If Claire Denis’ latest film is supposed to be an on-the-spot improvised pandemic-era exercise/experiment - then I’m willing to go easy on it. But if it is meant to be taken like a serious well-crafted film in the vein of her stronger efforts like Beau Travail, No Fear No Die or 35 Rums - then I am a little disappointed. Disappointed as if I’m watching an A+ student intentionally get a C- on a test because they find it amusing. I don’t think Denis has the ability to make a “terrible” movie, and no matter how head-scratchingly vague/empty the movie felt to me at times, it does have me thinking about it non-stop well after watching it. Perhaps that is a win on some level...
For those of you familiar with Denis’ entire filmography, Fire feels like an even more playful & loose iteration of something like L’Intrus. Not in terms of plot but in terms of execution. From the beginning we’re introduced to characters and information in a very “in the know”/speakeasy kind of way. Claire Denis is the queen of hints & implications and with Fire we see Denis pushing that form storytelling to the limit.
As a fan of movie references & homages I should love this. For those that don’t know, the tone of this film is very much in the school of Jacques Rivetter right down to Denis casting Rivette regular; Bulle Olgier. Fire’s most Rivette quality is the way it weaves in & out of being silly/playful and incredibly intense (the film's playfulness also owes a bit to the French new wave while it's intense finale feels like an argument from a Cassavetes film).
A movie from my favorite filmmaker (Denis) drenched in vague homages & movie references from older filmmakers I love (Cassavetes, Rivette, etc) should be right up my alley but unfortunately it just didn’t click.
Outside of the Rivette homage there is a basic premise/plot that involves a couple’s relationship being put to the test when various outside forces try to come between them. But ultimately this film almost felt like an inside reference that I wasn’t privy to (which is incredibly frustrating considering my love for Claire Denis).
Anyone who knows me is aware I’m Claire Denis’ biggest fan but I’m no authority on her or her work (even if I come off that way at times). I encourage everyone to watch this (Fire is being put out by IFC films so it should be somewhat easy to see). Perhaps there’s something I just didn’t get or understand. I plan on watching this many times over in the future so maybe things will change.
And Fire isn’t without some incredibly positive qualities…
Tindersticks make yet another amazing musical contribution to the cinematic world of Claire Denis (the score is more in line with other “moody” scores like Bastards or L’Intrus).
The cast of Fire feels like a family affair with appearances from almost every era of Claire Denis regular. Watching Alice Houri, Vincent Lindon, Juliette Binoche, Gregoire Colin, Mati Diop and a (mute) Lola Cretan all share the screen feels like watching a fun-yet hastily put together experimental all-star game.
Again - I encourage as many people as possible to see Fire. I know I’m not raving about this like I have other Claire Denis films but I’m really curious to know if there are pieces I didn’t get in order to fully appreciate it.
Please watch and report back. I'm incredibly open to chat about this with any and everyone…