Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil interieur)
Claire Denis, director & co-script w/Christine Angot inspired by A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes
Starring: Juliet Binoche (Isabelle), Xavier Beauvois (Vincent), Philippe Katerine (Mathieu), Bruno Podalydes (Fabrice), Gerard Depardieu (Denis), Nicholas Duvauchelle (The actor)
A film about the love life of a “woman of a certain age” may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea but Let the Sunshine In is not a typical Zoomer romantic comedy. First off, Juliette Binoche plays the lead, and, as usual, she has crafted a great portrayal, this time of Isabelle, an artist who is divorced and finding it difficult to adjust to being by herself. Second: the film is directed and co-scripted by Claire Denis, one of the great female auteurs, whose work includes the African set Beau Travail and the tough but compelling Bastards. Third, Denis’ cinematographer Agnes Godard is absolutely brilliant, placing her pictorial compositions in such a way that Binoche’s interior drama is played out fully. Of course, all three of these immensely talented women have garnered major prizes at the European film awards, Cannes and the Academy Awards.
Denis has cast Binoche as Isabelle, an extraordinary woman, who is divorced from a man who loved but bored her. Isabelle has taken up with a priggish banker, Vincent, who initially excited her because, in many ways, she despises him. Eventually, when he demands that a bartender bring him non-gluten olives and then tells Isabelle that he’ll never leave his wife who is “extraordinary” while she is merely “charming,” she dumps him. Next, she spends time with a narcissistic actor, who entices her with dreams of a creative project, beds her and then tells her the next day, that it was all a bad idea. When, in desperation, she tries out her ex- again, you begin to wonder: are there no decent men left in Paris?
Let the Sunshine In is inspired by a wonderful work by the cultural theorist Roland Barthes, whose A Lover’s Discourse expresses philosophical thoughts on ‘l’amour” interspersed with quotes from great fictional pieces. Denis has taken a less radical approach, simply playing out various romantic scenarios for Isabelle to negotiate. In an extraordinary conclusion, Gerard Depardieu playing a love psychic, offers incredibly insightful advice to Binoche’s Isabelle. It’s a beautiful scene, which raises the film a notch, more into Denis’ more meditative realm.
Let the Sunshine In’s French title Un beau soleil interieur refers to the gorgeous soul inside people. This is a film that coolly examines love but, in the end, endorses it. What can be better than that?
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Classical Mornings with Mike and Jean.