When I say that Claire Denis is one of the most modern of contemporary filmmakers, I don’t mean that she makes films that speak directly to the way we live now; rather, she uses distinctly modern technologies to portray universal sensations in a way that makes them feel fresh and unfamiliar. The effect that digital editing and shooting practices has had on filmmaking can largley be summed up in terms of proximity and flexibility; and it’s using these principles that Denis is redefining cinematic narratives. Hers is a gestural cinema, intuitively lavishing attention on small moments in order to create an emotional directness that’s quietly radical. She takes epically scaled narratives (often working within high-concept genre frameworks, as in Trouble Every Day and Bastards) that deal with capital-M major subjects (post-colonialism, late-stage capitalism, mortality) and eschews incident, condensing them into a minimalist series of impressions, textures, and sensations; her approach to drama is built on evocative suggestion, not explication. She doesn’t think in terms of scenes so much as passages, accumulating narrative and thematic information cut by cut. Her aesthetic is characterized by waltzy handheld camerawork, elliptical editing, and a tactile proximity to faces and bodies.
Claire Denis’ Favourites:
1. Grégoire Colin
2. Tindersticks, who have scored 6 of her films
3. Cinematographer Agnès Godard
Did you know?
Claire Denis originally studied economics, before enrolling in the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques as a post-graduate.
Before moving on to make her own films, she worked as an assistant director for filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch, Jacques Rivette, Wim Wenders, and others.
In addition to directing, she works as a professor of film at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.
The Film You Should Watch:
The brilliantly deranged, Vincent Gallo-starring vampire movie Trouble Every Day.