Opening 13 Jul 2023
Both Sides of the Blade (Avec amour et acharnement) takes us into the very intimate life of a couple, Sarah (Juliette Binoche), a radio anchor, and Jean (Vincent Lindon), a former professional rugby player. They have a perfect love until, one morning, Sarah sees her ex-boyfriend François (Grégoire Colin) and is deeply troubled. It turns out that it is François who had introduced Sarah to Jean. 10 years have passed. Unemployed, Jean has a prison record for reasons that are not disclosed in the film but for which François seems to bear some responsibility. However, Jean agrees to join forces with François to create a sports agency to recruit young rugby players, a dream job for Jean. Little by little, the relationship between Jean and Sarah is out of balance, and Sarah gets lost in this threesome.
With Both Sides of the Blade, film director Claire Denis reinforces the myth that French movies are all about love scenes. However, Denis adds an incredible density and does it in the most just and vibrant way possible. Juxtaposed to beautiful scenes of love, beauty, and harmony, the film sometimes reaches heights of tension. This is epitomized by the persistent dramatic music throughout the movie, by Sarah’s radio interviews about French and international real-life issues, and by Jean’s difficult relationship with his mixed-race son, thus capturing the harsh face of contemporary France. Denis never locks her characters into fixed archetypes. She voluntarily leaves them each with their mysteries and effectively draws the portrait of a suffocating woman trapped into the submission of herself by herself.
It is in the water of the ocean that the film begins, with Sarah and Jean swimming in the sea while on vacation, kissing and caressing one another. It is in the water that it also ends, water from a bathtub, erasing everything, fingerprints and mobile phone numbers. Perhaps the purifying water signifies new beginnings? Both Sides of the Blade had its world premiere on February 12, 2022 at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Bear. Denis received the Silver Bear for Best Director. (Brigitte Bernard-Rau)