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Claire Denis: born in 1946. Denis was born in Paris, but raised in colonial French Africa. Her childhood spent living in West Africa with her parents and her younger sister would color her perspectives on certain political issues. She worked as an assistant director with Wim Wenders on Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987), and with Jim Jarmusch on Down by Law (1986) before moving on to her debut film Chocolat (1988).
Favorite themes: Raised in colonial French Africa has been a strong influence on her films, which have dealt with themes of colonialism and post-colonialism in Africa. You can also see how much she loves her black characters through the way she shoots them and they way she chooses them as her central characters, from the colonial and racial clash portrayed from the perspective of a female ex-coloniser in her debut Chocolat (1988), to their own perspective in 35 Rhums (2008). Denis’s also a versatile director, having directed horror (Trouble Every Day), sci-fi (the upcoming High Life), period piece, a romantic comedy and drama, all of which still contain her unmistakable voice.
Signature styles: she prefers still, well-composition shots and long takes. Her films often get shaped in the editing room, where she creates the rhythm that most well-known through her masterpiece Beau Travail (1999). Her films are known for its moving away from the conventional storytelling or tropes, but rather rely on rhythms and tones.
“I suppose I am interested in the variety of human life – how people live. I am most interested in individuals and how they respond to challenges or to difficulties, or just to each other. I am curious about people. So that’s why I do a lot of different things. The cinema should be human and be part of people’s lives; it should focus on ordinary existences in sometimes extraordinary situations and places. That is what really motivates me.”
Chocolat (1988) No Fear, No Die (1990)
I Can’t Sleep (1994) Nenette and Boni (1996)
Beau travail (1999) Trouble Every Day (2001)
Friday Night (2002) L’intrus (2004)
35 rhums (2008) White Material (2009)
Bastards (2013) Let the Sunshine In (2017)
High Life (2018)