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The Crack Magazine

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Both Sides Of The Blade

Director: Claire Denis

Stars: Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon, Grégoire Colin, Issa Perica, Bulle Ogier

Following her wacky sci-fi tale ‘Sky High’, French writer-director Denis returns to more down-to-Earth matters with this unsatisfying relationship drama. An almost kitschy dreamlike opening sequence has Sara (Binoche) and her husband Jean (Lindon) embracing as they float on a sparkling sea on their seemingly idyllic holiday. The sinister cello accompaniment and subsequent image of a tunnel suggests that matters are about to take a darker turn. They are still basking in the post-holiday feeling when they return to Paris, until Sara, on her way to her job as a public radio broadcaster, spots her ex-lover Francois (Colin). Jean, who we learn once spent a spell in prison for some unspecified reason, has been offered a job by Francois as a sports agent. The two men had worked together previously, which may or may not have been the cause of his imprisonment. Jean also has a trouble-prone, mixed-race teenage son Marcus (Perica) from an earlier marriage who stays with Jean’s mother (Ogier). In one of the picture’s best scenes, Jean attempts to give Marcus a pep talk, which feels like it’s aimed more at himself than his son. An air of noirish dread hangs over proceedings with ominous close-ups, an unsettling score from regular Denis collaborators, British band Tindersticks, and in the enigmatic figure of Francois. But while Binoche and Lindon are as fearless as ever, the plotting feels too oblique and underpowered to engage.

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