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"Let the Sunshine In" in One Shot

Claire Denis and Juliette Binoche's 2017 romantic comedy encapsulated in a single shot.
Phoebe Chen
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.
Let the Sunshine In
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?”

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ColumnsOne ShotClaire DenisJuliette BinchoeNow ShowingQuick Reads
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