The Films of Claire Denis: An Introduction

One of the great joys of loving art is discovering an artist for your self. One that changes your perspective or fits into your already established aesthetic. It doesn’t matter if they’re new or established. The joy is in discovering those films for yourself. Great work remains great work no matter when you find it. 

As a film fan though, there’s only so many films and directors filmographies you can watch at a time. This is not even mentioning the ruts that can trap you into watching particular genres or comfort films. There’s nothing wrong with watching comfort films. There’s value in watching something you love. However, you also have to break those habits and step outside your box.

For awhile, I keep saying I’ll watch this director’s films or is it time for me to get into that director? It’s easy to say but harder to commit especially with prolific directors. I’m looking at you Fassbender! Anyways, writing for Cinema Dual comes with freedoms along with an outlet giving me incentive to explore my interests in different directors. “The Films of” series is meant as way for me to commit to watching and writing about a director’s filmography. 

The initial series will be on French director Claire Denis. Film fans more knowledgeable than I have been fans of hers for years. Admittedly my first exposure to her work was 2018’s High Life. It’s a science fiction film starring Robert Pattinson. Like most of her work though, it’s an exploration of capitalism and exploitation of the lower classes. The sense of isolation in space is one that I’ve continued to remember. Additionally, I’ve seen and written about her 2001 horror film Trouble Every Day, a film I’m eager and terrified to revisit, over on Letterboxd. As someone coming to most of her films for the first time, I’m eager to see what they offer. The films will be presented in the order I see them versus their release date.

A brief bio on Denis for those unfamiliar with her. Born in 1946 in Paris, she spent most of her childhood in Colonial Cameroon. Her upbringing in olonial Africa laid the foundation for her exploration of issues of related to class, economics, and capitalism. At age 12, she contracted polio which forced her to move back to Paris for her teen years. She eventually studied at the famed Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies.  After graduating, she worked as an assistant director on films by Jacques Rivette, Costas Garvas, Wim Wenders, and Jim Jarmusch. She released her first film Chocolat in 1988. Since then she’s released 14 feature length films with her two most recent being Stars at Noon and Both Sides of the Blade, both released in 2022.

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