Claire Denis’s directorial debut Chocolat draws inspirations from her own upbringing in Africa. The film traces a white woman’s return to her childhood home in Cameroon. She recalls life in the colonial outpost during the 1950s, a time when she was oblivious to the racism and oppression faced by her African servant. Denis examines personal past and systemic prejudice with the clear eyes of a veteran filmmaker in Chocolat. While her style has grown to become more audacious in subsequent films, this film signifies an essential chapter in the development of a singular artist.
About the Director
Claire Denis (b. 1946, France) began her career working on set in Dusan Makavejev's Sweet Movie (1974). Her years working alongside Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch were crucial to her growth as a filmmaker before she directed her debut Chocolat (1988). Her next films I Can’t Sleep (1994) and Nénette et Boni (1996) interweave narratives inspired by the urban culture of Paris. Denis’s elliptical narrative and visual style received widespread acclaim with Beau Travail (1999) while Trouble Every Day (2001) made a shocking presentation in which Denis, regarded as an arthouse director, turned to the horror genre. The 2000s were significant for her career, which saw the release of Friday Night (2002), 35 Shots of Rum (2008), and White Material (2009). In 2022, Both Sides of the Blade and Stars at Noon won prizes at the Berlinale and Cannes respectively. Working closely with her long-time collaborators, such as cinematographer Agnès Godard and the rock band Tindersticks, Denis has contributed a diverse body of work to contemporary cinema.
Image at top: Claire Denis. Chocolat, 1988. Photo: Courtesy of MK2 Films