Claire Denis’s English-Language Debut Will Be Set In Space

By  · Published on June 29th, 2015

Wild Bunch

French filmmakers planning an English-language debut may as well go full mainstream accessibility and do a science fiction feature set in outer space. Just ask Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Yeah, that’s a bad example, and even his most devout fans (myself included) would say he’s hardly on the level of Claire Denis, whom Screen Daily reports is set to finally make a movie that Americans won’t require subtitles for. And in her case, she’s doing something original, partly of her own devise, not a franchise sequel like Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection.

Denis, who is best known here (albeit not in the mainstream) for such features as Nenette and Boni, 35 Shots of Rum and Beau Travail, has maintained a reputation as one of modern French cinema’s greatest talents (our own Daniel Walber said she’d be a good candidate for a Nobel Prize in Cinema if that ever existed, though her latest, Bastards, received a D grade from our critic). She is no stranger to English-language movies, though. Before making her directorial debut in 1988 with Chocolat, she was the assistant director on Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law and on Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas. It’s kind of surprising she’s been able to avoid doing her own English-language movie for more than 25 years.

All that is known of this new sci-fi adventure effort is that it will be set way beyond our solar system, in a “future that seems like the present.” Maybe it will be the kind of film that looks like any of her other films, taking place here and now but for whatever reason is said to be far, far away, both in physical and temporal distance. “Seems like the present” implies this thing won’t feature spaceships. Denis came up with the idea with her longtime collaborator Jean-Pol Fargeu, but the script will be written by Denis and married British novelists Zadie Smith (“On Beauty”) and Nick Laird (“Utterly Monkey”). Also involved: artist Olafur Eliasson, astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau and musician Stuart Staples, of Tindersticks, who will compose the score.

Below, watch a short film Denis previously made with Eliasson for his installation project “Contact,” and a video of Staples and Tindersticks performing their score for Denis’s The Intruder.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.