The Austin Chronicle

Night and Day

Directed by Chantal Akerman. Starring Guilaine Londez, Thomas Langmann, Francois Negret.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 26, 1993

For Julie (Londez), there is little difference between night and day. She's in love -- and it's not until that fog lifts that she again experiences the daily revolution of the earth. Julie loves Jack (Langmann) who drives a cab by night. The two spend their days in bed, making love, sharing intimacies, barely eating and never leaving the apartment. At night, while Jack is at work, Julie roams the streets of Paris, returning home only at dawn when Jack gets off work. These two never sleep, they are in a perpetual state of wakefulness. They have no friends, they think maybe they'll get some next year. And maybe next year Julie will also think about working. But in the meantime, they desire nothing but each other. They are in a perfect state of bliss. Then one day Julie meets Jack's day-shift counterpart Joseph (Negret), who drives the cab by day. Almost at once, Julie stops wandering the streets at night and begins spending her time away from Jack in hotel rooms with Joseph making love. She believes that she loves both men, though Jack has a slight edge in her heart because he came first. So Julie moves back and forth between the two men, between night and day, thoroughly in love with love and its lugubrious contentment. Then, almost inexplicably, something changes. Her two lovers seem to be the same, they each provoke little irritations, they all mouth the same words. As in Akerman's 1975 three-hour masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, minimalism and repetition are used as the dominant narrative structure. Thus, the slightest aberration in the routine can become a turning point. Night and Day, though only 90 minutes in running time, uses Akerman's familiar minimalist techniques to great advantage. With its streak of wry humor, it is her most accessible film. As a study of that heady wonderment called love, Akerman's vision is refreshingly clear and acerbic. All the filmmaking elements are put in service of this story and its arguments. Whatever gripes are to be had with Night and Day have to do with its structuralist formula that is always evident and keeps the events and characters at a calculated distance. More than any other filmmaker though, Akerman seems to be the inheritor of the exploratory insouciance of the French New Wave. You can almost hear the counterpoint between Night and Day New Wave classics like Truffaut's Jules and Jim and Godard's A Woman is a Woman. All the while, Akerman casts a decidedly feminist spin to these studies of romantic obsession.

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