Claire Denis is a French filmmaker who was born in France but spent the majority of her childhood living in different West African countries then under French colonial rule before returning to France as a teenager.
At the encouragement of her husband, Denis studied film and worked as director’s assistant throughout the 1970s and ‘80s working for directors that included Wim Wenders and Costa-Gavras.
Denis made her first film Chocolat in 1988 which premiered In Competition at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. Denis has worked steadily since then completing 11 feature films, 3 documentaries and numerous short films and surrounding herself with repeat collaborators including her cinematographer, Agnès Godard, English rock band Tindersticks and the actors Grégoire Colin, Isaach De Bankolé and Alex Descas all of whom appear in several of her movies.
She is best known for her films Beau Travail (1999), 35 Rums (2008) and White Material (2009) all of which examine the result of French colonialism on Africa.
You collaborated again with Stuart Staples and other members of Tindersticks, who have written the music for all your films since Nenette and Boni, over fifteen years ago.
Claire Denis: Stuart had read the screenplay, which I believe upset him a little. It took him time to find his bearings and start composing. I told him the film began in the rain, and suggested echoing this with dissonant electronic music. I had in mind Tangerine Dream’s music for Michael Mann’s Thief. He composed one song, which led him to another, Put Your Love in Me, by the 70s English group Hot Chocolate, which he re-arranged. Then we worked together as we’re accustomed to: I go and see him in his studio in Creuse, he comes to Paris to make me listen, we talk. But there’s less music than usual, it’s good.
Tindersticks, “Trouble Every Day” from Trouble Every Day: Original Soundtrack.
This beautiful song plays during the opening and closing credits to Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day, a disturbing and dreamlike French film that follows two people afflicted with a brain malady that causes them to combine cannabalism and sex. I’ll blog more about the film later, but just take my word that Denis’s craft – although imperfect in some places – produces an allegorical work of genius that is nowhere near as exploitative or sadistic as the premise would make you believe.
British band Tindersticks created the soundtrack for the film, and it provides an exquisitely moody complement to the images on the screen. This is truly one of the best movie/music pairings I have ever encountered. Most of it is instrumental, but on the song above, lead singer Stuart Staples uses his Antony Hegarty-esque baritone (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron) to create a five-minute epic of inescapable melancholy.
And in case you’re wondering: yes, that is a wall painted with blood on the album cover; it’s a detail from a scene in the movie.