Tropic Sprockets / Stars at Noon

By Ian Brockway 

Director Claire Denis (Beau Travail) takes on the environment of Nicaragua in “Stars at Noon.” [Showtimes and a trailer at] The film has the eerie fly on the wall perspective of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “The Passenger” (1975). The cinematography and expert direction pulls one right in as if by a magnet. Authority is the enemy here and the pathos for the most part is sustained.

Denis’ camera sliding to and from dim hallways is a metaphor of our protagonist’s nervousness.

Trish (Margaret Qualley) is a freelance journalist. She is looking for employment and a new angle. At a hotel buffet table, she meets Daniel (Joe Alwyn) a laconic British businessman. Entranced by his few words and the sadness in him, Trish is intrigued and offers sex for American dollars.

The two engage in sex and an attraction of sorts evolves. Trish sees a black car and a formidable policeman (Danny Ramirez). She senses trouble.

Daniel and Trish fall into a maze of unease and lethargy. Crisis after crisis, panic after panic occurs and onlookers are slow to react or respond to trouble. Some of the men are militarized but oddly soporific. 

Trish is hooked by the enigmatic Briton, yet Daniel emotes little love or chemistry.

Just when Trish feels she is in the clear from the authorities an obsequious man (Bennie Safdie) tells her he wants to help her. He won’t take no for an answer and he kills by ample breakfasts and courtesies. Trish is up against it and her blond Romeo is of little help.

Though the romance is a stretch, “Stars at Noon” has the logic of a dream, where suited people emerge from the darkness and welcoming smiles are sinister. This film fits well into Denis’ other work and it clearly belongs in the canon of films like this year’s “Sundown” by Michel Franco, Antonioni’s “Blow Up” (1966) and Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” (1970).

Write Ian at [email protected]

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