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French romance movie 'Both Sides of the Blade' is not the feel-good flick you think


French directors have made some masterpieces of romantic movies that show some of the intricacies of intimacy between lovers.


SIMON: Claire Denis latest film is "Both Sides Of The Blade." It's about a woman named Sara, played by Juliette Binoche, whose long-term relationship with her lover, Jean, begins to spiral when an ex-boyfriend returns to both of their lives. Claire Denis joins us now from Paris. Thanks so much for being with us.

CLAIRE DENIS: Thank you.

SIMON: This film follows three characters - Sara, we mentioned, who is a radio host, and Jean, a former rugby player, her long-term lover, and Francois, a sports agent who used to be Sara's love, but then she left him for Jean. What happens when they find each other again?

DENIS: She feels as if she has received a knife in her chest.

SIMON: Yeah.

DENIS: She remember the burning love affair they had. And she's very insecure. First thing she says, even before she says good evening when she goes back home - she says, I saw Francois. She wanted to share that with Jean to protect herself in a way.

SIMON: Because she thinks she might do something?

DENIS: I think she doesn't know at that state. She's there by day, hoping that she will keep a fair balance. She wants to be free, but she's strong, cheating in an honest way.

SIMON: Let me get you to follow up on that, cheating in an honest way. How do you mean that?

DENIS: I mean, she could explain. Look, it was important in my life, and I love you, Jean, but let me be free. She's asking for a lot. But it's not that she's tired of Jean, but somehow she wants that little bit of craziness. She says, each year I've been always looking straight, straight, straight. Let me have a little detour, you know?

SIMON: I want to play a line from your film, Juliette Binoche as Sara. Let's listen to this line.


JULIETTE BINOCHE: (As Sara, speaking French).

SIMON: When you love someone, it never really goes away.

DENIS: Yeah. She's speaking to Jean. When you love someone, it's there forever - in my memory, even in my skin, you know?

SIMON: Yeah.

DENIS: It's brutal to say that to Jean, but she wants to make it clear that she loves him, but she's free, you know? Of course, it's not something Jean is happy to hear, but she's a civilized person, and she loves Jean, so she tried to find a line to tell bit about that desire.

SIMON: 'Cause some people would have said, when you love someone, it never goes away. And so I'm going to have lunch with Francois (laughter).

DENIS: Oh, no, please. Certainly not.



SIMON: That's not a good movie, I guess.

DENIS: No. I'm going to have lunch with Francois - oh, geez. No, that's not a line for me.

SIMON: I don't want to give away the way the story develops, but I found myself admiring Jean.

DENIS: Me too, and also admiring her because she tries so hard to be a free woman and a good wife. It's so touching for me. This is what men do. They have affair, but they think it's OK because they are men, so they can do that and be a good husband. For once, it's a woman. Normally it's a man thing to ask for more, keep their freedom in a way, you know? Even if they don't use it and even if they don't have affairs, in their mind, they have a sort of space for freedom. It's not the same for a woman.

SIMON: If there are couples who see this film together, what do you hope they turn to each other and say when it's over?

DENIS: I have no idea. Me to hope for a couple to see my film together - it's too much for me. No, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not a magician. I am just a filmmaker. I hope - hope is the vitamin to be alive. That's all.

SIMON: The vitamin to be alive - I like that. Claire Denis is director of the new film "Both Sides Of The Blade," which is now in theaters. Thank you so much for being with us.

BINOCHE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: July 8, 2022 at 9:00 PM MST
A previous web introduction to this report incorrectly said the director of "Both Sides of the Blade" is Caroline Denis. Her name is Claire Denis.
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.