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Stars at Noon ★★★★★



Director: Claire Denis

Cast: Margaret Qualley, Joe Alwyn, Benny Safdie

Released: June 19th 2023

Claire Denis’ artistry is something we shouldn’t take for granted. The French filmmaker’s career has spanned many decades, and she continues to deliver exceptional films over the last few years, including High Life, Both Sides of the Blade and Let The Sunshine In.

At Cannes Film Festival in 2022, she released Stars at Noon to mixed reviews (this is always expected), and A24 picked up the film for distribution. Later on, in 2022, the film was released on streaming in the USA without a theatrical run and barely any advertisement. Flash forward to June 2023, and Universal Studios have done the same thing in the UK. Auteurs like Claire Denis deserve their place in cinemas regardless of the marketability of their work.

Based on the book of the same name by Denis Johnson, the film follows Trish (Margaret Qualley), a young American journalist stranded in present-day Nicaragua falls for an enigmatic Englishman, Daniel (Joe Alwyn), who seems like her best chance of escape. She soon realizes, however, that he may be in even greater danger than she is.

Stars at Noon is vintage Claire Denis. It’s such a reflective piece that explores the dynamics of being human. Every frame, every word, and every chord of music took me back to why I adore her work. The film explores some of the main topics of Denis’ extensive work, including colonialism, sexual exploration and politics. From one moment to the next, the narrative is unpredictable and beguilingly enthralling. Trish goes on a journey of mind, body and soul. As she tries to leave Nicaragua, she attempts to deal with the landscape of Covid-19 during a timid time in her life.

Denis captures each frame so intimately and candidly. The close-up shots are very expressive and allow you to gauge more into the psyche of our protagonists. The way she captures the splendour of Nicaragua with lavish wide shots that further enhances the abyss of Trish’s odyssey. Stars at Noon perfectly balances the sexual ferocity and the political elements of the piece. It’s almost a hypnotic fever dream cascaded with the jazzy score from Tindersticks. The sensual essence provides such depth that Denis is well known. In more ways than one, all of these layers make Stars at Noon a Claire Denis’ greatest hits mixtape.

Margaret Qualley carries so much of Denis’ vision, and her natural chemistry with Joe Alwyn elevates the whole experience. Qualley’s recent performance in Sanctuary and for Claire Denis demonstrates the sheer power and influence she has. Her eyes tell so much about her characters, and through Denis’ expressive framing, we understand more about Trish without using words. Joe Alwyn perfectly complements Qualley’s performance. While his delivery is more monotone and timid, that natural vigour and body language from Alwyn add more to the mystery. Stars at Noon is a film that shouldn’t be slept on. It’s a sexually raw film, but the tenderness guides you through the lengthy runtime.

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