In a seedy Nicaraguan motel, two naked figures sunbathe on rumpled sheets. “Sex with you is like sex with a cloud,” the woman tells the man. “Like sex with fog.” She teases his pale complexion – the man (Joe Alwyn) is an English businessman; She (Margaret Qualley), an American journalist who works part-time as a prostitute to make ends meet. But she might as well describe the film they both appear in — a slow-motion erotic thriller whose sexiness swirls off screen like a tropical humidity bank, shortening your breath and clinging to your clothes.
Stars at Noon, which premiered in Cannes tonight, is the latest film from Claire Denis; It is also the celebrated 76-year-old French director’s first film to premiere in the festival’s competition stream. It was adapted by Denis, Léa Mysius and Andrew Litvack from the 1986 novel The Stars at Noon by Denis Johnson, pushed to the present of trackable smartphones and half-hearted use of Covid masks.
Qualley, best known for playing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Young Hippie Pussycat, here’s a revelation that highlights her character Trish’s flaws to the point where it’s addicting to watch, and her a sometimes nervous, sometimes deserted physicality that is reminiscent of a young Juliette Binoche. Many of the film’s best early passages consist of little more than watching her walk the streets of Managua to a lazy, swirling, improvised jazz music – perhaps Denis’ Central American riff on the famous Paris-by-Night scenes in Lift to the Scaffold.
Alwyn was a last-minute replacement for Taron Egerton, who in turn replaced Robert Pattinson – although he’s very convincing as Daniel, the enigmatic traveler who meets Trish at a hotel cocktail bar, where the two flirt over deliciously elevated art-house food .
“Are you for sale?” he asks her. “I’m the press secretary,” she replies. “We’re all press,” he shoots back. “Then we’re all for sale,” she smiles. In fact, Trish is pretty much done as a journalist: A semi-recent article about pro-government paramilitary groups angered her editor (John C. Reilly, who made a hilarious Zoom call appearance) and enraged local authorities.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/stars-noon-review-erotic-thriller-whose-sexiness-swirls-screen/ an erotic thriller whose sexiness swirls off the screen