One Shot is a series that seeks to find an essence of cinema history in one single image of a movie. Claire Denis's Let the Sunshine In (2017) is showing May 8 - June 7, 2020 in the United Kingdom.
If you’re in something tight, with long fastenings that snake up spine or limb, the best way to undress is with a little help. But Juliette Binoche’s Isabelle, the restless, lovelorn painter in Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In, heads home solo in her leather miniskirt and black stiletto thigh-highs. She has just left behind a man who will never leave his wife, now pretzelled on her green velvet couch like an amateur wrestler, strong-arming a lone, sinuous boot, her doe eyes edged with tears. Behind her looms a portrait of Etta James, whose sonorous “At Last” soundtracks a pivotal later scene. In a film void of Denis’ usual violent carnality, it’s funny that an act of undressing should be the first (and only) image of physical aggression. Not that Isabelle struggles with exposure: she faces a carousel of male suitors—young, old; rich, poor; dimestore Klaus Kinski, Alex Descas—each of whom she receives (at least initially) with the open-hearted thrall of someone in search of a rock-solid, blues ballad-worthy love. Perhaps because she is freshly divorced, amorous chagrin has yet to totally run her down: her hemlines are still (or newly?) short, hosiery sheer, and leather jackets fire engine red or metallic mahogany. But the film makes a point—not a punchline—of her wardrobe; no one slips on ass-grazing suede without also sliding into fantasy. Does she become who she wants to be, in those boots? Like everyone who’s chasing a feeling first and an actual person second, Isabelle’s desire seems formless, settling on and drifting from potential lovers like clouds of want buffeted by whims. She may seem ravenous for a search-ending, soul-completing love, but this is a film disinterested in the teleology of “at last,” carried, instead, by a gentler tune that finds hope in uncertainty: “maybe, this time?”