Some thoughts on Claire Denis’ ‘Nenette and Boni’

Alice Houri in Nenette and Boni

Maybe this wouldn’t hit so hard if in my second year of university I didn’t live with a dude who was basically Boni. Like, it’s uncanny. They look the same, sound the same, move the same. He even had the air rifle that he’d shoot things (including us) with when he was annoyed. He wasn’t a bad kid, a little naive, a little too quick to act on his convictions before thinking the consequences through. He could burn through friends fast, but get him in the right mood and he’d be a puppy dog.

We all liked him, he brought an energy to the place, which stuck around even as things got progressively dark. By the end, when I’d pretty much only return home to get straight in my room, he was the only one that I’d hang out with, just taking turns playing video games with each other. Also the sex stuff, he could be way to candid in the most unsexy way.

Like, we get it, the dough is a woman’s body and the baker knows how to treat it right but lacks the carnal passion of the pizza van guy. The way that the metaphor is strung out until the eventual inevitable dough kneading scene is great — and Denis’ real subjective lens makes it clear that it’s an inference only he’s making.

Cos that string of scenes near the beginning: his adolescent jerk off fantasy, into the dream, into the gurgling of the filter coffee machine (literally one of the grossest sounds ever recorded) is so damn fantastic.

Nenette is great, I never knew one. She would have scared me as a teenager, would probably scare me now. Boni needs everyone to know his shit, and she would prefer they all shut up and let her live her life. She’s in a situation where she needs support (mostly financial) and protection (mostly from the elements) but sure ain’t gonna let anyone providing either of those dictate how she live her life.

Together they’re the perfect mismatched couple, the soft boy pretending to be hard, and the hard girl forced into a position to be soft. They can stand each other just about enough not to implode. Right up to the moment they no longer need each other.

I don’t know what to make of the ending really. I want to read it as real because I believe in accepting what a film lays out before you. I’m sure it ends at the moment it chooses to in order to illustrate something — how open these folks are to sentimentality or something similar. Mainly I just long for them to be alright.

But that happens with all lost friends doesn’t it? I left that house four years ago now, and there’s a lot of folks from that time I wonder for. I hesitate to look though, chances at happiness can be slim sometimes, and we were absolutely a self-defeating bunch.

Oh, and fucking Vincent Gallo with the goddamn croissants is a total mood, that like 15 seconds alone is amazing.

Nenette and Boni is currently available to stream as a part of Mubi’s season on the films of Claire Denis.

Alice Houri in Nenette and Boni

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