What New Zealanders can learn about love (and sex) from French films

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OPINION: When Juliette Binoche gives you romantic advice, it’s probably a good idea to listen.

It’s the last day of Rendezvous A Paris – an annual showcase of French cinema – and I’m stuck in a stuffy hotel room near the Opera with about 20 other movie critics and one of the ladies. most famous in France.

She’s here to talk about her movie Let the sun in. We are here to enjoy the glory of the ten times nominated French goddess, once a Caesar winner. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Real conversation:

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Real Talk: “The one who remains forever is within you,” says Binoche. “It’s you. You know, you don’t find undying love outside of you, it doesn’t exist.”

“I always like to talk about the love and the difficulty of it,” Binoche explains of what got her to star in Claire Denis’ weird, confronting film version of a car guide. -assistance for losers. “It looks like the real thing.”

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Difficulty in love is my reality, so it’s not wrong. But when she says she loves speaking about that? Binoche could describe the bulk of this year’s French cinema harvest.

In Let Sunshine In Juliette Binoche plays Isabelle, divorced artist and mother, who is desperately looking for The One.

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In Let Sunshine In Juliette Binoche plays Isabelle, divorced artist and mother, who is desperately looking for The One.

Of the 20 or so films I screened for this event, all but two are about love, sex, and how to navigate a world where they are the main motto.

At least one of them was more sexually explicit than anything you might see in a mainstream English movie (the passionate and heartbreaking film 120 BPM) and almost none of them took the standard “boy meets girl” line on the subject.

While most mainstream movies contain a love story somewhere, the average cineplex offering isn’t very rich in deep philosophical thinking.

A film that's hard to describe, full of moans and gnashing of teeth and graphic sex scenes, Let Sunshine In is also a comedy.

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A film that’s hard to describe, full of moans and gnashing of teeth and graphic sex scenes, Let Sunshine In is also a comedy.

In France, it seems to be the other way around. In the 2018 crop, there’s only one big budget, heavy CGI movie – World War I fantasy Meet up there – and this one has been criticized by French critics for not being “French” enough.

Juliette Binoche and Let the sun in are French enough for everyone. A film that’s hard to describe, with moans and gnashing of teeth, graphic sex scenes and long orgasmic monologues, Let the sun in is, if you can believe it, a comedy.

Binoche plays Isabelle, a hot brothel of a certain age who prowls the streets of Paris, desperately hunting (and hunted) for love, in a pair of leather thigh-high boots and a tear-stained smokey eye. She’s beaming and an overwhelming reminder that if she can’t get a guy to stay for breakfast the rest of us shouldn’t bother trying.

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Noee Abita’s portrayal of the brooding teenager on the dawn of femininity is as compelling as it is empowering.

His talk about reality prompts someone to ask him if Sunshine is to find “the true love … the one that stays forever”.

“The one who stays forever is in you,” Binoche retorts. “It’s you. You know, you don’t find undying love outside of you, it doesn’t exist.”

True speech, Gallic style.

Noee Abita was challenged playing 13-year-old Ava.

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Noee Abita was challenged playing 13-year-old Ava.

“If you try to cling to solutions outside of yourself, it won’t work.”

I have the impression that Binoche has just wandered through my head, opened a locked door marked “How to have adult relations”, and turned on a 1000 watt light bulb.

It occurs to me that French cinema has a lot to teach this Kiwi about love (and maybe sex. Did I mention sex?).

Ava is believed to be underage, and the feeling that we are being invited to witness a child's sexual arousal is incredibly overwhelming.

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Ava is believed to be underage, and the feeling that we are being invited to witness a child’s sexual arousal is incredibly overwhelming.

The day before, I interviewed Noee Abita, the rising star of Ava, a film about a 13-year-old girl discovering love and a glimpse of adult freedom during summer vacation.

Abita spends much of the film naked. It’s a tough watch – Ava is underage (although Abita was 17 when she shot the movie), and the feeling that we are slipping into a child’s sexual arousal is overwhelming.

“It was my first movie, so it was the first time I could see myself on a screen,” says Abita. “It’s a different way of discovering your body, because you can’t see your body either in the minute or in the photos. It’s a body that you see from all possible angles, from the side, from above. , from below. So obviously you see flaws, flaws, so it’s not always pleasant. “

Ava becomes a reminder not to be so superficial, to remember that superficial things aren't what makes a person interesting or worthy.  That the breasts have nothing to fear.

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Ava becomes a reminder not to be so superficial, to remember that superficial things aren’t what makes a person interesting or worthy. That the breasts have nothing to fear.

We can all relate to that, can’t we? But Abita said that feeling of vulnerability seemed to fade as she looked at herself. My puritanical disgust too, the more I got absorbed in Ava’s story.

Ava is a reminder not to be superficial, to remember that superficial things are not what makes a person interesting or worthy. The breasts, he said, have nothing to worry about.

“Making this movie was a way to mature, to sort of get out of all the ideas that you get from your family,” she says. “For example, going naked swimming is not something you do with your family, but it is something I [discovered I] really enjoy it, so the movie was very important to find me. “

Abita says that if audiences hold back their shock at the nudity, they can tap into a bit of Ava’s experience as well.

“They will come out and realize that, God, it’s beautiful, the way she opens up to the world,” Abita says.

Back in that stuffy hotel room, Binoche says that it takes “some time to understand” the benefits of authenticity, of connecting with yourself and finding love in it.

“That’s why you suffer so much, it’s because you say to yourself ‘oh, that one is impossible, he doesn’t understand that, he doesn’t do that. But if you don’t expect everything from the other, I think things may turn out differently. “

A better way. A la française, perhaps.


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