What to Rent

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In which film savant Iggy Cortez tells you how to spend your weekend. Find previous installments here and here.

Columbia students may have forgotten the glory of Fridays with their Thursday night weekends, but universally Friday night is the space for unwinding, allowing a certain exuberance away from weekly monotony. Claire Denis runs away with Friday’s metaphorical possibilities in this voluptuously beautiful anti-narrative of a young woman whose one-night stand represents both a last dance to the single-life and, contrary to what our over-structured weeks would lead us think, an acknowledgment of life’s possibilities for transformation.

While it is simplistic to make crude generalizations of French versus American film codes, one can only imagine what Friday Night would have become in the hands of a hip American indie director; if it took place in New York instead of Paris, and its taciturn ambiguity were replaced by sharp conversation and analyses of motivations. The result, while probably beautiful and engaging, would stand against everything that makes Friday Night so successful. The film is minimalist, stingy with conversation and gladly lacking in narrative cinema’s obsession with character development. And yet this dream-like film isn’t austerely conceptual, on the contrary it ranks amongst Denis most unabashedly aesthetic. Languorously beautiful, it ranks as Denis’ most accessible, and openly seductive work. Although not as defined an auteurial perspective as Beau Travail, it is equally rewarding. Like the perfect one night stand it is anonymous, vivid in details, intelligent but uncomplicated, and unconcerned with post-coital ramifications.

For those of us who are resentful that our budgets will not allow exotic travels for Spring Break, Friday Night is pretty much the most satisfying vicarious experience for a trip to Paris. Second only to Fellini’s Roma, it conveys that sense of infinity that comes with existing in a European capital at night by capturing the melancholy of its lights, the sense of wanderlust its interlocking streets inspire and the infinite intimations of other lives framed within glimpses of car and apartment windows.

Do yourself a favor: ignore the Stend today and rent Friday Night. Like all movies about identity, it is best experienced in the solitary confinement of your room with your lights off, as it ends as it begins, with the heroine electing to participate in society, but to enter it alone.

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  1. shira

    auughhh! end italic tag!

  2. Phil

    Very fine review. But must you cite that overrated fellow Fellini in almost every piece!


    "Like the perfect one night stand it is...unconcerned with post-coital ramifications."

    you sum it up well, but didn't actualize such ideas based on our encounter...

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