Posts Tagged ‘Claire Denis’

Jessie Ross, Robert Pattinson

“HIGH LIFE” My rating: C

113 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Claire Denis’ “High Life” takes place almost exclusively on a spaceship millions of miles from Earth and heading toward a black hole.

Those expecting a high-tech geek out should curb their expectations. This is outer space on a limited budget.

The interior of the ship resembles nothing so much as a suburban office park fallen on hard times; even the computers seem early 2000s.  We get only a couple of glimpses of the craft from the outside, and it looks like box.  Once in a very rare while a character pulls on a space suit, but mostly they wander around in red/orange prison-type jumpsuits.

Which is only fitting, since they are all condemned criminals — though we don’t learn that until later on (“High Life” is maddeningly reluctant to give up its secrets…most of the characters don’t even have names). Apparently these travelers were given a chance to leave prison and go on an intergalactic adventure.

As the film begins Monte (Robert Pattinson) is sharing the craft with a baby girl he calls Willow.  The rest of the crew are MIA (at one point he jettisons a few corpses) and Monte has his hands full feeding an infant (there’s a misty greenhouse on board that grows food) and fixing the ship’s systems as they fail. To the extent possible under the circumstances he’s a good father — cuddling and talking to the baby.

The film then flashes back to earlier in the voyage.  Monte and a half dozen other inmates take their orders from Dibs (Juliette Binoche), a lab-coated doctor who is, in a very real sense, a mad scientist.  We never do learn what the mission is about, but Dibs has highjacked it for her own science project.  She seems to have been driven mad by her inability to conceive, and she’s hatching a plot to breed her minions, who spend much of their time drugged into complacency.

Oh, yeah,  there’s also a pleasure room onboard where the residents can go for mechanically-stimulated sexual release. Romantic it isn’t.


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Juliette Binoche


94 minutes | No MPAA rating

Movies about privileged people who can’t stop moaning about their boring, unfulfilled lives generally give me a throbbing keister ache.

Claire Denis’ “Let the Sunshine In” is the exception, a profile of unhappiness delivered with such care, insight and actorly magnificence that you can forgive the self-absorption exhibited by most of the characters.

We stick with the ironically titled “…Sunshine…” because it’s an almost perfect vehicle for Juliette Binoche, one of France’s greatest actresses, here at the peak of her powers.

A confession: I’ve always admired Binoche’s thespian skills, but have long been perplexed by her status as a great beauty.  I  never saw it…until now. The older Binoche gets, the sexier she becomes. Go figure.

Here she plays Isabelle, a middle-aged artist (abstract expressionism, naturally) who in the wake of a divorce has been cast upon emotional and sexual shoals. Denis’ screenplay (written with Christine Angot) follows Isabelle’s ever-rebounding relationships with a half dozen men, none of whom seem capable of providing what she wants.

Of course, Isabelle may not know what she wants. There’s more than a little neurotic neediness in Binoche’s performance…after a while you may come to the conclusion her unmistakeable neediness is a big part of the problem. (Even her clothing sends weird messages…she’s big on mini-skirts, go-go boots and plunging necklines that have a hookerish feel.)

As the film starts she’s breaking off her affair with Vincent (Xavier Beauvoir), a burly banker who bitches about his dull world of commerce and finds her artistic endeavors quite erotic. “You charm the pants off me,” he says, though it’s likely he’d lose the trousers whether Isabelle  was charming or not. Problem is, Vincent can’t help exhibiting the alpha-male assholery that is key to his profession.


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