By Monica Delgado

All the elements of Avec amour et acharnement belong to the previous universe of Claire Denis. In this adaptation of a novel by the French writer Christine Angot, made in tandem with Denis herself in the script, unusual meanings about love appear, as well as forms of genre cinema, fetish actors, and a dramatic imprint around the rupture of the idyll. Presented in the official competition of the 72nd Berlin Film Festival, this new feature film by Denis is a stupendous work about the figure of the intruder, and about suspicion, a necessary input to narrate a love story seen a thousand times, but here under the influence creative and innovative of Denis.

Sara (Juliette Binoche) and Jean (Vincent Lindon) embody, from the close-up with which the film opens, a couple in a dreamlike romance that borders on the cheesy. Hand in hand with a soundtrack that strengthens the classic spirit of the love story submerged in a romantic and bucolic arcadia, the filmmaker builds an entire artifact of love in a few minutes, from the warmth of summer on a beach, from the touch of bodies , from the kisses and caresses, as if the shape of love were contained in these close shots of these two perfect lovers. There is nothing else in the world than these two bodies; to then go hand in hand with a strange ellipsis, from the beach to the forward plane of the rails of a moving train. From brilliance to a return to the city and towards something that promises little Edenic. And after witnessing this crazy love, which has lasted ten years, a third character appears, François (Grégoire Colin, another usual actor of Denis), Sara’s ex-lover, who little by little becomes an entity that transforms the desire and love of the couple.

This beginning between cheesy and kitsch becomes part of Denis’s liminal universe, where he seeks to transgress any idea of ??normality, not only with his twists within the codes of the genres (as happens in Trouble Every Day or in High Life, to mention two previous films), and fully sponsors the crisis to come.

With the arrival of François, the film veers towards a sort of timid thriller, with echoes of some of Polanski’s sixties films, but also melodrama, with emotional catharsis included, (and which inevitably also refers to some scenes of feminine tension by John Cassavetes). But, no, in Avec amour et acharnement everything has Denis’s mark, especially in the design of the character of Binoche, who seems to be the protagonist of a sequel to Un beau soleil intérieur, a film also with a script by Christine Angot, since there is an intention to describe two types of masculinities (that of the characters of Lindon and Colin, both ambivalent and anti-heroes) in relation to the perspective of a female character. The crossroads of a love triangle, from the indecision or duality of a woman.

Avec amour et acharnement is not only a love melodrama. It is a film about the auscultation of the motivation of three characters who are never naked in their decisions, both in Lindon’s character, Jean, who appears sensitive and loving with Sara, while having a distance relationship with his son. Or the same Sara who materializes the idea of ??her love more than in a dedication to a single person in a passionate enjoyment without names. And the figure of Colin, perhaps the weakest because it is the most physical of all, but the one that is least sketched, because what matters is that what he awakens in the other two characters, as a ghost, or perhaps as an entity vengeful returning for no reason from the past.

With a soundtrack by Tindersticks, another of Denis’s usual collaborators, Avec amour et acharnement is a film, above all, of close-up shots, both for warmth and tension, with fiber on how the characters recognize each other, and this ability, difficult to achieve, is the main value of this film, which shows the mastery of a great filmmaker.

Official Competition
Director: Claire Dennis
Screenplay: Christine Angot, Claire Denis
Cinematography: Eric Gautier
Editing: Emmanuelle Pencalet, Sandie Bompar, Guy Lecorne
Music: Tindersticks
Sound design: Jean-Paul Mugel
Sound: Jean-Paul Mugel
France, 2022, 116 min.