Claire Denis

Claire Denis – White Material (2009)

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A textured panorama of modern day Africa’s dynamic and volatile cross-cultural landscape, Claire Denis’s White Material is an abstract and elemental, if oddly sterile rumination on colonial legacy and socioeconomic stagnation. Unfolding in episodic flashbacks as second-generation coffee plantation owner, Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) scrambles to make her way back home after a forced evacuation of European settlers in light of an escalating civil war, the film structurally interweaves the parallel lives of the Vial family, a band of roving child soldiers scouring the countryside for “white material” trophies from fleeing settlers, and a charismatic military officer turned rebel leader known as the Boxer (Isaach De Bankolé) who has gone into hiding to recover from injuries sustained during a recent skirmish. Read More »

Claire Denis – Un beau soleil intérieur AKA Let the Sunshine In (2017)

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The movie begins with a startling, intimate sex scene. A hefty middle-aged man is making love with an attractive middle-aged woman. He is avidly concerned with bringing her to orgasm, each one worries that the other is worried that the other is taking too long—“I feel good. I’m good,” insists one of them— the sex ends in resignation. What’s startling about the scene is not its explicitness, which is not inordinate. It’s the way the characters are framed, in medium closeup, in compositions that emphasis the space between their faces as much if not more than their faces. (One is reminded of Elie Faure’s writing on Velasquez, quoted by Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Pierrot Le Fou.”) Read More »

Claire Denis – Les salauds AKA Bastards (2013)

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The world of Claire Denis’s Bastards is one of nightmarish inversion, where compassion has no place and connection only breeds despair. Structured around the fracturing of two family units, one irreparably shattered, one holding firm despite intense pressure, it imagines life as a steady succession of denials, duty waging a futile struggle against desire. In this reckoning every image grows twisted, the seductive mirage of a naked woman in high heels soon tarnished by the blood trickling down her legs. Conditioning the audience to find dread in every seemingly innocent gesture, the film turns even the simplest touch between family members into something tinged with menace. Read More »

Claire Denis – Nénette et Boni AKA Nenette and Boni (1996)

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Synopsis wrote:
Teenage siblings Nenette and Boni were raised apart as a result of their parents’ divorce. Their mother, who doted on her son Boni, has died. He works for an interesting couple as a pizza baker, and is surprised and enraged when his younger sister, having run away from boarding school, suddenly turns up. There’s a problem that they must confront. Read More »

Claire Denis – L’intrus AKA The Intruder [+Extras] (2004)

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L’Intrus opens to a shot of the Franco-Swiss border as a border guard performs a customs check and inspection of a random vehicle with the aid of a contraband-sniffing dog. The seemingly mundane image of frontier, wilderness, and deception provides a curiously appropriate introduction into the Claire Denis’ impenetrably fractured, enigmatically allusive, otherworldy, and indelible metaphysical exposition into the mind of an emotionally severe, morally bankrupt, and profoundly isolated heart transplant patient named Louis (Michel Subor). Idiosyncratically unfolding in elliptical, often reverse chronology (with respect to the heart surgery) through the lugubriously fluid intertwining of Louis’ alienated existence and deeply tormented subconscious, the film is a fragmented and maddeningly opaque daydream (or perhaps more appropriately, a haunted nightmare) of the price exacted by his disreputable past, estranged relationships, hedonism, and instinctual quest for survival: his inability to reconcile with his only son and his family; his sexually motivated, yet emotionally distant relationship with a materialistic pharmacist; his dubious, transcontinental past (a suppressed history that may have included murder). Perpetually followed by a beautiful, enigmatic sentinel (Katia Golubeva) – or conscience – who seems to have been instrumental in obtaining his new heart, what emerges is an indelible, elegiac, and poetically abstract dreamscape through the wondrous, alien terrain of unreconciled (and irreconcilable) personal history, unrequited longing, and haunted memory. Read More »

Claire Denis – S’en fout la mort AKA No Fear, No Die (1990)

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On desolate road near the Spanish-French border, a pensive African immigrant from Benin, Dah (Isaach De Bankolé), waits in the darkness for a poultry truck to arrive for an appointed evening rendezvous. Aboard is an old friend, Jocelyn (Alex Descas) who has recruited him to act as an intermediary and handle the business affairs of his entered partnership with an unscrupulous French restaurateur named Ardennes (Jean-Claude Brialy) and his son, Michel (Christopher Buchholz) to smuggle fight-bred roosters into the country for his plans to operate an illegal discotheque and cockfighting arena out of a condemned business property. Ardennes provides Dah and Jocelyn with a spare room in the basement of a bar operated by his beautiful lover, Toni (Solveig Dommartin), in order to covertly train the cocks in preparation for the club’s opening. Jocelyn is a meticulous trainer: prescribing a stringently measured formula diet; conducting repeated exercises to promote strength, speed, and dexterity; subjecting the animals to loud, fast-paced urban music in order to stimulate aggression. One day, Toni intrudes on the training regimen in order to complain of the music volume, but is summarily ignored by Jocelyn and Dah. Jocelyn believes that Toni’s presence is detrimental to the training of the roosters, and warns Dah to maintain distance. Nevertheless, despite the note of caution, the seemingly innocuous episode would prove to the first of many unannounced and ambiguously motivated visits by the inscrutable and alluring Toni, as the two friends soon find themselves struggling to maintain their focus on their lucrative enterprise. Read More »

Claire Denis – Beau travail AKA Good Work (1999)

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This film focuses on an ex-Foreign Legion officer as he recalls his once glorious life, leading troops in Africa. Read More »