With ‘Both Sides of the Blade,’ Claire Denis Crafts a Thrilling Marriage Story

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He sits with me during all of my interviews.

Does he fart a lot? I was told that French bulldogs always fart.

Yes. Did you hear that from Jane Birkin?

Yes, exactly. She told me.

Many of your previous films, like I Can’t Sleep, Trouble Every Day, and Bastards, have strong associations with the thriller genre. Is there something about the fear that you mentioned that applies to your interest in these kinds of films?

Well, the fear I mentioned was not a fear in the story. It’s a fear…of not being happy with the film. A film like Trouble Every Day was one I made knowing that there would be a certain amount of blood. But before we started shooting, when I was writing the script, I didn’t have the knowledge or the power to say, “I’m doing a thriller.” No, you are in the process of wishing and working and carrying on everything you can to make a great film. In the end, it could be a thriller or a film noir, a genre film. But in my opinion, films like I Can’t Sleep or Trouble Every Day are not true film noir or true genre films. Because they end in such a way [that] the climax of the film is not exactly where it should be for it to be a real thriller.

When you think about the tradition of the French thriller, from directors like Chabrol, Roman Polanksi, Jacques Deray, or Olivier Assayas, they often appear to be based on male-driven desires and fantasies or focused on a male perspective. On the other hand, your films, along with those of other female directors like Catherine Breillat and Lucile Hadžihalilović, come from a different perspective.

From the beginning, I never thought I was standing outside the main [tradition], which is the male [tradition]. The best I could do was to direct what I thought was best for me. I think the only way to make a film…is trying not to imitate, but trying to be really honest with myself. I wanted to always be able to give to the actor something that was a part of me so that they could trust me as much as I trust them. When I was shooting High Life with Robert Pattinson, [the film] was supposed to be science fiction, but it was, in fact, a story of a man alone in space with no hope of returning to earth, and with a baby girl. There is all this science fiction just for that.

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