Saw "Vendredi Soir" a few days ago, and it was the second film by Denis I have seen. The first one, "Chocolat" (1988) was also her debut, and while the film had profound moments of beauty, and the plot developed in a subtle mode, Denis has made huge progress during these 14 years, as far as I can judge by these two films. While the first one was still a somewhat coherent narrative structure, and wanted to tell a story through glances and gestures, "Vendredi Soir" succeeds at getting a story out of glances and gestures. The minimal dialogue used in "Chocolat" was still significant, although it was more important what wasn`t said, than what was. The silence between the characters helped to build a bridge and a connection between the protagonists, the white wife and the black servant. In "Vendredi Soir" this concept is taken further, as the words and the dialogue become almost transparent, having no meaning in itself, always revealing what is meant on a deeper level. The Silence doesn`t help to overcome social differences, but is the main tool of communication. Without words the body starts to express itself more directly, and the glances and gestures are the sensual devices to take in the world around us.
Denis has progressed from a poetic film to making poetry arise directly on the screen. "Vendredi Soir" is a sensual poem in which you get to taste and smell and feel the things you see on the screen, all achieved through totally cinematic devices.
The film begins with lots of different views of Paris at night, but a Paris we may know from our dreams, a town of bright windows and dark rooftops that seems to spring out of a fairy tale. It reminded me of Rene Clair`s "Over the roofs of paris" and Hitchcock`s "Rear Window" at the same time, making the viewer a participant and voyeur both at once. Like in reality we never only observe but are also observed. Object and subject as one. Throughout the film light plays an important role - soft light, harsh light, reflections on mirrors, windowpanes, while camerawoman Agnes Godard accentuates the changes through the constantly shifting employment of different film "stock". Though the film is shot on 35mm Godard makes it appear like she has shot everything with Digital equipment, giving the film a sometimes raw, sometimes sensual, but always poetic look.
The intention may have been to make everything appear hyper-real, a dream reality that is nevertheless firmly rooted in our present time (Paris in 2002), thus showing us the endless possibilities of the everyday world that surrounds us. A Big ugly city becomes through the power of Love (Art) a radiating, vibrant landscape filled with beauty.
The Story is simple. A woman about to move in with her boyfriend encounters another man and has a passive one-night stand. But the exceptional thing is that Denis makes us feel every moment of it, experience the emotions like the characters do. The Camera always stays close to the protagonists faces, moves along with their inner feelings, trembles and searches like they do, teasing and wishing like they do, finding and discovering like they do. It isn`t a character of its own, but becomes through the phenomenal montage and fast paced elliptical cutting the very space between our protagonists, registering what they register not in a way of showing but of doing, not how but when - the spaces of time opened up are always now.
The poetry of Denis can be compared to Jean Vigo, but her quality that separates hers from his, is that while Vigo hailed the powers of our imagination, showing our phantasies enriching reality, Denis totally rejects a division. The magical comes from the real, is reality itself, not a victory of imagination over mind, because the struggle has ended. Change your heart...