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Béatrice Dalle (#110 of 6)

Cross-Cultural Communion Night on Earth at 25

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Cross-Cultural Communion: Night on Earth at 25

Fine Line Features

Cross-Cultural Communion: Night on Earth at 25

Whether due to cultural, linguistic, generational, or racial barriers, Jim Jarmusch’s characters often find themselves talking around rather than to each other. It’s no wonder that in Night on Earth, the director’s 1992 omnibus film consisting of five stories set in different international cities on the same night, the taxi cab provides the perfect visual framework, placing a spatial barrier between characters that makes communication even more challenging. Characters banter, bicker, ramble, and philosophize as they shuttle through various cityscapes like ghosts in the night, catching only fleeting glimpses of the other as reflections in a rear-view mirror. There is a natural yin/yang dynamic to each vignette that uses the dialectics of argumentation as well as visual rhymes, word play, starkly contrasting character types, and class conflict to deepen the audience’s understanding and empathy for the characters and the environment in which they live.

The Tindersticks Live…and a Chat with Organist/Pianist David Boulter

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The Tindersticks Live…and a Chat with Organist/Pianist David Boulter

Michelle Lee

The Tindersticks Live…and a Chat with Organist/Pianist David Boulter

The Tindersticks’ mini-tour for their new box set of soundtrack work for Claire Denis films graced Los Angeles Saturday night for a show at the little-known Luckman Fine Arts Complex. The band will be completing the tour tonight at the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival. I was able to catch the show and keyboardist David Boulter earlier in their tour for an interview.

Film Comment Selects 2011 Domain

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Film Comment Selects 2011: Domain
Film Comment Selects 2011: Domain

Most recently known for her roles in Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day and The Intruder as, respectively, a feral cannibal and the Queen of the Northern Hemisphere (how’s that for range?), Béatrice Dalle can come off as such a crazy/sexy/cool presence (those eyes! That gap!) that one can easily forget the actress at work beneath the defiantly carnal exterior. Patric Chiha sees both, and uses them to quietly heartrending effect in Domain, a film shaped by the divide between appearance and reality—or, more to the point, perceived order and underlying chaos.

This recognition of emotional disarray beneath chic exteriors occurs slowly within Domain, metered out in Chiha’s pensive images of fog-shrouded clubs and autumnal city parks under cloudy skies. When we first lay eyes on Nadia (Dalle), she’s refilling the champagne glasses of her academic and art-world friends as they lounge around a beach bonfire. Worldly and elegant, Nadia proves a logical fairy godmother for Pierre (Isaïe Sultan), her gay 17-year-old nephew, who sits on the edge of the group but gazes on with hungry eyes. There’s a hint of Olivier Assayas in this scene (something to do with how attuned Chiha is to the emotional and conversational cross-currents of his ever-so-bohemian collective) and it elegantly sets up the casually rebellious world that so fervently draws Pierre to Nadia. Domain subtly toys with our expectations throughout its opening sequences, playing upon memories of other films that cast aging nonconformists as hip mentors to their doe-eyed queer charges. Their frequent walks through a Boudreaux park establish an unforced rapport between Nadia and Pierre, while Pierre’s fashion consultations with Nadia and trips to cafes and gay clubs underline her “cool aunt” status. Though Chiha’s camera remains studiously objective, we can’t help but see Nadia through Pierre’s star-struck eyes, and Dalle sashays through these scenes with stiletto-clicking authority and a touch of world-weary grace.

The Conversations: Trouble Every Day

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The Conversations: Trouble Every Day
The Conversations: Trouble Every Day

Ed Howard: Claire Denis has always been a fascinating and elusive director, making strange, ambiguous movies where meanings are inscribed between the lines, in images and charged silences rather than in the minimal dialogue. Trouble Every Day is quite possibly her most challenging and unsettling film, both utterly typical of her approach—quiet, patiently paced, enigmatic in its characterization and plotting—and yet also a true outlier in her career. For one thing, in terms of genre it’s a horror film, and one of the reasons I was interested in talking about it with you, Jason, is that you’ve previously expressed a general disinterest in horror as a genre. Of course, this is not a genre that one would have intuitively attributed to Denis based on the films she made before (1999’s Billy Budd parable Beau travail) and after (2002’s poetic ode to a one-night stand, Vendredi soir). And her approach to horror is very unusual and idiosyncratic, even though she does eventually deliver enough gore and viscera to sate even the most jaded Saw franchise junkie.

As Andrew O’Hehir described it, “Watching Trouble Every Day, at least if you don’t know what’s coming, is like biting into what looks like a juicy, delicious plum on a hot summer day and coming away with your mouth full of rotten pulp and living worms.” That’s a lurid image, and an appropriate one for a movie whose own most potent, unforgettable images are also gustatory. That Salon review was from the film’s original US release in 2002, and it’s possible that anyone seeing the film for the first time now has more of an idea about what’s coming. So before rewatching the film for this conversation, I had wondered if some of the impact of Denis’ film came from the element of surprise, from being taken unaware by the film’s bloody sexual horror.

However, upon revisiting it I found myself as entranced as ever by its haunting imagery and slow build-up, and as repulsed and affected by its shocking outbursts of violence. I’m curious, though, since you hadn’t seen the film before, both how much you knew about it beforehand and what your initial (visceral) reaction was.

Film Comment Selects 2008

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Film Comment Selects 2008
Film Comment Selects 2008

Introduction

I don’t consider myself enough of an expert to say whether or not the Film Comment Selects series is as “fringe” as my East Coast, city-dwelling vantage point suggests. Certainly it’s a festival I hold in very high regard, mainly for what seems a more personal patina on the selections. There’s less of a sense here that the programmers are kowtowing to the amorphous desires of an uptown audience that ensures, come autumn, that New York Film Festival tickets will be a near-impossibly attained commodity. That the more sparsely attended and promoted Film Comment Selects tends to be the more rewarding experience is no surprise: with fewer mass agendas to satiate, the selection process skews to more individual parti pris’. The closest this year’s series comes to a pack-’em-in cash grab is the Meryl Streep-starrer Dark Matter, though its general awfulness and essential ineptitude suggests that the Film Comment staffers might be ’avin’ a laugh at several of their patrons’ starry-eyed expense.

Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day

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Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s <em>Trouble Every Day</em>
Deus ex Sanguina: Claire Denis’s <em>Trouble Every Day</em>

Trouble Every Day aches with spiritual dread. Using the iconography of vampire films to illustrate religious fervor, co-writer/director Claire Denis also shows reverence to the medium of film, particularly to the purity of silent movies. There’s almost no dialogue, and what little there is feels like it takes place within the half-heard context of a dream. An early scene on an airplane features Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo) en route to Paris for his honeymoon, his comfort and security literally in midair. He politely excuses himself to the bathroom, stares blankly into the void, and remembers or envisions a murderess, or maybe a dying girl, covered in blood. There’s no sense of shock to the image, but there’s an unsettling fascination with the textures of wet skin and dried blood. The context isn’t so much violence as repressed indulgence. Josh Hartnett may have gone 40 Days and 40 Nights without twenty-something sex or self-gratification, but Gallo’s angst-ridden version of Lent is the perilous and hellish adult version.