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Elliptical, enigmatic, slow and sensual, the films of Claire Denis express the human condition in unexpected ways. Often with little dialogue, circling and perforated narratives, and rich soundtracks frequently scored by British band Tindersticks, Denis has an auteurial style that continually challenges cinematic possibilities. As a self-described outsider, born in France but raised in Africa in the twilight of colonialism, her films are filled with marginal figures set in either distant post-colonial settings or in the métropole (Paris) and replete with interpersonal and private interactions between family, friends, lovers, and even strangers.
In this seminar, we consider clips from Denis’ prolific body of work to see how she captures haptic moments of tenderness and terror, and lyrical scenes of love, loss and pain—and how she refuses to conform to expected conventions in storytelling, cinematography and pacing. While she eschews the descriptor “feminist,” her films often portray innovative vantages on masculinity, or are particularly focused on a woman’s sexual experience—such as her dreamy 2001 adaptation of Emmanuèle Bernheim’s novella, FRIDAY NIGHT, her explorations of a middle-aged woman’s sexuality in her 2017 film, LET THE SUNSHINE IN, and her most recent film, HIGH LIFE, that depicts an even more odd engagement with sexuality (and more) in a primarily deep space setting.
This seminar is presented in conjunction with the opening of Claire Denis’ HIGH LIFE, opening Fri, Apr 26. (Seminar ticket and movie tickets sold separately.)
About the speaker: A Tennessee native, Amy Bertram demonstrates the possibilities offered by academic study, travel, and experience: she is trilingual, a scholar, and well versed in art, literature, culture, and film. Her approach to film history and filmmaking stems from her work as a graduate student in French in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. With a focus on French film and theater for her M.A., she completed her Ph.D. with a second concentration in Cinema. Studies in 2014. As a professor in the Motion Pictures department since 2013 at Belmont University, Bertram is passionate about cinema and teaching, with over a decade experience teaching cinema courses at the college level. She also taught film at Watkins College, and taught French at both Belmont and Tennessee State University, and Spanish at Tennessee Tech University.