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Claire Denis

                   
Claire Denis

Denis at the 66th Venice International Film Festival
Born (1948-04-21) 21 April 1948 (age 64)
Paris, France
Occupation Director, writer, professor

Claire Denis (born 21 April 1948) is a French film director and Professor of Film at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.[1]

Contents

  Early life

Denis was born in Paris, France, and raised in colonial Africa (Burkina Faso, Somalia, Senegal and Cameroon), where her father was a French 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 and eventually influence several reoccurring themes in her films, such as colonialism and post-colonialism.[3] She moved houses every two years because her father wanted them to know about geography. She used to watch the old damaged copies of war films sent from America when she was growing up in Africa. As an adolescent she loved to read. She would read all the required material in school, but would then sneak her mother's detective stories at night.[4] When she 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 despite her nationality.[5]

  Career

Denis initially studied economics, but, she has said, "It was completely suicidal. Everything pissed me off."[4] She then went to the IDHEC, the French film school, at 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.[1]

Her debut feature film Chocolat (1988), a semi-autobiographical meditation on African colonialism, won her critical acclaim.[6] It was selected for the Cannes Film Festival and was praised by critics and audiences alike as a remarkable first film. However, later in her career, audience members at Cannes Film Festival left the theater in disgust of her film Trouble Every Day (2001), a controversial film about vampirism in modern day Paris.[7] Two of her movies, L'Intrus and her contribution to Ten Minutes Older: The Cello, were inspired by the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, as Denis and Nancy have confirmed in a video lecture at European Graduate School.[8] With films such as US Go Home (1994), Nénette et Boni (1996), Beau travail (1999), 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."[6]

According to ARC Australian research fellow 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. [9] Denis is well known for the way that she converges 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.[10] She is also 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).[11] Despite the fact that Denis uses many reoccurring themes within her films, she has claimed that she has no coherent vision of her career "trajectory".[12]

An aspect of her filmmaking for which she is well known is her careful attention to 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 film's setting, the cocoa exportation from Africa to Europe through a slave system, and the 1950's French expression "être chocolat", meaning "to be cheated."[13]

Additionally, Denis is recognized for her process of "shooting fast, editing slowly" she has developed during her career. In general, she does a few takes on the set and spends most of her time in the editing room. This post-production process often involves rearranging scenes out of the order that they read in the script. For example, this process allowed the dance in Beau Travail (1999) to be placed at the end of the film, even though 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."[14]

Denis is a highly collaborative filmmaker, stating in an interview that "the film becomes a relationship...and that is what’s important, the relationship.”[15] 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 writer Jean-Pôl Fargeau, composer Stuart Staples, and cinematographer Agnès Godard, whom she met in the 1970s at the Institute des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques.[16] When asked in an interview about her writing process for her films, she said, "I often realize I have Isaach or Grégoire or someone else in mind" when she writes scenes. She has also stated that she will usually "hold no auditions" for casting in her films.[17] However, her collaborative efforts expand beyond just her films, as she appears in other directors' films, such as Laetitia Masson's En avoir (ou pas) (1995) and Tonie Marshall's Vénus beauté (institute) (1999), and shares screenwriting credit with Yousry Nasrallah for his film El Medina (2000).[18] She has also worked as an assistant director under Jim Jarmusch on Down by Law (1986) and Wim Wenders on Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987).[19]

  Style

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.[20]

  Filmography

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

  Feature films

  Short films

  Documentary films

  Awards and Nominations

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

[21]

  Further reading

  References

  1. ^ a b "Claire Denis Faculty Page at European Graduate School (Biography, bibliography and video lectures)". European Graduate School. http://www.egs.edu/faculty/claire-denis/biography/. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  2. ^ Hermione Eyre, "Claire Denis on filmmaking and feminism," Prospect, 21 June 2010, http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2010/06/loving-the-lost-and-monstrous/
  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. http://web.archive.org/web/20061018081600/http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/02/23/denis_interview.html. Retrieved 26 November 2006. 
  5. ^ Beugnet, Martine (2004). Claire Denis, p. 14. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York. ISBN 0-7190-6481-3.
  6. ^ a b Taylor, Charles (2000-03-31). "Beau Travail". Salon.com. http://archive.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2000/03/31/beau_travail/. Retrieved 13 June 2006. 
  7. ^ Beugnet, Martine (2004). Claire Denis, p. 1. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York. ISBN 0-7190-6481-3.
  8. ^ Claire Denis and Jean-Luc Nancy. L'Intrus. The Intruder. European Graduate School. Video Lecture. 2007.
  9. ^ Phillips, James (2008). Cinematic Thinking: Philosophical Approaches to the New Cinema, p. 3. Stanford University Press, Stanford. ISBN 978-0-8047-5800-0.
  10. ^ Beugnet, Martine (2004). Claire Denis, Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York. ISBN 0-7190-6481-3.
  11. ^ Beugnet, Martine (2004). Claire Denis, p. 2. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York. ISBN 0-7190-6481-3.
  12. ^ Beugnet, Martine (2004). Claire Denis, p. 2. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York. ISBN 0-7190-6481-3.
  13. ^ Block, Marcelline (2008). Situating the Feminist Gaze and Spectatorship in Postwar Cinema, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne. ISBN 978-1-84718-664-5.
  14. ^ Ratner, Megan (Winter 2010). "Moving Toward the Unknown Other: An Interview with Claire Denis". Cineaste Magazine
  15. ^ Ratner, Megan (Winter 2010). "Moving Toward the Unknown Other: An Interview with Claire Denis". Cineaste Magazine
  16. ^ Ratner, Megan (Winter 2010). "Moving Toward the Unknown Other: An Interview with Claire Denis". Cineaste Magazine
  17. ^ Ratner, Megan (Winter 2010). "Moving Toward the Unknown Other: An Interview with Claire Denis". Cineaste Magazine
  18. ^ Mayne, Judith (2005). Claire Denis, p. 132. University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago. ISBN 0-252-02991-7.
  19. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0219136/ Claire Denis on IMDb
  20. ^ Palmer, Tim (2011). Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema, Wesleyan University Press, Middleton CT. ISBN 0-8195-6827-9.
  21. ^ Claire Denis' awards and nominations on IMDb

  External links

   
               

 

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