Both Sides of the Blade IMDB: In maturity, nobody has a blank slate to work with. How you handle this situation reveals a lot about who you are. For example, how do you interpret your life’s story and integrate your past into the present?
This is the major conflict in Claire Denis’s highly emotional and unpredictable “Both Sides of the Blade IMDB,” in which Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon both give outstanding performances as a happy couple whose lives are upended by a chance encounter on the street and the sudden reassertion of the past’s dominance over the present. The greatest party crasher is the past.
In addition to “Let the Sunshine In” and “High Life,” this is Denis’ third project with Binoche, and she has once again teamed up with Christine Angot (who also co-wrote “Let the Sunshine In”) to adapt Angot’s 2018 novel Un Tournant de la vie into a screenplay. The majority of Angot’s book is dialogue, and this is reflected in the “talky” script, which uses exquisitely crafted and intricately observed language that is peppered with indirection, avoidance, and outright lying (to each other, and to themselves).
This is Denis’ third collaboration with Binoche after “Let the Sunshine In” and “High Life,” and she has once more collaborated with Christine Angot (who also co-wrote “Let the Sunshine In”) to turn Angot’s 2018 novel Un Tournant de la vie into a screenplay. The “talky” script, which uses superbly constructed and intricately observed language and is sprinkled with indirection, avoidance, and blatant lying, reflects the fact that the majority of Angot’s novel is a dialogue (to each other, and to themselves).
After spending so much time being contained, the truth finally pours forth in a messy manner. Although “Both Sides of the Blade” has undergone a number of titles over its production history (IMDb still lists it as “Fire”), the final version was inspired by a Tindersticks song (who did the moody score). The subtitle “With Love and Relentlessness” has a certain harsh flair, but when Denis heard “Both Sides of the Blade” during the editing process, she thought it was the most suitable for this tale of the danger and acuity of passion.
Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon’s characters Sara and Jean are not simply happy pairs when they are first seen in the opening passages floating together on a blue ocean. They are a happily satisfied and full pair. Is it too wonderful to be true? Denis doesn’t use foreshadowing to undermine the bliss. She gives it to you straight. She gives a clear account of everything. Since people don’t go around telling stories to people who already know them, there is no exposition. We must piece together what took place.
Sara is a radio host that conducts serious conversations on topics including racism, war, and world politics. Due to his criminal history and prior jail sentence, Jean is currently unemployed and finding it challenging to overcome the obstacles in place (for a crime never disclosed). He visits various job placement offices while his mother phones him frequently (Bulle Ogier). Marcus (Issa Perica), Jean’s ex-kid, and husband reside with his grandma, and things are not going well.
She catches a glimpse of a man on the street the day after Sara and Jean return from their vacation, and she stops in her steps, horrified. He is François (Grégoire Colin), a former sweetheart of Sara’s and a close friend of Jean’s. This one glance absolutely deflates Sara. It creates a chasm in her life that didn’t seem to be there the day before. When Sara informs Jean that she spotted François on the street, they have a fascinating talk about who François is and what transpired between them. She acts blatantly casual about it, but Jean notices the splintering undertone right away. Everything changes after that.
The movie is confined to that bell jar and is frequently claustrophobic in its perspective. Denis and her director of photography Éric Gautier don’t let up on these characters. The camera is directly in front of Binoche and Lindon’s faces, capturing every pause and minute change in their expressions. It almost feels intrusive, like a Grand Inquisitor.
The worries of three little individuals obviously don’t amount to “a hill of beans,” as in Sirk’s melodramas. “Both Sides of the Blade” is a conventional romance, love triangle, marriage turmoil, and adultery story, but Denis takes a unique tack. Connection is essentially impossible because the characters are trapped in airtight bell jars, first together and then individually.
The commercial partnership between Jean and François causes Sara to fall apart, and Jean breaks down along with her. Even if their actions are frequently perplexing, love is not generally renowned for promoting sanity. There are times when “Both Sides of the Blade” seems to be a ghost story, with Sara’s romance with François acting as the spirit that haunts the present couple, but other times it seems to be a story about drugs.
When Sara encounters François, she does not have the appearance of a woman pining for a former boyfriend. It’s the expression of an addict who is still missing their drug while treading water in sobriety. The core of this story is the dialogue between Sara and Jean as they attempt to (or fail to) resolve this dilemma. Their scenes together are harrowing, sincere, and occasionally frightening.
Smaller characters are present around Sara and Jean. One of them is the grandmother, who is perplexed by the disappearance of her son and is dealing with a bored, uninterested teenager (who is, understandably, pissed at being abandoned by both of his parents). Mati Diop, a frequent collaborator with Denis and current director, plays a brief role as a sympathetic family friend who notices what is going on with the mixed-race Marcus but whose immediate family misses (or doesn’t want to notice, if one goes by some of Jean’s comments).
Denis is sensitive to the atmosphere and environment. Consider the residence of Sara and Jean. Sara spends much of her time lying in bed with her back to the camera in the bedroom, which is the only room we really see. There doesn’t appear to be much room. The balcony, which has a commanding view of the city roofs, is imposing: It’s a No-Man’s-Land, a neutral location where the feuding couple can reconcile. However, it’s also a place of secrets and escape. Think about Jean’s driving, too.
He drives back and forth a lot between his apartment and his mother’s house outside the city. He goes food shopping in the neighborhood of his mother’s home. But he avoids his son and never pays him a visit. This “quirk” is intriguing but is never discussed directly. Why not drop by your mother’s house on the way to the grocery store after traveling more than an hour? Jean might feel more in control while driving than he would otherwise.
As the steroid-pumped tender-souled fire chief with the wide sorrowful eyes in “Titane,” Lindon provided one of my favorite performances of 2021, and he is as excellent in this role. There’s something wrong with Jean, and maybe he wasn’t even aware of it until Sara casually remarked, “I saw François today.” Additionally, he is drawn to his old friend, a dubious character who serves as a re-entry point into the criminal underground.
Sara could rebut Jean’s charge that she is under François’ “grip” by responding in kind. Binoche is a bundle of raw nerves. She lies so much—to herself and to Jean—that even when she tells the truth, it sounds false. It’s a destabilizing type of performance. She seems so composed and capable in the first scenes, but when she first encounters François, the mask entirely comes off, leaving you wondering how she managed to sustain even this brief new relationship, let alone one that lasted ten years.
Each of these disputes and inconsistencies has a sense of urgency. It’s life or death every second. Although it is taxing, love is not known for being tranquil. On her radio show, Sara engages in complex discussions with thought leaders, but when she tries to be honest with her intimate partner, she falters.
While avoiding his suffering kid, Jean is polite and caring to Sara. Although we have seen little to no evidence of Jean “controlling” Sara, she may yet claim with a straight face that he is doing so. Only perception matters. She feels whatever she feels.
There isn’t room for everyone in a bell jar since the truth varies depending on your perspective. You run into someone no matter which way you try to move.
They claim that love is compassionate and patient. Love is actually a wrecking ball, as “Both Sides of the Blade” is aware.