Kinoeye: New perspectives on European film

Vol 3
Issue 7
9 June

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Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day (2001)Passion

The cinema of
Claire Denis

After spending much of her childhood in Africa, Paris-born film-maker Claire Denis assisted such giants of the international art cinema world as Dušan Makavejev, Costa-Gavras, Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch before directing her feature debut, Chocolat (1988), at the age of 40.

Since then, she has fashioned a remarkable body of work. Her powerfully emotional films are filled with literary references and the sorts of marginalised characters usually absent from mainstream cinema. In this special issue of Kinoeye, five Denis scholars examine a quartet of the writer-director's most evocative and controversial films, revealing the auteurist vision underlying the apparent diversity.

Claire Denis' Beau Travail (Good Work, 1999)Performing the narrative of seduction
Claire Denis' Beau Travail
(Good Work, 1999)

In this detailed look at how Beau travail self-consciously "seduces" us away from our customary conduct as viewers, Elena del Río distinguishes Denis' cinema from the avant-garde and modernist traditions it is often associated with.

Claire Denis' Chocolat (1988)Lost in fields of interracial desire
Claire Denis' Chocolat (1988)

Through a close examination of the film's cinematography and mise-en-scène, Hilary Neroni reveals how, in Chocolat, desire is structured "not on the level of the verbal but instead in the field of the visible, which is where the characters' unspoken longings are played out."

Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day (2001)Looking for trouble:
The dialectics
of lack and excess

Claire Denis'
Trouble Every Day (2001)

Trouble Every Day is the closest Denis has come to making a pure horror film. It is also the closest she has come to making a film maudit. Taking a wholly different view, Philippe Met argues that it "is a superbly refined sample of cinematic art where such typical minuses as a flimsy plot, quasi-nonexistent characterisation, sparse dialogue and minimal regard for genre conventions all become assets rather than flaws."

Claire Denis' J'ai pas sommeil (I Can't Sleep, 1994)Resisting the lure of ultimate enjoyment
Claire Denis' J'ai pas sommeil
(I Can't Sleep, 1994)

According to Todd McGowan, J'ai pas sommeil is a film that shows how satisfaction can be achieved through partial objects and the act of desiring itself, despite the fact that ultimate enjoyment is impossible to attain.

Claire Denis' J'ai pas sommeil (I Can't Sleep, 1994)Decoding
unreadable spaces

Claire Denis' J'ai pas sommeil
(I Can't Sleep, 1994)

As Corinne Oster explains, Denis' J'ai pas sommeil employs strategies of "narrative, spatial and psychological dislocation" to address issues of displacement and exclusion in a society where the marginalisation of the Other remains a key concern for the director.

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