BOTH SIDES OF THE BLADE (FIRE)
(director/writer: Claire Dennis; screenwriter: Christine Angot/based on Angot’s novel Un tournant de la vie; cinematographer: Eric Gautier; editors: Guy Lecorne/Emmanuelle Pencalet; music: Tindersticks/Stuart Staples; cast: Juliette Binoche (Sara), Vincent Lindon (Jean), Grégoire Colin (François), Bulle Ogier (Nelly), Issa Perica (Marcus), Alice Houri (Employée Tribunal de commerce), Mati Diop (Gabrielle), Bruno Podalydès (Invité inauguration), Lola Créton (Lola); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer;Olivier Delbosc: Curiosa Films/IFC Films; 2022-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Acts as a subversive study on infidelity.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Noted French filmmaker Claire Dennis (“35 Shots of Rum”/”High Life”), one of my favorites, is writer-director of this dark melodrama love triangle that’s well-acted and smartly done but enigmatic to a fault. It acts as a subversive study on infidelity.
This is Denis’s second collaboration with the French novelist Christine Angot, who co-wrote the script, her third with lead actors, Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon, and her eighth with the supporting actor Grégoire Colin.
The middle-aged Parisian couple, married for ten years, Sara (Juliette Binoche), a radio talk-show host on a PBS-like station, and Jean (Vincent Lindon), a former professional rugby player and an ex-convict, who finds stability in his marriage to Sara. Jean was arrested when involved in an unspecified crime with his younger friend and business partner François (Grégoire Colin), an ex of Sara’s, who was not charged. Jean spent ten years locked-up.
François returns to Paris after absent for a long time and renews his romance with Sara, as she can’t stay away from either man and gives herself totally to both.
The plan is for Jean to team up with François to form a sports agency—something he did before getting into trouble.
We learn that through a previous marriage Jean has a mixed-race teen son, Marcus (Issa Perica), a troubled kid who has been raised by Jean’s mother (Bulle Ogier) in the suburbs in Vitry while Jean served his time. The kid’s mom is back in Martinque. Marcus has turned out to be a confused kid who is about to be expelled from school for bad conduct. Despite Jean trying to relate to his son, he can’t get through to him.
The drama points to how there are no absolute truths in life, that things are based on perceptions. None of the characters seem to be in touch with their real selves, as we seem to be in a Douglas Sirk melodrama from the 1950s. Whenever things go awry, we’re serenaded by the music of the Tindersticks (A Tindersticks track composed especially for this film, has the line that the film takes for its English released title: “I’m sliding down both sides of the blade.”)
Things come to a head in the final act without clearing things up, as the main characters never find themselves and the old-fashioned ménage à trois sticks to the story like lovers who can’t let go of one another even if they know they should
It premièred at the Berlin Film Festival and played this March at NYC’s Lincoln Center for film.
REVIEWED ON 5/9/2022 GRADE: A