Wrapping a three-part conversation he’d been having with Michael Leary about the work of Claire Denis at To Be (Cont’d), Darren Hughes recently introduced the fourth and final installment, an interview with the filmmaker herself. He begins by noting that her latest film, Voilà l’enchaînement, “is a series of monologues and conversations performed by Norah Krief and Alex Descas, who portray a mixed-race couple whose relationship begins, welcomes children, and disintegrates violently, all within the span of thirty minutes. Formally, it’s unlike anything Denis has done before. The closest precedent is perhaps Vers Nancy (2002), a short film in which philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy and a young woman debate ‘foreignness’ as a concept while Descas, a dark-skinned embodiment of their signifying language, wanders just outside their view. Composed entirely of tight master shots and staged in an unadorned room, Voilà l’enchaînement is a bitter and pensive exploration of commonplace racism.”
Last month, in a dispatch from Toronto to the AV Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky wrote that “Denis’s great gift lies in her ability to visualize the unspoken through editing and composition; this talky piece is a rare showcase for her considerable talent for directing conventional dialogue. It’s a decidedly minor work, but still sharp in its observations about how relationship dynamics can uncomfortably overlap with issues of class and race.”
Now Max Nelson‘s written about Voilà for Film Comment, noting that, in Denis’s films, “intimacy between people is a constant, insoluble problem. Her characters have to either structure their lives around avoiding the company of others (The Intruder), concentrate all their pent-up sexual energies into bursts of ritualized behavior (Beau Travail), devote themselves so fully to another person that they don’t know how to share their beloved’s attention (35 Shots of Rum), or, perhaps most dramatically, sublimate the urge to eat the one they love at the cost of showing any affection (Trouble Every Day).” Voilà, he suggests, “is pitched most directly in response to 2002’s Friday Night. Like that film—an exquisite reverie about a one-off erotic encounter between two Parisians on a rainy winter night—it strips Denis’s cinema down to its three most basic elements: two lovers and a room.”
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