The Sunshine In, Isabelle could very well be the 5th friend in Carrie’s entourage on Sex & The City (I'd be interested in hearing theories as to whether or not Claire Denis was slightly poking fun at romantic comedies).

But the plot is secondary to me. I was more fascinated with the (extended) family reunion aspect of it all. I say extended because while this is Claire Denis’ first time collaborating with French cinema legends like Juliette Binoche & Gérard Depardieu, they’re still (distant) relatives that share the same blood/DNA as Denis. It was only a matter of time that they all work together.

Claire Denis is often associated with the Wim Wenders family tree of directors (Jarmusch, Denis & Wenders), actors (Solveig Dommartin, Issach De Bankole, etc), cinematographers (Agnes Godard & Robby Muller) & musicians (John Lurie) but she also belongs to another large cinematic family...

Leos Carax / Olivier Assayas / Claire Denis
Denis Lavant / Juliette Binoche / Alex Descas
Katerena Golubeva / Lola Creton / Mirielle Perrier
Kylie Minogue / Isabelle Huppert / The Depardieus
The Leos Carax/Olivier Assayas/Claire Denis family tree is seldom mentioned but is so quietly prevalent. It’s an incredibly incestuous web of collaborative artists that should be the subject of a book one day. Claire Denis helped Olivier Assayas come up with the story that eventually became Irma Vep (Irma Vep also co-stars Claire Denis-regular/Let The Sunshine In co-star Alex Descas). Leos Carax’s cinematic alter-ego Denis Lavant gave one of his most iconic performances in Beau Travail (a film many consider to be Claire’s best work). Olivier Assayas’ recent stock actor Lola Creton gave a cryptic performance in Denis’ Bastards. Mirielle Perrier starred in the directorial debuts of both Carax & Denis. Isabelle Huppert has appeared in the films of both Assayas & Denis and Kylie Minogue ended up in Leos Carax’s Holy Motors at the suggestion of Claire Denis (Denis & Minogue were supposed to work on a film together that eventually fell through).
There are more examples that I could give but I think you get the idea.

Let The Sunshine In might be the greatest cinematic artifact that shows the connectivity between Carax, Assayas & Denis. Gérard Depardieu’s son appeared in Carax’s Pola X alongside the late Katerina Golubeva (star of two Denis films and partner of Carax). Juliette Binoche, who’s started in multiple films directed by both Assayas & Carax, has become the first and only actor/actress to appear in films directed by all three filmmakers. So even if Let The Sunshine In ended up being bad, “meh” or disappointing (which it definitely is not), it still ties together decades of a specific scene within modern French cinema that is very near & dear to my heart.

I think it should be noted that years before this movie was announced I had a feeling Binoche & Denis would collaborate...

And here we are over two & a half later watching this dream collaboration become a reality (there's a moment towards the end of the movie where Alex Descas & Juliette Binoche slowly hold hands which solidified everything for me).

Don’t get me wrong, as a stand-alone movie Let The Sunshine In is solid. It’s a departure from Denis’ recent (darker) work. I honestly wouldn’t mind this being a novice’s intro in to the world of Claire Denis (besides the fact that it’s a solid film, it could potentially expose someone to so many different avenues of modern French cinema).
But as a diehard fan of Claire Denis (as well as Carax & Assayas) it’s difficult to disassociate the very large web of modern French cinema history attached to it.
To some this may be another solid Claire Denis effort but to me it’s something much bigger.


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