Combustible Celluloid
With: Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon, Grégoire Colin, Bulle Ogier, Issa Perica, Alice Houri, Mati Diop, Bruno Podalydès, Lola Créton
Written by: Christine Angot, Claire Denis
Directed by: Claire Denis
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 116
Date: 04/23/2022

Both Sides of the Blade (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ye Of Little Faith

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Claire Denis's Both Sides of the Blade (formerly titled Fire) is one of her more dispiriting works, a curious, difficult, if undeniably powerful exploration of infidelity. Sara (Juliette Binoche) and Jean (Vincent Lindon) are a loving couple, first seen enjoying a vacation together, and then making passionate love. But then an old flame of Sara's, François (Grégoire Colin), comes back on the scene, offering Jean a job. Seeing him again, Sara falls apart, and jumps back into an affair with him. However, with each man, she seems to give herself over totally, but then returns to the other easily. Denis specifically holds back on explanatory details and focuses on the emotions, or, specifically, the way in which emotions are interpreted. In a subplot, Jean — who has been in prison for some time — has a teen, mixed-race son, Marcus (Issa Perica), who has been raised by Jean's mother (the legendary Bulle Ogier). Jean desperately tries to reach Marcus, without much progress. In one scene, Jean tries to have a heart-to-heart about race and how it plays into Marcus's future. With a little effort, this speech could be tied to the infidelity theme, describing how much of life is perception and interpretation, rather than absolute truth. The film's ending is unforgettable, quite literally providing Sara with a clean slate. Viewed as part of the 65th SF Film Festival.

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