Let the Sunshine In
(Un Beau Soleil Intérieur)
Runtime 94 minutes
Represented as a “deliciously witty, sensuously romantic new film,” I saw nothing witty, sensual or romantic in a depressing story about a needy, love-starved woman, Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), a divorced painter living in Paris, and her equally wanting male assignations.
The film opens with Isabelle in bed with her latest lover, Vincent (Xavier Beauvois). Based on a book by Roland Barthes, director/writer (with Christine Angot) Claire Denis shows this exercise in sex as much more disgusting than loving. In fact, if this is love I can’t imagine anyone wanting to participate, certainly no woman. In fact, if this is the way women view sex, I’m glad I’m not a woman.
After he coldly tells her he’s never going to divorce his wife, she flits on to one lover after another, first an unnamed actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who is as screwed up as she, then Marc (Alex Descas) who is a fellow artist but is as commitment-challenged as Vincent.
The dialogue is frank. There’s no “first date” nonsense; they get right down to the nitty gritty without much preamble. Whenever there is a meeting, it seems as if the conversation immediately turns to whether or not they are going to be in a continuing relationship.
This is apparently somewhat autobiographical for Denis because she put a lot of her experiences into the film, according to her. Here’s how she describes Isabelle, she is “a woman who sees the widening disparity between what she is looking for in a man, and what she can find. This gap is only growing wider over the course of her different encounters, her ‘fragments.’ But she’s not a feminine version of Don Juan: a depressive seductress, pray to an addiction that is slowly killing her. She’s more of a Casanova and a hedonist but because she’s a woman, it had better remain hidden.”
If that’s what Denis was trying to create, she failed. To me she is no female Casanova. Rather, she is exactly what Denis says she is not; a depressive seductress.
She is certainly not very selective. There is only one man in the film who seems to be attracted to her that she does not pursue with abandon.
Gérard Depardieu appears near the end of the film as a clairvoyant in a tête-à-tête scene with Isabelle to close out the film. This scene was shot entirely in one day. According to Dennis it was “the most intense shoot I have ever experienced: 16 minutes of film and a single day. That had never happened to me before. We had two takes with Juliette and three with Gérard.”
People are left to their interpretation of Depardieu’s character. All I can say is that my assistant and I came out with a completely different interpretation than what Denis intended, and another critic at the screening agreed with us.
Runtime 94 minutes
Remakes of originals that depended on the talents of unique actors and actresses like Goldie Hawn don’t work. How would you like a remake of Casablanca (1942) without Bogie, or Gone With the Wind (1939) without Gable?
The original Overboard (1987) was a mediocre movie with a charismatic actress that made it work. This is a mediocre movie that switches the original roles without the charismatic actress and it doesn’t work. This time the spoiled rich kid with amnesia is the man and the one who pulls the wool over his eyes is a woman.
Anna Faris and Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez do workmanlike jobs and it’s a feel-good ending that leaves one warm and fuzzy. But it’s slow and boringly predictable. It should appeal to children and maybe to people too young to remember the original. But for those of us who remember Goldie and Kurt Russell, this is a disappointment.