Friday Night (France; 90min.)


directed by: Claire Denis
starring: Valťrie Lemercier; Vincent Lindon; HťlŤne de Saint-PŤre
Vendredi soir
 

Bob says: "Laure is a Parisian woman who is packing up her apartment in preparation for moving in with her boyfriend. Sheís a bit nervous, trying to get used to the idea of his place being their place, and making final decisions about which of her own things sheís going to keep and take with her.

"Itís winter, and thereís a strike against the Metro, so when Laure gets in her car to go to a dinner party traffic is terrible, the streets clogged with both cars and pedestrians. She switches on the radio now and then to listen to the traffic report (as if thereís any point in doing that), and oddly enough, it seems as if the announcer is speaking directly to her. So, she takes a piece of the announcerís advice and offers a ride to Jean, one of the pedestrians. In contrast to Laure, Jean seems perfectly calm all the time, which seems to make Laure a bit more nervousÖ

"FRIDAY NIGHT s the first film Iíve seen by Claire Denis, and I didnít have much of an idea of what I should expect. The only 'review' Iíd read was a brief item that basically stated that the film is a lot like LAST TANGO IN PARIS, only boring. Well, they both take place in Paris, and both involve a man and woman having sex, but thatís about it. LAST TANGO is difficult, ugly and upsetting. Itís about death, more than anything else: the death of love, of a sense of self-worth, of meaning, and arguably, of French cinema. (Thatís not to say that I donít like it. Itís actually one of my favorites, although I think I walked out on it three times before I finally managed to sit through it.) FRIDAY NIGHT is utterly different. Itís a very personal, interior film. Most of what we see is Laureís perspective (although not necessarily her visual perspective), often in extreme close-up, a bit fuzzy, or flying by so quickly we canít quite focus on it, and much of that is strung together by jump cuts, moving with her attention.

"This is arguably a female perspective Ė at least thatís what the fellow from the French consulate told us to expect in his introduction to the film. Thereís no doubt that it differs considerably from what the academics call the 'male gaze.' To my mind, itís a personal, unpolished perspective, complete with self-doubt, affirmation, and the kind of jumps in and out of logic and attention we all make."

And in response to Scot: "I agree with Scot about Jean, but I think that’s fine for the film because it’s not about them, it’s about Laure – her fears, her strengths, and her self-image. Jean is there because he’s apparently very different from François (I think that’s Laure’s boyfriend’s name). All we know about Francois is what we get from a phone message and the little note he’s attached to the keys to 'chez nous.'

"Jean, based on my perspective of Laure’s perspective, is an unknown. And apparently that’s what Laure needs at this point in her life, which is a little ironic, since we start the film watching her attempt to deal with her fears of losing her identity by joining her life with François’. What we get from her about Jean is that he’s easy-going, but a bit forceful (note her perspective of his driving), and while he’s polite, he clearly does what he wants to do. So the question becomes, why would Laure want to hook up with him? Is it just that he’s not Francois? Is it that he’s assertive? I don’t think he really matters much at all. What Laure needs that night is for things to feel a bit off-balance. She goes back and forth about feeling good about what she’s doing, but what it comes down to is that she’s reminding herself that the stability her life is about to take on is not (or does not need to be) her whole life. Even with all her doubts (and those doubts certainly enter into her relationship with Jean), she’s still capable of wanting, of being wanted, and of just doing something because she feels like it. Her life hasn’t changed by Saturday morning, but I think she feels better about moving forward."

 
Bruce says: "FRIDAY NIGHT is cinematic poetry. The opening scene is a pan shot over the rooftops of Paris at twilight. In a short time we have a great feeling for the time of day and the place. Laure is a young woman who is packing her belongings because on Saturday she will be moving in with her boyfriend. She plans on having dinner with friends and making an early night of it. The friends must live on the other side of Paris as Laure is stuck in traffic for what seems like an eternity. The reason for the traffic jam is a movement social, a strike involving French transportation workers. Consequently, the only way to move about is on foot or by car.

"As the car literally inches through the streets the camera captures the traffic from every conceivable angle. We see the insides of cars, the hoods, the bumpers, views from above, lateral views, posterior views, every combination, every possibility. As she sits in traffic, Laure notices everything around her and gets frequent traffic bulletins from various radio stations. One thing that catches her eye is a man weaving through the traffic. Laure catches a glimpse of him in the rear view mirror the side mirror and out her window. Finally, she asks if he wants a lift. He climbs in. Laure asks where he is going and he says, 'Nowhere.'

"She falls asleep at the wheel, normally a dangerous proposition but here a mere annoyance to other drivers that she is not properly inching forward in the clogged street. Later, he leaves the car in a bit of a huff. She follows him into a hotel bar. They kiss and decide to get a room. He pays.

"What follows is an elongated lovemaking scene filmed from every angle. Agnès Godard films the lovers as she did the traffic. We see body parts as we did fenders and grilles. Sometimes they are entangled and we aren’t quite sure what we are seeing. Or is Denis telling us that in some ways making love is its own traffic jam? FRIDAY NIGHT is a film of unique collaboration, a film of one mind. One could easily be convinced that Claire Denis and Agnès Godard are the same person. Separating the director and cinematographer is a nearly impossible task.

"FRIDAY NIGHT has little dialogue and only a sliver of plot. For sure, it is not a film for every movie lover. It is evocative; it is haunting. I’m almost embarrassed to say I wanted a bit more. 3.5 cats"

Georgette responds: "The sparse story line worked for me. At the end I was pretty convinced the scenes with the stranger didn't really happen but were a dreamlike fantasy she had while being bored in traffic. Afterall, she was about to move in with her lover, so a last fantasy sounds about right. I don't remember what I gave it when I saw it, but a 4 sounds right.

"By the way, Agnès Godard was at the Chlotrudis Awards ceremony last year. She was shy, quiet, and truly moved that we gave her an award.

"She talked about the challenges of filming FRIDAY NIGHT. She also told a great story about arriving on the set of BEAU TRAVAIL without her light meter. She worried throughout the location shooting that the film would be over exposed. The bright sunlight was very important to the mood of the picture, in fact it felt like another character. Her work turned out perfectly.

Agnhs was an assistant camera operator on the Claire Denis 1988 film CHOCOLAT. This film was shot in the bright African light, and it was obviously good training for her work in BEAU TRAVAIL."

 
Georgette says: "As I was driving home last night (traffic wasn't bad, thanks for asking), I thought of all of the truly horrible traffic jams I've been in, including one in Paris last year. I can absolutely imagine doing as Laure did, opening boxes of books that she was giving to charity, and deciding one by one, to keep them. I can also remember being so bored that I became resigned to the situation, and although I could not physically move, my mind wandered way beyond the limits of the car.

"Do you see where I'm going here? Laure is on her way to her new life with Bernard, and I think the affair
with Jean is strictly a fantasy daydream. Of course I need to see it again to see if this theory holds up.

What do you think?"

Thom responds: "Good to great photography in films today is almost a cliche. That being said I thought the photography in FRIDAY NIGHT was as beautiful as anything I've ever seen. It didn't even occur to me that the scenes with the starnger might be imagined, I was certain it really happened. He would have been hard to resist if he was real!"

 
Ivy says: "If you missed FRIDAY NIGHT when it played in the Boston's Women's Fest this Spring, please consider going tonight to the Monday Night at the Movies, or catching it at the Kendall before it leaves this Thursday. This, the newest film by acclaimed French director Claire Denis shouldn't be missed.

"I was lucky to see it at the Women's Fest this year and thought about it for days afterwards. The story is simple. It takes place over the period of one Friday night, the last night when the main character Laure will be living alone. The next morning she is going to be moving in with her boyfriend.

"Laure isn't young. She has clearly spent much of her adult life fighting for her independence because this seems to be the first time that she will be moving in with a beau. After packing up some boxes she showers and heads over to a friend's house for dinner. Due to a public transportation strike Laure gets stuck in gridlock traffic in the middle of Paris.

'During the traffic she agrees to pick up a man, the radio is prompting everyone to help out a stranger by driving them since there isn't any other way to get farther than you can walk. Laure and Jean end up having a one night stand based on the instant chemistry that they feel.

"I told you the story is simple. And that is the only thing that is simple about the film. Claire Denis, as can be expected, provides us with a beautiful and complicated film which is light on dialogue and heavy on internal emotion. We watch as Laure battles with her fears of commitment, trying not to feel trapped by the future she has planned.

"The film captures Laure's emotions so well. At the beginning of the film, Laure is startled by a man knocking on her window while she is drying her hair in her car's vents. She quickly starts her car and drives away. For the next 15 minutes or so, the camera see the world through her anxiety. Every
car seems to hold a predatory man. Then as she relaxes in the traffic, she starts to see other things like other women in their cars, families, etc. This type of emotional imaging happens throughout the film.

"The other really special thing about the film is that the tryst with Jean and Laure is sweet and loving. Normally, one night stand films are full of passion and, usually, guilt. Intense emotions that can't be controlled. This isn't that kind of a scene. They love each other's bodies, taking time to enjoy the moment that they are sharing. They seem completely comfortable. In the end there is something about the scene that seems very feminine.

"I have never considered Claire Denis a feminist filmmaker per se but this film is definitely feminist to me. The eye is a woman's, the story is ageless, and the personal struggle being addressed is Laure's.

"I would recommend that Chlotrudis members see this film. It is exactly the kind of film that you all would really appreciate. It will be in my list of award nominees at the end of the year!"

 
Laura says: "Claire Denis' (BEAU TRAVAIL) new film is a beautiful mood poem about Laure (Valerie Lemercier, LES VISITEURS) in transition from her single apartment to a shared life. Stuck in evening traffic , Laure is cocooned within the world of her car and its radio. Gradually she becomes aware of the world around her (gorgeously shot by Agnes Godard, who also shot competitor AU PLUS PRES DU PARADIS). She picks up a stranger, Jean (Vincent Lindon, PAS DE SCANDALE), and her evening takes unexpected turns. Although not well received in general, I loved the mood Denis evoked with images and music (Dickon Hinchliffe, whose band Tinderbox scored Denis' last film, TROUBLE EVERY DAY) alone. Dialogue in VENDREDI SOIR is definitely incidental - pure cinema, a lovely film with three brief touches of whimsy." 4 cats
 
Michael says: "FRIDAY NIGHT is the latest leisurely-paced, cinematic effort from French director Clare Denis. You may recall Denis' BEAU TRAVAIL picking up a host of Chlotrudis nominations, and walking off with the Best Cinemtaography award for the remarkable Agnes Godard. In FRIDAY NIGHT, Denis offers us a lovely piece of cinematic poetry... an ode to a Friday night in Paris. Dialogue is scarce, but lovely imagery is full of meaning.

Laure is packing her apartment to move in with her boyfriend. She's a little nervous, unsure of her feelings of giving up her old life, and creating a new one. On the way to a dinner party, she becomes caught in a traffic gridlock caused by a public transit strike. Already exhausted, she observes the drivers and pedestrians around her through a haze of sleepiness, lending a dreamlike quality to the film.

She eventually picks up a passenger, Jean, and the heart of the story lies in the night they spend together. Refreshingly told in a uniquely female perspective, more specifically, Laure's, the entire film is seen through her eyes, and colored by her particular outlook. The languid pace may not be to everyone's cup of tea, but others will find it rewarding, sensuous, and simply delightful." 4 cats

And in response to Scot: While I appreciate the fact that there's not a whole lot going on in this film, I think the fact that Jean is little more than a cipher upon whom Laure project her emotions is exactly the point. The film is all about Laure and her viewpoint... her interaction with the world... her own fears and longings, as you said. I think that's what made the film so enjoyable for me."
 

Scot says: "I wasn’t as wild about this. I certainly appreciate the visual elements of the Denis/Godard partnership, but I’m a little more Aristotelian in my requirements for a satisfying film. While this one had the sensuous elements of sight and sound, it was pretty thin of plot and expression (of artistic thought). It was even thin on character as well, as Jean is little more than a cipher upon whom Laure projects her fear and longing. She’s the only real character in the film, as a result.

The result: I was often bored."

And in response to Michael: "Oh I certainly agree that that's the point! But my point is that it didn't maintain my interest as drama."