Having been disappointed by the reaction to Claire Denis's Friday Night from the David Denbys and Stephen Holdens of the world, I was glad to stumble onto a great piece on the movie by Matthew Plouffe in a film journal called Reverse Shot. (I found the journal through a link on Cinecultist which, by the way, has been kind enough to provide a link to Errata.)
Denis is incredibly subtle, as I mentioned in my own capsule, but she's using film grammar that was codified nearly a century ago so I'd expect film critics to pick up on more than the most obvious plot points.
Plouffe draws a line between those who saw the movie at the New York Film Festival and those who saw it at a cineplex, but I'll counter with my own anecdote from the San Francisco Film Festival: afterward, the women behind me said, "That's it? There wasn't much to it," which I could have predicted via sealed envelope, but then one of them said, "It's the fantasy of some young director, I guess." I didn't bother to tell them that Denis is older than all of them.
Here's my favorite bit of Plouffe's review:
Many know that the literary source on which the film is based advances through Laure?s internalized perspective, and you need not be a cinephile to recognize that in translation to the screen, that often begets voiceover. But it?s safe to say that Denis?s Friday Night — entirely free of that convention — would be just as effective as a silent film; not only has she made this magical night in Paris her own, but Denis has applied her medium with such consideration for its unique properties of elucidation through image and montage, that one wonders how it could ever have been progeny of the page.
I couldn't agree more.
Glad you're liking Reverse Shot, Rob. I also think their writing across the board is quite good. I loved Friday Night as well, and I saw it in the theater (although granted in a tiny West Village theater called the Quad where the clientele is there for that kind of thing). SF Film Festival and NYFF are two completely different beasts, and I have to say as the hoopla gears up here for our festival, I miss the misguided but earnest comments of San Franciscan movie watchers. Denis is doing something not many other directors would dare to do, being less rather than more, and most viewers don't quite know what to do with that.