Inspired by Jean-Luc Godard, Chantal Akerman's career began with the short film BLOW UP MY CITY in 1968 and includes the groundbreaking JEANNE DIELMAN. The Belgian filmmaker has frequently examined idealized notions of romance, something she does again in her latest work, the utterly
charming NIGHT AND DAY.
Jack (Thomas Langmann) and Julie (Guilaine Londez) are young lovers recently arrived in Paris from the provinces. They have no phone, no friends and no ambitions--all that can wait until next year. By night Jack drives a cab, while Julie wanders the streets of Paris; by day they make love
constantly. As for sleep ... well, that can wait until next year too.
Late one afternoon, as Jack begins his shift, Julie meets Joseph (Francois Negret), who drives the cab during the day and is also a newcomer to the city. Julie spends an evening in his company, and then another, and before long they sleep together. Soon Julie's nights are as full as her days.
One Sunday, Jack's staid parents arrive unexpectedly from the provinces, but the young lovers' sexual greediness--they can't keep their hands off each other--quickly scares them off. Later, one dawn, after falling asleep beside Joseph in an air-conditioned hotel room, Julie awakens with a start
and races to get home before Jack does--in her mind, her affair is only a betrayal if she's not there to greet her lover. She arrives in the nick of time but, from that moment on, worry and doubt begin to creep into the relationship; the idyll is over.
Joseph is hopelessly lovesick. When Jack asks Julie to accompany him one evening as he makes his rounds in the cab, Joseph cannot bear the separation, and tries to extract the promise--unforthcoming--that she'll never abandon him again. Finally, Julie decides to end the affair simply because, as
she informs the devastated Joseph, Jack was there first. Later, after impulsively tearing down a wall in the apartment and repainting the rooms, she casually mentions her affair to Jack, prompting the film's bittersweet but true-to-life ending.
Widely considered one of the most important art-house filmmakers of the 1970s and 80s, Akerman later expressed a desire to make more commercially viable films, largely to escape the constant financial constraints of independent filmmaking. Although NIGHT AND DAY is by far her most commercial
effort, it's nonetheless vintage Akerman.
The cinematography is lush, almost overripe, like a piece of technicolor candy. And the three young leads are shot in close-ups befitting Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. But Akerman's trademark minimalism and structuralism--suggesting Jarmusch and Ozu, respectively--is very much
As Julie, Londez is radiant, with an expressive rather than pretty face and a firm, sturdy body. She has a more "masculine" physique than either of her male lovers (they're both wispy and delicately pretty), something that befits the story's gender reversal; rather than the traditional menage,
wherein two women vie for the affection of a male, here it's the woman who undertakes dual affairs. And whereas the two men grow increasingly distraught by her refusal to commit--though Jack cannot pinpoint the cause of his malaise--Julie feels perfectly up to the challenge. She's also strong
enough to walk away from them both when the time comes.
The youthful joie de vivre that fuels NIGHT AND DAY in its opening scenes starts to pall as the film progresses--these characters talk and talk and talk with an earnestness and self-importance that betrays their immaturity and which jaded viewers may find wearisome. On the whole, however, this is
an engaging, welcome addition to the work of a consistently interesting and original filmmaker. (Nudity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: Inspired by Jean-Luc Godard, Chantal Akerman's career began with the short film BLOW UP MY CITY in 1968 and includes the groundbreaking JEANNE DIELMAN. The Belgian filmmaker has frequently examined idealized notions of romance, something she does again in… (more)