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The phenomenology of desire: Claire Denis's Vendredi soir (2002)

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This article offers a phenomenological reading of Vendredi soir. Following Martine Beugnet's notion of the cinema of the senses in Claire Denis's work, the article places the film within a coherent phenomenological framework, and argues that Denis's film enacts a phenomenological reduction, a bracketing out of the usual conditions of its protagonist's existence. This leads to an emphasis on the embodied, sensory aspect of being-in-the-world, producing in the viewer an almost synaesthetic, bodily identification with the film. In analysing the sensuous aspect of the film, the article emphasizes the role of the body as a sexual being, as discussed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. It explores the problematics of a Merleau-Pontyan account of sexuality, examining the way in which feminist phenomenological theory's alternative accounts of sexuality for a female-centred body-subject may be deployed to account for the sensuous experiences of a female filmic protagonist. The article also argues that a Merleau-Pontyan account of sensory imagination provides a useful way of reading certain incongruous aspects of the film that have been criticized by commentators.

Keywords: Denis; Merleau-Ponty; embodiment; feminism; perception; phenomenology; sexuality

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/sfc.8.1.17_1

Affiliations: University of Leeds.

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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  • Studies in French Cinema is the only journal published in English devoted exclusively to French cinema, providing scholars, teachers and students from around the world with a consistent quality of academic investigation across the full breadth of the subject. Contributors scrutinise the cultural context of various works and the diverse stylistic approaches that infuse the visual fabric of this genre.
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