Claire Denis

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Claire Denis
Claire Denis 66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra) 2.jpg
Born (1946-04-21) 21 April 1946 (age 67)
Paris, France
Occupation director, writer, professor

Claire Denis (French: [dəni]; born 21 April 1946)[1] is a French film director and writer. Her work has dealt with themes of colonial and post-colonial West Africa, as well as issues in modern France.

Early life[edit]

Denis was born in Paris, France to French natives, and raised in colonial French Africa: Burkina Faso, Somalia, Senegal and Cameroon, where her father was a civil servant.[2] Her childhood spent living in West Africa with her parents and her younger sister would color her perspectives on certain political issues. It has been a strong influence on her films, which have dealt with themes of colonialism and post-colonialism in Africa.[3] Her father moved with the family every two years because he wanted the children to learn about geography. Growing up in West Africa, Denis used to watch the old and damaged copies of war films sent from the United States. As an adolescent she loved to read. Completing the required material while in school, at night she would sneak her mother's detective stories to read.[4] When Denis was 14 years old, she moved with her mother and sister to a Parisian suburb in France, a country that she hardly knew at all.[5] Her parents wanted their children to finish their education in France.

Career[edit]

Denis initially studied economics, but, she has said, "It was completely suicidal. Everything pissed me off."[4] She studied at the IDHEC, the French film school, with the encouragement of her husband. He told her she needed to figure out what she wanted to do.[4] She graduated from the IDHEC and, since 2002, has been a Professor of Film at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.[6]

Her debut feature film Chocolat (1988), a semi-autobiographical meditation on African colonialism, won her critical acclaim.[7] It was selected for the Cannes Film Festival and was praised by critics and audiences alike as a remarkable first film. With films such as US Go Home (1994), Nénette et Boni (1996), Beau travail (1999), set in Africa; Trouble Every Day (2001), and Vendredi soir (2002), she established a reputation as a filmmaker who "has been able to reconcile the lyricism of French cinema with the impulse to capture the often harsh face of contemporary France."[7] She returned to Africa again with White Material (2009), set in an unidentified country during a time of civil war.

According to the Australian James Phillips, when making her films, Denis rejects the marketable conventions of Hollywood cinema and frees the viewers of her films from the expectations of clichés.[8] Denis is well known for the way that she combines history with personal history, giving her films an autobiographical element. This superimposition of the personal with the historical allows her films to be described as auteur cinema.[9] She is known to work within a large range of genres, spanning from the themes of horror seen in Trouble Every Day (2001) to the romance and drama found in Friday Night (2002).[10] While critics have noted recurring themes within her films, Denis says that she has no coherent vision of her career "trajectory".[11]

Denis carefully chooses the titles of her films. Noëlle Rouxel-Cubberly argues that film titles are intended to force the viewer to rethink the imagery within a film and Denis cleverly uses titles to describe the raw reality found within her films. For example, the title of her film Chocolat (1988) simultaneously refers to the word as a racist term used during the period of the film, the cocoa exportation from Africa to Europe through a slave system, and the 1950s French expression "être chocolat", meaning "to be cheated."[12][page needed]

Additionally, Denis is recognized for her process of "shooting fast, editing slowly," which she has developed. In general, she does a few takes on the set and spends most of her time in the editing room, creating the film there. This post-production process often involves rearranging scenes out of the order in the script. For example, she placed the dance in Beau Travail (1999) at the end of the film, although it was not at the end of the script. In reference to this process, Denis has said, "I'm always insecure when I'm making a film. I have doubts about myself but rarely about the actors."[13]

Denis is a highly collaborative filmmaker, saying in an interview that "the film becomes a relationship...and that is what's important, the relationship."[14] The importance of collaboration is seen throughout her body of work. She works with many of the same actors, such as Isaach de Bankole, Vincent Gallo, Béatrice Dalle, Alex Descas, and Grégoire Colin, and also collaborates often with the writer Jean-Pôl Fargeau, composer Stuart Staples, and cinematographer Agnès Godard, whom she met in the 1970s at the Institute des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques.[14] When asked in an interview about her screen writing process, Denis said, "I often realize I have Isaach or Grégoire or someone else in mind" when writing scenes. She has also said that usually she "hold[s] no auditions" for casting in her films.[14]

Her collaboration goes beyond her own films, as she has appeared in other directors' films, such as Laetitia Masson's En avoir (1995) and Tonie Marshall's Vénus beauté (1999). She shares screenwriting credit with Yousry Nasrallah for his film El Medina (2000).[15] She also worked as an assistant director with Wim Wenders on Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987), and with Jim Jarmusch on Down by Law (1986).

In 2005 she was a member of the jury at the 27th Moscow International Film Festival.[16]

Her 2013 film Bastards was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[17]

In 2013 she was awarded Stockholm Lifetime Achievement Award at the Stockholm Film Festival.

Style[edit]

The majority of Denis' oeuvre uses location work over studio work. She sometimes places her actors as if they were positioned for still photography. She uses longer takes with a stationary camera and frames things in long shot, resulting in fewer close ups. However, Denis' cinematic and topical focus always remains relentlessly on the faces and bodies of her protagonists. The subject's body in space, and how the particular terrain, weather, and color of the landscape influences and interacts with the human subjects of her films maintains cinematic dominance.

Tim Palmer explores Denis' work as a self-declared formalist and brilliant film stylist per se; an approach the filmmaker herself has declared many times in interview to be as much about sounds, textures, colors and compositions as broader thematic concerns or social commitments.[18]

Filmography[edit]

Denis, second from the left, on the jury at the Deauville American Film Festival.

Feature films[edit]

Short films[edit]

Documentary films[edit]

Awards and nominations[20][edit]

Year Festival Award Film Result
1988 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Chocolat (1988) Nominated
1989 César Awards, France César for Best First Work Chocolat (1988) Nominated
1994 Torino International Festival of Young Cinema FIPRESCI Prize – Special Mention Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge... (1993) Won
1996 Locarno International Film Festival Golden Leopard Nenette and Boni (1996) Won
1996 Locarno International Film Festival Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention Nenette and Boni (1996) Won
1996 Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film Golden Bayard for Best Artistic Contribution Nenette and Boni (1996) Won
1996 Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film Golden Bayard for Best Film Nenette and Boni (1996) Nominated
1998 Independent Spirit Awards Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film Nenette and Boni (1996) Nominated
2000 Berlin International Film Festival Reader Jury of the "Berliner Zeitung" – Special Mention Beau Travail (1999) Won
2001 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards CFCA Award for Best Foreign Language Film Beau Travail (1999) Nominated
2001 Chlotrudis Awards Chlotrudis Award for Best Director Beau Travail (1999) Nominated
2001 Chlotrudis Awards Chlotrudis Award for Best Screenplay – Adapted Beau Travail (1999) Nominated
2001 Rotterdam International Film Festival KNF Award – Special Mention Beau Travail (1999) Won
2001 Namur International Festival of French-Speaking Film Golden Bayard for Best Film Trouble Every Day (2001) Nominated
2001 Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival Best Film Trouble Every Day (2001) Nominated
2004 Chlotrudis Awards Chlotrudis Award for Best Director Friday Night (2002) Nominated
2004 Ghent International Film Festival Grand Prix The Intruder (2004) Nominated
2004 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion The Intruder (2004) Nominated
2009 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion White Material (2009) Nominated
2010 Chlotrudis Awards Chlotrudis Award for Best Director 35 Rhums (2008) Nominated
2011 National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA NSFC Award for Best Foreign Language Film White Material (2009) 3rd place

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Claire Denis". Les Gens du Cinéma. 9 July 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2014.  (French) This site uses Denis' birth certificate as its source of information.
  2. ^ Hermione Eyre, "Claire Denis on filmmaking and feminism," Prospect, 21 June 2010, [1]
  3. ^ Beugnet, Martine (2004). Claire Denis, p. 8. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York. ISBN 0-7190-6481-3.
  4. ^ a b c Ancian, Aimé (2002). "Claire Denis: An Interview". Senses of Cinema. Archived from the original on 18 October 2006. Retrieved 26 November 2006. 
  5. ^ Beugnet (2004). Claire Denis, p. 14.
  6. ^ "Claire Denis Faculty Page at European Graduate School (Biography, bibliography and video lectures)". European Graduate School. Retrieved 27 October 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Taylor, Charles (31 March 2000). "Beau Travail". Salon.com. Retrieved 13 June 2006. 
  8. ^ Phillips, James (2008). Cinematic Thinking: Philosophical Approaches to the New Cinema, p. 3. Stanford University Press, Stanford. ISBN 978-0-8047-5800-0.
  9. ^ Beugnet, Martine (2004). Claire Denis, Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York. ISBN 0-7190-6481-3.
  10. ^ Beugnet, Martine (2004). Claire Denis, p. 2. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York. ISBN 0-7190-6481-3.
  11. ^ Beugnet (2004). Claire Denis, p. 2
  12. ^ Block, Marcelline (2008). Situating the Feminist Gaze and Spectatorship in Postwar Cinema, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne. ISBN 978-1-84718-664-5.
  13. ^ Ratner, Megan (Winter 2010). "Moving Toward the Unknown Other: An Interview with Claire Denis," Cineaste Magazine
  14. ^ a b c Ratner (2010). "Moving Toward the Unknown Other"
  15. ^ Mayne, Judith (2005). Claire Denis, p. 132. University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago. ISBN 0-252-02991-7.
  16. ^ "27th Moscow International Film Festival (2005)". MIFF. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  17. ^ "2013 Official Selection". Cannes. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  18. ^ Palmer, Tim (2011). Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema, Wesleyan University Press, Middleton CT. ISBN 0-8195-6827-9.
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ Claire Denis' awards and nominations on IMDb

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]