Combustible Celluloid Review - Stars at Noon (2022), Claire Denis, Andrew Litvack, Léa Mysius, based on a novel by Denis Johnson, Claire Denis, Margaret Qualley, Joe Alwyn, Benny Safdie, Danny Ramirez, John C. Reilly, Nick Romano, Stephan Proaño, Monica Bartholomew, Carlos Bennett, Sebastián Donoso, Hector Moreno, Robin Duran, Jose Leonel Hernandez
Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Margaret Qualley, Joe Alwyn, Benny Safdie, Danny Ramirez, John C. Reilly, Nick Romano, Stephan Proaño, Monica Bartholomew, Carlos Bennett, Sebastián Donoso, Hector Moreno, Robin Duran, Jose Leonel Hernandez
Written by: Claire Denis, Andrew Litvack, Léa Mysius, based on a novel by Denis Johnson
Directed by: Claire Denis
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, language and some violence
Language: Spanish, English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 138
Date: 10/14/2022
IMDB

Stars at Noon (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Nicaragua Fesca

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on an early novel by Denis Johnson, Claire Denis's English (and Spanish) language Stars at Noon (her second movie of 2022, after Both Sides of the Blade), has the feel of being translated from English to French and back to English again. At 138 minutes, it's her longest movie, and there's a lot of time for characters to have lopsided conversations, in which one character says something pithy and the comment is meet either with silence or something else pithy, but totally unrelated. Yet it has a hypnotic quality, capturing a weird sense of urgency paired with eroticism. That may explain why American journalist Trish (Margaret Qualley) and English oil man Daniel (Joe Alwyn) fall into each other's arms so quickly and completely; they're both desperate.

They're in Nicaragua (the novel was set in the 1980s, during the time of the Sandinistas, but this is set in the present day), and they can't get out. Trish has apparently become blacklisted after publishing a controversial story, and has taken to prostitution to raise money. Meanwhile, Daniel has found himself being targeted by Costa Rican authorities. Scenes of the couple attempting to escape are crossed with scenes of them in sultry motel rooms wrapped in each other's limbs, and these moments somehow feel part of a whole. It's a strange, transfixing film, touched throughout by Denis's singular poetry. Benny Safdie turns up late in the story as a shady CIA man, and John C. Reilly has one scene as Trish's angry editor. Tindersticks provides the time-stopping music score.

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