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France, 1988 (MIFF 2000, Written on the Skin – The Films of Claire Denis)

Director: Claire Denis

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 various characters who inhabited this idyll—notably her mother, Aimee; Luc, a visiting ex-Seminarian; and, towering above them all, the family's houseboy, Protee (Isaach De Bankole), from whom she learns something about the intricate nature of relationships within a fundamentally racist society. "tn the willed silences and the kind of sexual suspension maintained between them, Aimee and Protee guard a necessary order and equilibrium. That balance eventally collapses, done in by a fallen priest's killing honesty."— Kathleen Murphy

Raised in Africa herself, Claire Denis' first feature is rife with autobiographical elements, yet she has been careful to distinguish the film from her own experiences. "When (Chocolat) was made, everybody was telling me, 'It's your own story.' I won't say I lied, but it was just so easy to say yes." In fact, the film is more impressionistic than documentary: a meditation on the power of landscape—here, all devouring space and indeterminate borders— and the tainted legacy of colonialism. It remains one of the most effortlessly assured feature debuts of the last 20 years.

See also...


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 »


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 ... 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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »

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