Claire Denis Goes Back to Work

The Daily — Nov 11, 2020
Claire Denis

When Robert Pattinson tested positive for COVID-19 in September, Warner Bros. shut down the production of Matt Reeves’s The Batman for a couple of months. Shooting has since resumed, but Claire Denis’s schedule has been thrown off. She’d planned to start working with Pattinson and Margaret Qualley on her adaptation of Denis Johnson’s 1986 novel The Stars at Noon before the end of the year, but with Pattinson tied up through February, she’s decided that, rather than wait, she’ll simply pick up another project. According to Jordan Raup at the Film Stage, little is known about this new film other than that it will reunite Denis with Juliette Binoche, with whom she’s worked on Let the Sunshine In (2017) and High Life (2018), and with Vincent Lindon, the star of Denis’s Bastards (2013).

It’s been about a month since our last roundup on projects in the works, but with filmmakers taking the necessary precautions—all it took to complete Jurassic World: Dominion were forty thousand COVID tests—the pace is picking back up again.

  • Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) has begun shooting Petite maman in Paris with two eight-year-olds in starring roles. So far, that’s all we know about the secretive project.

  • Terence Davies (The Long Day Closes), in the meantime, has completed shooting Benediction with Jack Lowden as Siegfried Sassoon. Set in the aftermath of the First World War, the film depicts the gay poet struggling to pass as a straight man. “In the end,” says Davies, “he is a human being trying to navigate a difficult life, which is what we all do but art can be the greatest consolation for us all.”

  • Jordan Peele’s third feature after Get Out (2017) and Us (2019) doesn’t have a title yet, but it does have a release date: July 22, 2022. After completing Get Out, Peele said that he had “four other social thrillers that I want to unveil in the next decade,” and this is likely to be one of them.

  • Lucile Hadžihalilović (Innocence, Evolution) is currently shooting an adaptation of Brian Catling’s Earwig, a novel about a middle-aged man caring for a ten-year-old girl. His primary duty is to make sets of teeth out of ice and insert them into her gums several times a day.

  • Sean Baker (The Florida Project) has just about wrapped Red Rocket, a dark comedy he’s been secretly working on in Texas with Simon Rex.

  • Cinematographer Shabier Kirchner, who shot Steve McQueen’s five-film anthology series Small Axe, will direct an adaptation of Kei Miller’s 2016 magical realist novel Augustown, set in Jamaica in the 1980s. McQueen, whom Ashley Clark profiles in the New York Times today, is on board as an executive producer.

  • Radu Jude (Aferim!) is currently in postproduction with his ninth feature, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn. Subtitled Sketch for a Popular Film, this will be the story of a young school teacher (Katia Pascariu) who uploads an amateur porn clip.

  • Helena Wittmann (Drift) has wrapped shooting on Human Flowers of Flesh, the project she presented in Locarno in August. Angeliki Papoulia (Dogtooth) stars as Ida, a woman aimlessly sailing around the world when she meets a former legionnaire played by Denis Lavant—a conscious nod to Claire Denis’s Beau travail (1999).

There are also a number of notable television productions in the works:

  • Maren Eggert, known for her work with Angela Schanelec, will star in I’m Your Man, the story of a scientist who agrees to live with a humanoid robot directed by Maria Schrader (Unorthodox).

  • Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name) will write and direct the third screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, this one starring Andrew Garfield, Joe Alwyn, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, and Ralph Fiennes.

  • After working together on two films in 2013, Prisoners and Enemy, Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal are teaming up again for a limited series based on Jo Nesbø’s Oslo-set crime novel, The Son.

And finally, some intriguing news on a project that never got off the ground. Suppose Stanley Kubrick rather than David Lean had directed an adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s 1955 novel Doctor Zhivago? As Dalya Alberge reports for the Guardian, film historian James Fenwick has discovered that Kubrick and his producing partner James B. Harris had been talking to Kirk Douglas about teaming up on the project in late 1958, a year after an Italian publisher released the first edition in the west after the Soviet Union had banned the novel immediately after Pasternak completed it in 1955.

Fenwick notes that Kubrick, who at the time “was more associated with pulp crime fiction,” had been looking for something like Zhivago. In a passage in previously unseen notebooks probably dating to the early 1950s, Kubrick wrote: “The precise moment of absolute success for a director is when he is allowed to film a great literary classic of over 600 pages, which he does not understand too well, and which is anyway impossible to film properly due to the complexity of the plot or the elusiveness of its form or content.”

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