Inspired by Jean-Luc Nancy’s novel L’Intrus, Claire Denis’s same-titled film includes two of her most moving moments. One shows Sidney Trebor (Grégoire Colin, wonderful), a young father carrying his infant, Louis, in a sling-harness against his heart. Louis looks up at his father’s face. Slowly the child smiles, and we understand, even though Sidney’s face is outside the frame, that the infant is following his father’s lead in expressing love. Sidney’s father, Louis, from whom Sidney is estranged, later buys a heart on the post-Soviet Russian black market as a surgical replacement for his own. After intermediate stops, Louis ends up in Tahiti looking for another son. A village panel indulges Louis’s fantasy of leaving a wad of bills to whomever and conducts interviews to select a fitting “son” for him. (The scene parodies a casting session!) Before he expires (or, given the film’s dream fabric, perhaps when or after), Louis imagines seeing Sidney cold dead in a Tahitian morgue. Sidney’s chest shows the surgical scar that by now has faded from Louis’s own body. How does one enter into the mystery of this moment without dissolving into tears?
The woman who arranged for Louis’s heart shadows him; perhaps she is his guilty conscience. On a dark street Louis cries out at her to leave him alone. “I have a sick heart!” She shoots back: “Not anymore! Your heart is just empty.”
Or so full, needing emptying out.
Denis’s film, strange, elusive, very quiet, dreamlike, begins at the border between France and Switzerland but mostly navigates the border between the love one feels and the love one cannot express. Louis’s journey home in a coffin, the sea rolling underneath an immense gray and charcoal sky (except for a patch of eerie light), catches a remarkable chill.
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