Lionel is heartsick widower, quietly toiling as a Parisian train conductor, silently watching the world stream past him. We see many POV shots of subway cars charging forward, but, like Lionel's own life, the film runs at a more deliberate pace.
He lives with Josephine, his pretty, university-student daughter, in a drab high-rise somewhere in the concrete sprawl of greater Paris. They've been experiencing several years of isolated domestic tranquility, every day gently comforting each other over the loss of Jo's mother, though doing their best to not name their pain. Both father and daughter have begun relationships with lonely, warmhearted neighbors, and these connections begin to gradually draw them apart and back into the world, whether they want to leave home or not.
This latest film from French filmmaker Claire Denis is not as explicitly concerned with politics, religion or race as some of her earlier work, but all those themes are here in the backdrop, part of the connective tissue binding these disparate souls together.
Leave it to Denis to find beauty in the nondescript outer ring of Paris, where a multicultural stew of mostly nonwhite characters gracefully attempt to redefine their identity in a society that no one is really sure of. Everything familiar seems to be slowly slipping out of reach, which only makes them cling to each other harder.
In recent press clippings, Denis has name-checked Yasujiro Ozu as the film's inspiration, but, unlike so many glib nods to the Japanese master, it's not a forced comparison. Along with Hirokazu Kore-Eda (Still Walking), Denis could be the modern heir to Ozu's subtle genius, a filmmaker who truly understood the value of showing rather than telling, and knew the volume of a whisper.
Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-3237), at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27-28, and at 2 and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 29.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.