Good evening, ladies and gentlemen
William S. Burroughs once famously wrote:
“After one look at this planet
any visitor from outer space would say
'I want to see the manager.”
If we look at the state of things
on this planet today,
Burroughs’ line has lost nothing of it’s punch
but really Mr. Burroughs
what’s the use to speak to the manager?
If you don’t want to hear excuses,
if you really want to know what time it is,
if you want to know
whatever holds the world together in its inmost folds
the visitor from outer space
should go to the movies instead
and see Claire Denis’ films
and you should, too.
I will tell you why:
To learn about beauty.
'But what is beauty?' the visitor from outer space might ask.
Does it even matter in light of all this violence and ugliness?
I will try to give you a simple answer.
(I have been told I have five minutes)
Beauty is a conspiracy.
It goes beyond reason.
We don’t know why we know
that something is beautiful.
We just know.
Beauty seduces us to attention
for the fragility of life
it seduces us to tenderness.
Beauty is not pretty.
There is beauty in danger and
there is danger in beauty
and that’s what Claires films are all about for me.
to walk on the wild side of
in order to see
beauty in danger and
danger in beauty,
the ambivalence of our existence.
Claire is not so much a storyteller in my mind
she’s more of a story whisperer
a story singer maybe even
a singer with a husky voice
who plays cinema like a song.
Her films are all about rhythm
about bodies in motion
Think of Denis Lavant at the end of BEAU TRAVAIL
think of Alice Houri in US GO HOME
(one of my all time favorites).
Over the years
Claire has gathered a band of outsiders
a band of great instrumentalists so to speak
some real musicians of course
but the great thing about this band
and this lead singer
we are honoring tonight
playing cinema like a song
is that it includes us
We are part of the music
part of the equation
part of the beauty
part of the conspiracy.
We are not there to clap
we are essential to bring the films to live
in the cinema in our heads.
Claire is playing
playing cinema like a song
in our heads.
She gives us glimpses, moments, splintered time
because she knows
cinema is our obsession to complete:
we see faces, bodies, movements
and we have to connect them,
to weave them into our secret story,
our conspiracy of meaning.
When I asked Claire some years ago
to write a manifesto
a declaration of her cinematic philosophy
she sent me a poem by Alvaro de Campos
better known as Pessoa
a poem she knows by heart she said
It's the Ode Maritima, or NAVAL ODE.
It starts like this:
”Alone, on the deserted quay, this summer morning,
I look towards the bar, I look towards the Indefinite,
I look and find pleasure in seeing,
Little, black and clear, a steamer coming in.
It is very far yet, distinct and classic after its own fashion.
It leaves on the distant air behind it the vain curls of its smoke.
It is coming in, and morn comes in with it, and on the river
Here, there, naval life awakes,
Sails arise, tugs advance,
Small boats jut out from behind the ships in the port.
There is a vague breeze.
But my soul is with the things that I see least,
With the in-coming steamer,
Because it is with Distance, with Morn,
With the naval meaning of this Hour,
With the painful softness that rises in me like a qualm,
Like a beginning of sea-sickness, but in my soul.”
- that's the first paragraph.
But my soul is with the things that I see least.
It's a bold statement for a visual artist
and I think this sums up perfectly
what Claire’s art is about
and why it has so much to give:
Her cinema is about the things we see least.
So this conspiracy of beauty in Claires cinema
becomes even more mysterious ...
It is centred on the things we see least,
it aims at the Invisible.
Which is why it may help us
(and the visitor from outer space)
to see beyond the obvious,
towards the indefinite.
I hope you keep playing cinema
for many more years and films
I can’t tell you how excited I am
for your next film
the science fiction
where Borrough’s visitor from outer space may even get a part
after trying to complain about the state of things on this planet
I am sure you will seduce him to see beauty
beauty in danger
danger in beauty
like you did with me.
(Gehalten am 14.10.2016 anlässlich der Verleihung des Filmpreises Köln an Claire Denis, im Rahmen des Film Festival Cologne 2016.)