Let the Sunshine In
Two luminaries of French cinema, Claire Denis and Juliette Binoche, unite for the first time in this piercing look at the elusive nature of true love, and the extent to which we are willing to betray ourselves in its pursuit. In a richly layered performance, Binoche plays Isabelle, a successful painter in Paris whose apparent independence belies what she desires most: real romantic fulfillment. Isabelle reveals deep wells of yearning, vulnerability, and resilience as she tumbles into relationships with all the wrong men. Shot in burnished tones by Denis’s longtime collaborator Agnès Godard and featuring a mischievous appearance by Gérard Depardieu, Let the Sunshine In finds bleak humor in a cutting truth: we are all, no matter our age, fools for love.
Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In receives its Blu-ray debut through the Criterion Collection, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc. The film was shot digitally and the presentation here comes from a 4K master.
The final presentation is good and there isn’t much to fault it for, though at the same time I can’t say anything ever sticks out. The image is sharp, details are good, it rarely looks soft (a soft focus looks to be applied at times, though), and colours look great. Some crush sneaks in here and there but I was generally pleased with the black levels, which manage to look a pure black instead of a muddy dark gray, which I admit I still sort of expect with digital photography. Obviously there are no print flaws to speak of, and there are also no apparent artifacts present. Again, it’s just a good looking digital presentation.
The film comes with a 5.1 surround track, presented in DTS-HD MA. It doesn’t use it to its full potential, focusing mostly to the front speakers. Some ambient effects and some music make their way to the other speakers but that’s about it. But the track is sharp with a good bit of range and excellent fidelity.
Sadly there isn’t much on here but we do, at the very least, get two excellent interviews: one featuring director Claire Denis and another with actor Juliette Binoche, running 21-minutes and 17-minutes respectively. Denis offers a rundown of the production (which was completed quickly, going from pre-production to Cannes in a few months), and talks about the source text on which the film is based, Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, and how she carried that fragmented structure. She also gets very personal, explaining how her own experiences have made their way into this film. She also explains how artist Joan Mitchell influenced the character, which is confirmed by Binoche in her interview, the actress also mentioning she got to meet the artist. Binoche was especially thrilled with the project, finding a lot to love in its humour and development her character, though she admits she wasn’t too fond of the high boots her character wore.
Both interviews were loose and fun, and getting more details behind the influences proved helpful, but I was sad the supplements around the film were pretty much limited to these two segments. Criterion does include Denis’ 2014 short film, Voilá l’enchaînement, which presents fragments from a disintegrating, interracial marriage. It starts out with a slight argument about the husband’s disinterest in getting his wife’s name tattooed on his body, and then escalates (her calling him a “stud,” ignoring the racist undertones to that) until paranoia starts to build between the two and eventually things get physical. The film is based on text by writer Christine Angot, who collaborated with Denis on Let the Sunshine In, and like the main feature it has a fragmented narrative, though it jumps around far more jarringly (it also stars Alex Descas, who appears briefly in the main feature).
The disc then closes with the North American IFC trailer and the included insert features an essay on the film, its humour, director, and central character, written by Stephanie Zacharek.
Disappointingly slim on features, but at the very least they’re all very good and worth viewing.
A decent edition, delivering good (if scant) features and a solid audio/video presentation.