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France, 1993 (MIFF 2000, Written on the Skin – The Films of Claire Denis)

Director: Claire Denis

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 appropriates a generic form (the serial-killer movie) as a means of addressing a number of her persistent themes: alienation, loyalty, the ties of family. Her method is spare and elliptical, observational rather than strictly dramatic; she's concerned, not so much with the murders themselves (though one is depicted, in horrifying real-time), but rather, with the lives and aspirations of a seemingly unconnected trio of neighbourhood dwellers, all outsiders: an aspiring actress from Lithuania; a homesick Antillian carpenter and musician, struggling to retain custody of his young son; and his brother an eerily beautiful transvestite.

The paths of these three troubled souls intersect and collide, almost at random, and little by little we come to recognise a portrait of daily life in this quartier: the complex network of relationships which define this community, and the effect the killer has upon all of them. Richly melancholic, informed by a deep sense of loss (of homeland, of self), this is one of Denis' finest and most resonant works.

See also...

Intruder, the

France, 2004
Claire Denis' Golden Lion-nominated [The Intruder] distils the visual and aural economy she achieved in her much acclaimed [Beau Travail] (MIFF 00). Through an evocative, dreamlike visual code and an… More »


France, 2008
“Smoother than the finest liquor, reminds viewers how rarely movies capture the easygoing love embodied in a functional family, with all its support and tenderness.” - Variety ... Claire Denis (B… More »


France, 2008
“A bold, very carnal take on adolescent female bonding.” - Variety ... In 1942 in Tunisia, two teenage girls struggle to hold their friendship together in the face of cultural differences and eme… More »

In Conversation with Claire Denis

Philippa Hawker, senior film writer for The Age, talks with French director Claire Denis (Beau travail, MIFF 00; Trouble Every Day, MIFF 03) about her approach to filmmaking, and about her new film 3… More »


France, 1994
Director Claire Denis' (Chocolat 1988) contri­bution to the series Tons les Garcons et les Filles de Leur age brings both toughness and ten­derness to the potentially touchy scenario of three… More »

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