Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
The 25 Best TV Dramas Since 'The Sopranos' The 25 Best TV Dramas Since 'The Sopranos' Interview: Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki Talks ‘The Revenant’, Working With Terrence Malick, Muting The Ego & Much More Interview: Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki Talks ‘The Revenant’, Working With Terrence Malick, Muting The Ego & Much More Derek Cianfrance's 'The Light Between Oceans' Starring Michael Fassbender Gets Labor Day Weekend Release Date Derek Cianfrance's 'The Light Between Oceans' Starring Michael Fassbender Gets Labor Day Weekend Release Date 'In Bruges' Director Martin McDonagh's 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Starts Shooting This Spring 'In Bruges' Director Martin McDonagh's 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Starts Shooting This Spring Disruptors: How Netflix & Amazon Are Creating Greater Tumult In The Independent Film Industry Disruptors: How Netflix & Amazon Are Creating Greater Tumult In The Independent Film Industry "Hated It": Josh Brolin Talks ‘Jonah Hex,’ Says They Reshot 66 Pages In 12 Days "Hated It": Josh Brolin Talks ‘Jonah Hex,’ Says They Reshot 66 Pages In 12 Days The 10 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2016 Berlin Film Festival The 10 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2016 Berlin Film Festival Stay In Your Seats, There Will Be 2 Post-Credit Scenes In 'Deadpool' Stay In Your Seats, There Will Be 2 Post-Credit Scenes In 'Deadpool' New Plot Details Emerge For Claire Denis' Sci-Fi 'High Life' With Robert Pattinson New Plot Details Emerge For Claire Denis' Sci-Fi 'High Life' With Robert Pattinson Leonardo DiCaprio Reteams With 'The Revenant' Co-Writer Mark L. Smith For 'Conquest' Leonardo DiCaprio Reteams With 'The Revenant' Co-Writer Mark L. Smith For 'Conquest' Watch: First Trailer For 'Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates' With Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick & Aubrey Plaza Watch: First Trailer For 'Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates' With Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick & Aubrey Plaza Review: 'Deadpool' Starring Ryan Reynolds, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, And Gina Carano Review: 'Deadpool' Starring Ryan Reynolds, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, And Gina Carano How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape 'MacGyver' Movie Reboot And New TV Series Pilot On The Way 'MacGyver' Movie Reboot And New TV Series Pilot On The Way The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 10 All-Time Best Episodes Of 'Parks And Recreation' The 10 All-Time Best Episodes Of 'Parks And Recreation' The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' 20 Survival Films That Will Take You Into The Abyss 20 Survival Films That Will Take You Into The Abyss

The Films Of Claire Denis: A Retrospective

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist November 19, 2010 at 5:56AM

The IFC Center in New York City recently ran a retrospective of French director Claire Denis’s laudable films—the most expansive retrospective of her work that NYC has ever seen—to commemorate the theatrical release of “White Material” this Friday. On the occasion, we have also decided to look back at some of her most noteworthy features.
3

Friday Night” (2003)
It's easy to look at "Vendredi Soir" and mistake it for a slight piece of work, and after the lush tragedy of "Beau Travail" and the dark cannibalism of "Trouble Every Day," it's undeniably a change of pace, and possibly Denis' lightest, funniest work to date. But in this case, 'light' doesn't necessarily mean 'frothy.' It follows Laure (a wonderful Valerie Lemercier), who's about to move in with her boyfriend, but gets stuck in traffic during a transport strike. She picks up a hitchhiker (Vincent Lindon, the lead in "Pour Elle," the original version of this week's Paul Haggis thriller "The Next Three Days"), and the two almost immediately develop a very, very deep connection. What's particularly impressive (and what separates it from the likes of "Before Sunrise," which is essentially dialogue-driven) is how little is said in the course of the film -- it's an almost impossibly intimate, detailed film, revolving around little gestures and snatched images familiar to anyone who's had the kind of one-night-only connection shown here, the kind that you never quite forget. It's got to be one of the all-time great city movies too, capturing a Paris that's as suffocating as it is vibrant. Denis and regular DoP Agnes Godard (who, as strong as Yves Cape is, was much missed on "White Material") shoot the hell out of it, and the score's gorgeous as well. It might be a minor work, but if every director's minor-key films were as good as this, it'd be a wonderful thing. [A-]

“White Material” (2010) A thorny picture that is as imperfect as it is enthralling, Denis’ first cinematic trip back to Africa in its racial/geopolitical vagueness is frustrating yet engrossing. Isabelle Huppert plays a haughty, stubborn French coffee plantation owner who refuses to leave her home despite a raging civil war upending the unnamed African country in which they reside. With the country in chaos crumbling around them, her ex-husband (Christopher Lambert) tries to sell her plantation behind her back and meanwhile she’s harboring a deposed African revolutionary (Isaach De Bankolé) now wanted very much dead. After an encounter with some child rebels on the wrong end of a machete, her humiliated son (Nicolas Duvauchelle) shaves his head and begins to lose his mind while Huppert’s Maria Vial white goddess character refuses to budge or change her way of life. While clearly a picture about a white landowner hiding a black fugitive in the middle of a African uprising is allegorical of something, what that something is exactly remains almost irritatingly elusive. To her credit, Denis is clearly more interested in character than she is in context, but the picture’s refusal to comment on its framework -- not mention a confounding violent conclusion -- does sometimes feel like a dubious proposition. While it doesn’t all add up, “White Material” is still very much moody and disquieting film. [B]

--Sam Mac, Gabe Toro, Oliver Lyttelton & Rodrigo Perez

This article is related to: Foreign Films, Feature, Foreign Directors, White Material, Claire Denis, Retrospective


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates