Claire Denis

Author: Martine Beugnet

Claire Denis' first film, Chocolat, was a deceptively gentle family chronicle set in colonial Africa. She focuses on ordinary people, men and women, black and white, homosexuals and heterosexuals, whom displacement and difference have set apart, relegated to the outskirts of society and to the margins of representation. In her films, the perception of the Other is always complex and ambiguous. This book outlines the multi-faceted, poetic vision of the contemporary world that emerges through Denis' filmmaking to date and to bring to light its main thematic, temporal, spatial and stylistic implications. The analysis presented focuses on her fictional feature films, which form the main body of her work and have generally become easily accessible in video or DVD format. In her first feature, Chocolat, the director's early experiences made her sensitive to oppression and misappropriation, exile and racism, alienation and transgression. Location and space emphasise a sense of displacement and function as metaphors for the process of potential exclusion of the individual (body) from society. But the metaphor also evokes an inner sense of exile and longing, a feeling of foreignness that is played out at the level of the individual and of the individual's body through relations of desire, fear and rejection. Denis' work stands apart from a tradition of screenplay and dialogue-based cinema that defines much of France's auteur as well as of its popular production. Denis' work has an echo of a wide range of contemporary thought and the traces of influential aesthetic and genre models.

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