NÉNETTE AND BONI
1996, Strand Releasing, 103 min, France, Dir: Claire Denis

Directing with the same delicacy that infused her films of the early 1990s, Claire Denis takes on the subject of broken families in this thoughtful tale of a sibling reunion. When Boni’s (Grégoire Colin) mother dies, he wastes no time moving his friends into her now-vacant house and focusing on his job baking pizzas for an eccentric couple. His plans are upended by a sudden visit from his estranged younger sister, Nénette (Alice Houri), who had run away from boarding school after their parents' divorce. To make matters worse, Nénette is pregnant, a fact that neither sibling is prepared to deal with. Co-starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Vincent Gallo and featuring an original soundtrack by Denis’ frequent collaborators, Tindersticks.


BEAU TRAVAIL
1999, Janus Films, 90 min, France, Dir: Claire Denis

Considered by many to be Claire Denis’ masterpiece, BEAU TRAVAIL sets Herman Melville’s classic novella Billy Budd in a distinctly modern milieu, telling a universal tale of jealousy while mining the intricate details of the French Foreign Legion’s presence in the Gulf of Djibouti. Tuning in to the haptic qualities and emotional registers of the physical world in a way only Denis can, the film examines what is both on and beneath the surface of this dry, salty environment, juxtaposing it with the glistening, sweat-ridden skin of its all-male subjects. The journey begins backward, as former Foreign Legion officer Galoup (Denis Lavant) longingly recalls his days as a leader of men. As we soon discover, his downfall involves a homoerotic jealousy so destructive that the lives it touches will never be the same. Featuring Grégoire Colin and Michel Subor.


WHITE MATERIAL
2009, IFC Films, 106 min, France/Cameroon, Dir: Claire Denis

Returning to the African continent on which she was raised, Claire Denis directs yet another ruminative examination of race relations in a colonial environment, this time set against the backdrop of an unspecified civil war. French farmer Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) is given a stern warning to abandon her coffee plantation and its impending harvest and seek refuge for her family before violence begins. But stubbornness and white privilege keep Maria trudging forward, as she attempts to keep her family together while seeking the help of local workers to finish the harvest. Featuring Christopher Lambert and Isaach De Bankolé. “A striking film filled with images that sometimes reveal their full meaning only when their beauty curdles in the chain of signification.” - Manohla Dargis, New York Times.


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