Saturday, March 05, 2011


This time of year is always tantalizing as the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) begins to release its press announcements regarding their upcoming "jewel of the crown": the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF), assured and stately in its 54th edition. Their first announcement honors the creative collaboration between renowned French filmmaker Claire Denis and composer Stuart Staples—best known as the primary singer and songwriter for the groundbreaking British chamber rock band Tindersticks—and is an exciting reason to circle May 2, 8:30PM at the Castro Theatre with a big red circle. I know I am. What are you waiting for?

In what will be an unforgettable live performance, Tindersticks will accompany "a meticulously prepared montage of scenes from six Denis films scored by Staples and his band mates. Technicians have scoured archives to collect the original elements and assemble strikingly sensual and alternately meditative and shocking clips from
Nénette et Boni, Trouble Every Day, Friday Night, The Intruder, 35 Shots of Rum and White Material."

"Working with Claire makes us shift our vision," Staples has said. "We come out the other end of it and we always feel kind of changed."

And how much more will this spectacular SFIFF event be appreciated for having earlier indulged the opportunity to watch the Pacific Film Archive (PFA) retrospective "Under the Skin: The Films of Claire Denis", currently running through April 16?

As Juliet Clark has noted for the PFA website: "The work of Claire Denis begins with what she calls 'tactile intuition'. Her films feel their way through charged situations and complex relationships—cultural, familial, sexual—by attending to the textures and rhythms of the physical world and to the ways that people move through it. This is a corporeal cinema: Denis once asserted, 'capturing bodies on film is the only thing that interests me.'

"Born in Paris in 1948, Denis spent her childhood in various African nations where her father was a French colonial functionary. Several of her most acclaimed films, from her debut feature Chocolat to Beau travail and the recent White Material, are set in Africa, and a concern with colonialism and its aftereffects runs through much of her work. But her approach to this and other subjects is less political or even psychological than emotional and experiential; exposition is pared away, leaving impressions whose full meaning emerges only with the passage of time.

"Denis served a long apprenticeship before directing her own films, beginning as an assistant on Dušan Makavejev's
Sweet Movie (1974) and later working as an assistant director to Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders. This retrospective includes her films with those two directors, as well as the fruits of her long collaborations with cinematographer Agnès Godard, writer Jean-Pol Fargeau, and actor Alex Descas (whom she has described as her 'muse'). Here is a chance to experience a body of work that both exerts and rewards alert observation."

For ease of reference, I replicate PFA's schedule.

Friday, March 4
7:00 White Material
Claire Denis (France, 2009)

9:00 Chocolat
Claire Denis (France/W. Germany, 1988)

Saturday, March 5
7:15 Paris, Texas
Wim Wenders (Claire Denis, assistant director) (W. Germany/France, 1984)

Sunday, March 6
3:00 I Can't Sleep (J'ai pas sommeil)
Claire Denis (France/Switzerland, 1994)

Sunday, March 20
3:00 No Fear, No Die (S'en fout la mort)
Claire Denis (France, 1990)

Friday, March 25
7:00 Nénette and Boni (Nénette et Boni)
Claire Denis (France, 1996)

9:00 Good Work (Beau travail)
Claire Denis (France, 1999)

Beau travail is repeated on Friday, April 1.

Saturday, March 26
8:30 Down by Law
Jim Jarmusch (Claire Denis, assistant director, U.S., 1986)

Friday, April 1
7:00 Good Work (Beau travail)
Claire Denis (France, 1999)

8:50 Trouble Every Day
Claire Denis (France, 2001)

Saturday, April 2
8:30 Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)
Wim Wenders (Claire Denis, assistant director, W. Germany, 1988)

Wings of Desire is repeated on April 20 as part of the Film 50: History of Cinema series.

Friday, April 8
6:30 The Intruder (L'intrus)
Claire Denis (France/S. Korea, 2004)

The Intruder is repeated on Saturday, April 9.

9:00 U.S. Go Home
Claire Denis/Cédric Kahn (France, 1994)

Followed by:

Claire Denis: The Wanderer (Claire Denis: La vagabonde)
Sébastien Lifshitz (France, 1996)

Saturday, April 9
8:30 The Intruder (L'intrus)
Claire Denis (France/S. Korea, 2004)

Friday, April 15
7:00 Friday Night (Vendredi soir)
Claire Denis (France, 2002)

8:50 Vers Mathilde
Claire Denis (France, 2005)

Preceded by short:
Pour Ushari Ahmed Mahmoud (Claire Denis, France, 1991).

Saturday, April 16
8:40 35 Shots of Rum (35 rhums)
Claire Denis (France, 2008)

Pacific Film Archive
2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
For information please call 510-642-1412

Cross-published on Twitch.

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