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FIRE / AVEC AMOUR ET ANCHARNEMENT (2022, FRA)

Experienced French filmmaker Claire Denis (Beau Travail, High Life) was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Director in Berlin for this combination of drama, thriller and romance. Except for the direction, the awards could easily have been won by Vincent Lindon and Juliette Binoche, two great French actors. They are Jean and Sara, a couple who seem endlessly in love with each other in the opening scenes. He is a former rugby player who was once in prison, and he is absent from the life of the mulatto teenage son Marcus, who lives with Jean’s mother, who apparently got custody when he ended up in prison. Sara is a radio presenter who will one day notice her ex-lover Francois (Gregoire Colin) on the street, a mysterious guy who will suddenly reappear in their lives.

We learn that Sara was once passionately in love with Francois, while Jean was his friend, and the insecure Jean will be surprised by Francois’ call and job offer in the sports agency he is opening. Unemployed Jean, who feels quite useless, will accept the invitation and in this way will symbolically let the genie out of the bottle and introduce Francois into their lives. Unfortunately, the rest of it is quite sketchy and a bit scattered, even irritating, because we are deprived of a lot of details and the background of the whole story. It remains completely unclear to us why Jean agreed to it, and an unusual love triangle will be created there, and Jean will realize that Sara will probably never love him the way she loved Francois.

As time goes by, Jean will become more restless, more insecure, more worried that Sara will leave him for an old love, and this whole movie, which can be found even under two English titles (along with Fire and Both Sides of the Blade), seemed to me somehow anxious, uneasy. All the more so because it was obviously filmed at a time when those boring masks were in fashion during the height of the pandemic, and just as the appearance of Francois will bring unrest to the seemingly calm and harmonious life of Jean and Sara, so is the camera, restless and mostly handheld . Although the story is quite intriguing and it was filmed by Denis with a lot of style, I still expected something more from this film, considering the status of both the director and the actors.

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