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Claire Denis interview: 'If I was a man I would jump on Sharon Stone immediately'

The great French filmmaker on her new rom-com, 'Let the Sunshine In', and the sexiness of middle-aged women

By Cath Clarke
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French filmmaker Claire Denis doesn’t turn her back on a difficult subject. Sex, politics, murder, cannibalism and race: you name it, she’s made an award-winning film about it. For something completely different, her latest, ‘Let the Sunshine In’, is an arthouse rom-com starring Juliette Binoche as a painter looking for love – but mainly finding a shower of idiots and inadequates.  

‘Let the Sunshine In’ is about a middle-aged woman. Do you think the film industry rates the inner lives of women over 50 as less interesting than those of men?
‘Yes. But I must say that I think a lot of women would like to look like Juliette Binoche at 50. She’s so shiny. She is full of desire and flesh and hormones. She is not dying like a poor little plant.’

So, do you think attitudes are changing?
‘Yes, I think they are, little by little. The film industry – even in Hollywood – is realising that for audiences these actresses of 45, 50 are not old women: they are still very attractive. The other day I saw a picture of Sharon Stone. I thought that if I was a man I would jump on her immediately. She’s so sexy, so beautiful.’

‘I'm lazy but I have so much hunger for the film to be made'

What did you want to say about love?
‘Love has not been a success for any of the characters. Isabelle [Binoche] decides that what she wants is a real, true love, not an affair. Someone she can trust, someone she can lean on. It is maybe naive, but what else is good?’

‘Let the Sunshine In’ has been called a romantic comedy. Is that how you see it?
‘I think people are saying that because I don’t have a reputation for being a funny woman. But there was chemistry between myself and [co-writer] Christine Angot. We laughed a lot.’

Juliette Binoche in 'Let the Sunshine In'

As a woman in a man’s world at film school in the 1970s, were you ever told that you wouldn’t make it as director?
‘Yes. The professors would say: “Claire, you could be a great editor.” They did not want to let me believe I could be a director. But I only ever wanted to work on a film set, even if I was just making the coffee. I’m not a career person, even at my age. I’m lazy.’

You can’t be that lazy to have made nearly 20 films.
‘I am. But I have so much hunger. I’m driven by the film to be made.’ 

‘Let the Sunshine In’ is in cinemas on Fri Apr 20.

Picture credit: James McCauley/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

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