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Vendredi soir

Based on Emmanuelle Bernheim’s recent best-selling novel, Claire Denis’ new film is in many respects her most adventuresome to date, an almost entirely visual imagining in which dialogue merely supports the camera. Denis does a fine job translating the state of mind of the novel’s protagonist into long, wordless, imagistic passages of great beauty and resonance. For admirers of her work-especially the superb Beau travailÑher triumph in Vendredi soir will come as no surprise.
The plot of the film is simple, but it gives Denis the chance to delve into the cinema’s expressive potential. Laura (Valerie Lemercier) is a young woman in the process of moving house. She leaves her nearly empty apartment to have dinner with a couple of friends, but ends up in a huge traffic jam. Immobile, she observes the world around her until a stranger wanders up to her car. Thus begins a night of unexpected surprises, in which frustration and boredom lead to excitement and infinite possibilities.
The genius of the film is the manner in which Denis uses visuals to transport us beyond the humdrum. She has evolved into a supreme creator of images; her camera caresses characters and objects in a manner that changes the way we see the world. Vendredi soir proves that, in this age of homogenised, television-style fast food for the eyes, there are still artists challenged by the opportunities opened up by the power of film. True cinephilesÑand anyone who cares about the state of the medium-will revel in this marvellous work.
(France, 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 90 mins.)

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