Discovering Desire: A
Review of the Film "Friday Night"
by Claire Denis
Starring Valèrie Lemercier and Vincent Lindon
In French with English subtitles
(Valèrie Lemercier) has her life organized and under control.
Our first introduction to her is via the cardboard cartons that
she has packed and neatly labeled in preparation for her move,
the next morning, across the city to live with her lover. "Summer
clothing", "Linens", "For mother" ("Por
maman"), the boxes declare, highly legible, and somehow more
poetic in French.
has decided what to keep and what to throw away. (The concierge
gleefully helps herself to the discards.) She knows exactly what
she's doing. Finished with her packing, she takes a bath, calls
her boyfriend François to tell him that she'll see him
tomorrow, and heads out to drive to a friend's for dinner, a box
labeled "For charity" in her back seat.
is messy, though, and far from orderly. Laure becomes embroiled
in a hellish traffic jam, engendered by a public transit strike.
Order begins to unravel as Laure, her car paralyzed by the stopped
vehicles around her, rummages in the charity box, having second
thoughts about her carefully considered decisions.
cloying radio announcer encourages drivers to show consideration
for their fellows and offer rides to stranded strangers. When
a rugged, Belmondo-esque man (Vincent Lindon) asks if she'll give
him a lift, she
agrees. That simple action removes them both from the normal flow
of the Paris night, into some other state of being where the only
truth is their mutual desire.
Night" is remarkable for the palpable sense of mutual attraction
it manages to convey, with scarcely any dialog. Jean, Laure's
passenger, offers her a cigarette. She declines, saying that she
has quit, but when he lights up, her nostrils flare in sensual
appreciation. He drives her, backwards, at breakneck pace though
the city, then leaves her when he senses her alarm. She sniffs
the steering wheel, seeking his scent, then goes off prowling
the back streets to find him.
is raw, tender and wonderfully honest. Neither tries to pretend
not to want the other. Yet the progress of the film, and their
serendipitous relationship, is leisurely. There is time for a
coffee in a late night tabac, and later, for an afterhours dinner
during which the two lovers devour each other with their eyes
with every bite.
first arrive in their marginally seedy hotel room, they cling
to each other, groping through heavy winter coats, purely grateful
to be able to finally touch. Their encounters are gorgeously erotic
because of the obviously mutual nature of their desire. They are
not using each other. Though strangers, the intensity of their
connection makes them generous, even loving.
night creeps toward Saturday morning, Laure reclaims her "normal"
life. She leaves Jean asleep (after trying unsuccessfully to wake
him him to say goodbye). It seems sinful that she should abandon
a connection so joyous and sustaining. At the same time, anyone
with experience of the world must wonder how long the magic of
Friday night could remain alive. Perhaps it is better for her
to relinquish it while it is still so beguiling and potent.
Night" is simple and true. This is a slice of Paris life.
The director makes it clear that Jean and Laure are ordinary people,
caught for a moment, a night, in something extraordinary. The
film begins with views of the old Paris roofs, bristling with
chimneys, lit windows offering portals into many individual lives.
Later, in the traffic jam, Ms. Denis focuses in on the drivers
of the adjacent cars and the people on the street. Her message
is clear; any one of these people might have his or her own story,
just as intense and magical.
I watched the film, I had a sense that it was a bit too slow,
too dreamy. Afterwards, though, it clung to me like the scent
of a lover who has gone. I found myself fascinated by the notion
of this adventure, this peak experience, that manifested in the
interstice between Laure's old and new lives. Change makes us
susceptible to the unexpected, the cataclysmic, the ecstatic.
One left the movie with the sense that Laure, even as she returned
to her chosen path, had grown beyond the person that she had been
on Friday afternoon.
Sarai has been writing ever since she learned how to
hold a pencil. She is the author of three erotic novels, "Raw
Silk", "Incognito", and "Ruby's Rules", and the co-editor, with
S.F. Mayfair, of the anthology "Sacred Exchange", which explores
the spiritual aspects of BDSM relationships. Visit her website,
Sarai's Fantasy Factory for more information and samples
of her writing.
A Review of the Film "Friday Night"
© 2003 Lisabet Sarai