Like Rod Serling, director Aaron Shimberg is eager to expose our own biases, and here he thrills at luring us into a vertiginous series of alternate dimensions, seeking to unravel our ideas about the nature of beauty captured on camera.
She is full-body performer giving a reckless, breakneck, once-in-a-lifetime performance; a movie star dressing up in derelict chic drag; a rich girl in a medical and emotional crisis who has decided to descend to les bas-fonds; and, simply, a victim in pain, near animalistic in her agony, hungrily gnawing the wax caps off plastic jug wine in a passion for oblivion.
Shooting their dog protagonists in often exquisitely intimate close-ups of grizzled maws, fleshy gums, and weathered paw pads, the filmmakers foreground their curious status as semi-wild beasts that subsist both in the middle and at the margins of human society.
There is no way of escaping myself. It’s about presenting a work that is the product of a collaboration with the characters and my own learning process about people, places, their issues, and lives. It’s a middle-of-the-road picture presented by a white guy who is learning about the struggle of black America.
It has become cliché to valorize actors for doing much with small gestures, for conjuring an emotion with the tilt of a head, the pursing of lips, the furrowing of a brow. What Binoche is able to do in Mauvais sang is something different: she tells a story.
Non-Fiction neither modulates its overall tenor nor its comic beats to suit any single actor.What the part so adroitly handles, though, is Binoche’s persona, recognizing not just her appeal and artistry but also the challenges of navigating the prevailing film culture in the way that she might have before.
Would our attention even be drawn, much less held, by Anne were an actor of Binoche’s stature not inhabiting her? Of course not, and Binoche appears to know that. Perhaps this is why, as the film progresses, Binoche seems to actually be leveraging the magnetism of her celebrity to vouch for the character.
Juliette Binoche is one of the icons of the Miramax era, and this facet of her persona is one that radiates, if you will, through her filmography, casting the whole of it in a light that reads to many Anglophone viewers, especially, as symbolic of sensuality and sophistication.
To begin with, designed as a one-director anthology film, it picks up and disposes of various narrative threads rather than staying with the same plotline or plotlines (or absence of plot) throughout. Secondly, it depends almost not at all on real-time duration to fill itself out.
To disregard the specificity of Binoche’s presence is both to downplay the career shifts that a film like Shirin represented for her in the mid-2000s and to ignore how even the most conscientious of Western cinephiles bring culturally specific baggage and blind spots to the global cinema we so eagerly consume