The description of a passionate one-night stand with an attractive stranger is a wanker's delight when empurpled in Penthouse-tinted prose. It's quite a fancier turn-on in Friday Night, a happy, femme-centric, but refreshingly unOxygen-ated mature erotic tale that's as excited about the texture of a bedspread in a cheap hotel as it is about the activities of the man and woman who embrace in its worn, crimson-colored chenille folds.
Adapting a novel by Emmanuele Bernheim, French filmmaker Claire Denis -- the refined sensualist who admired the exertions of foreign legionnaires four years ago in ''Beau Travail'' -- lingers on the everyday visual stimulation of a Parisian nightfall before settling into the heart of the matter: Laure (popular French comedian Valerie Lemercier) is packed and ready to move in with her lover when she lets Jean (Vincent Lindon), an unknown man who is just...so...male, get into her car. Outside, the city is caught in a choking, strike-induced traffic jam, but inside, the two are warm in a cocoon of easy, wordless intimacy that leads to, oh, more. Ziplessness has rarely looked so inviting, nor have a couple of actors seemed so much like real people -- attractive, but hardly hunks of perfection -- who happened to get lucky, and are delighted to throw some of their guiltless good fortune our way.