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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...


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »

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