'High Life' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / R / 2019 / LGF)
Overview: Monte (Pattinson) and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to the outer reaches of the solar system.
The crew — death-row inmates led by a doctor (Binoche) with sinister motives — has vanished. As the mystery of what happened unravels, father and daughter must rely on each other to survive.
Blu-ray Verdict: A science fiction thriller from Claire Denis? The uncompromising darling of French art house cinema, adored by critics and met with general puzzlement by audiences? And it's in English? And it stars the guy from 'Twilight'? You have to be making this up?!
Not at all. However, as intriguing as that may sound, it's a deceptive overview. Yes, it is Denis's first English-language film, and yes, it is set in space, but it's a science fiction film in name only, and has more in common with '2001: A Space Odyssey' and 'Solyaris' than with anything in the Star Trek or Star Wars franchises.
And just for the record, the guy from 'Twilight' (Pattinson) has developed one of the most eclectic recent CVs of any actor in Hollywood. The long and short of it is that Denis has NOT sold out, and 'High Life' is as multiplex-friendly as anything in her oeuvre (which is to say, not in the slightest), covering several of her more familiar themes - the darker aspects of desire; the notion of being an outcast; parenthood; the inescapability of death; the beauty of the human body; the relationship between violence and sexuality.
The presence of Robert Pattinson (who is, after all, the new Batman now!) will probably draw in a lot of unsuspecting folks, who will have no idea what to make of Denis's slowly paced existential musings, resulting in a slew of "worst film ever" online reviews, sadly.
But although it's not Denis's best (that remains either 'Beau travail' or 'Les salauds', it's a fascinatingly poetic and original film that is utterly uncategorizable - a space thriller about a mission collapsing in on itself; an ecological allegory positing that we don't have a huge amount of time left to save the planet; an analysis of the psychological ramifications of long-term incarceration; an erotic skin flick obsessed with bodily fluids; a metaphor for the perils of imperialism; a fable on the subject of paternity; a story about loneliness and grief; a littoralization of the premise that no amount of evolution, philosophy, or esotericism can ever change the fact that we're biological organisms controlled by our sexual yearnings and impulse to procreate - desire will always trump the social contract; we can place as much artificial limitation on our carnality as we want, but ultimately, desire will betray us (phew!).
In closing, and without giving anything away, 'High Life' is a fascinating film that fits right into Denis's oeuvre. Although it recalls the clinical detachment of '2001' and the psychological intensity of 'Solaris', 'High Life' is very much its own animal.
Asking questions about our inability to recognize the oncoming extinction, it offers a savage and pessimistic corrective to the idealism of films such as 'Interstellar' and 'The Martian'.
Positing that mankind is a monster driven by its desires isn't going to earn Denis legions of new fans, but for those of us who were already on board, there's much to be relished here. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Audacious, Passionate and Dangerous: Making High Life
Visualizing The Abyss: The look of High Life
The 'High Life' Blu-ray and DVD releases July 9th, 2019 and will include two making-of featurettes and will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.
Official 'High Life' Trailer