Claire Denis' Vers Mathilde

By Kathleen Smith
  • Choreographer Mathilde Monnier
  • Filmmaker Claire Denis
  • Beau Travail by Claire Denis

Vers Mathilde is filmmaker Claire Denis’ intimate and detailed exploration of French choreographer Mathilde Monnier’s creation process for the full-length theatre/dance work Déroutes, made in 2004. The documentary – shot on Super 8 and 16mm film – has no editorializing, no lower thirds proclaiming who is who. The master cinéaste and her two-woman cinematography team of Agnès Godard and Hélène Louvart (who also worked on Wim Wenders’ Pina) capture preparatory activity in the studio and in the theatre without explaining it – rather, the creation of the film and of the live work being created evolve organically, together, banalities mixed with moments of insight. Denis’ deep understanding of the art and science of the creative process is present  – yet never pushy and hardly ever anthropological  – in every scene. The documentary is deeply non-linear: the main trajectory of the action may be aimed at opening night but it’s not really Denis’ concern here – her interests lie quite specifically elsewhere.

As part of Objects of Desire, an extensive retrospective of Denis’ oeuvre (which includes the gorgeous drama Beau travail, in which Denis uses dance and movement sequences as character and narrative development tools, as well as the charming 35 rhums and the nightmarish White Material), Vers Mathilde screens (with English subtitles) at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto on Tuesday November 5 at 6:30pm.

Watch a trailer for the film (in French) or read one of the many essays about the film and its director and subject. I recommend Sarah Silver’s review for Reverse Shot or Travis Mackenzie Hoover’s for Slant.

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