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France, 1996 (MIFF 2000, Written on the Skin – The Films of Claire Denis)

Director: Claire Denis

While virtually all of Denis' films have tacitly addressed the issue of family. this - her fifth narrative feature - confronts the subject explicitly. Boniface (Gregoire Colin) is a 19-year-old pizza chef living in Marseilles, where he spends his days tending to his pet rabbit and idly lusting after the wife of the local baker—a solitary, self-sufficient existence that's interrupted by the arrival of his 15-year-old sister Nenette (U.S. Go Home's Alice Houri), pregnant and on the run from her boarding school. Separated since the death of their mother, and united by a common contempt for their father, these two slowly achieve a rapprochement; and around them, Denis crafts an impressionistic and at times painfully honest portrait of adolescence—its complexities, contradictions and mysteries. The director has admitted she has "little sense for traditional narrative," yet her scattershot approach here—fragmented, associative, blurring fantasy-sequences with the prevailing tone of downbeat naturalism—provides one of this film's lasting pleasures.

"Few filmmakers... can paint the colors, textures, and architecture of isolating urban environments with such deft strokes. Denis's family reunion is transient and fragile, but this engaging film glows with moments of sheerly life-affirming good humor."—The Film Society of Uncoln Center

See also...


Asked to contribute to the French TV mini-series Tous les Garcons et les Filles de Leur Age (All the Boys and Girls in Their Time)—which assigned ten European directors the task of creating ... More »


For her second feature film, Denis departed from the meditative tone of her debut, and plunged instead into the noise and energy of a band on the road. Acclaimed Cameroonian act Les Têtes Brulées ... More »


Arguably Denis' greatest film to date, Beau Travail is by any standard a magisterial piece of work: meditative, richly sensual—an ode to the beauty of male bodies and to the inscrutability of ... More »


Though ostensibly based on a true story-of the 'Granny Killer' Thierry Paufin, who terrorised the outer arrondisements of Paris in the late 1980s, murdering a string of elderly women—Denis here ... More »


One of Denis' most controversial films, this study of Parisian cock-fight handlers alienated some viewers with its unflinching (and clearly well-researched) depiction of a vicious sport ... More »


Returning to Cameroon, the West African nation where she spent her childhood, a young Frenchwoman (Mireille Perrier) contemplates her youth, spent within the enclave of a colonial outpost, and the ... More »

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