Claire Denis will do anything to get the perfect shot. From braving freezing water to film an underwater scene in “Both Sides of the Blade” on an iPhone to directing actors from cramped spaces, the “Stars at Noon” director is a powerful force on set, according to lead star Joe Alwyn.
“Everyone was brilliant, but Claire was at the helm of it,” actor Alwyn told Deadline. “Seeing the way that she worked out how to work, and what she wanted, how she communicated with the heads of department around her, and how she functioned, was amazing.”
“The Stars at Noon” debuts in competition at Cannes later this week, Denis’ first film in the main competition since 1988’s “Chocolat.” Alwyn stars as a mysterious English businessman who meets an American journalist, played by Margaret Qualley, while reporting on the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1984. Based on Denis Johnson’s novel “The Stars at Noon,” the film is part love story, part political thriller.
Alwyn revealed, “[Claire would] be in the trunk of the car. We’d be driving around town with her. She’d be locked in the trunk, screaming out instructions in French to us who were sitting in the car — crowded with like five other people filming us — and she’s just bellowing out what she wants. She’s just a force like nothing else. I’m really lucky to have gone on that mad ride with her.”
“High Life” star Robert Pattison was originally attached to “Stars at Noon” before he had to exit the project due to “The Batman” production delays. Denis wrapped filming “Stars at Noon” in Panama in December 2021, after making “Both Sides of the Blade” during the COVID-19 lockdown. “Both Sides of the Blade” cinematographer Éric Gautier also reunited with Denis for the Panama production of “Stars at Noon.”
Denis previously opened up about her doubts that “Stars at Noon” would ever come to fruition. In the meantime, Denis flexed her unconventional directing techniques on “Both Sides of the Blade,” especially with the opening underwater sequence.
“This part of the film, the opening, was not in the budget. We did it together with the producer and with Vincent and Juliette and four or five of us with an iPhone,” Denis said during New York’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York earlier this year. “It was end of November and the only place in France where you have a little bit of a sun and possible blue sea is Corsica, so we went there. But already it was freezing. Juliette and Vincent stand in that cold water, and me and [cinematographer] Éric [Gautier] too. I was holding Éric, he was floating.”
Denis went on to win the Silver Bear for “Both Sides of the Blade” at Berlinale, and the movie will be released in the U.S. July 8 by IFC Films. “Stars at Noon” will be distributed by A24 but does not yet have a 2022 release date.