Hairy screens, filmic follicles: The uses of hair in a selection of Films by Claire Denis

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This article examines the topical and aesthetic significance of hair in several movies by the French filmmaker Claire Denis: Nénette et Boni (1996), Trouble Every Day (2001), Vendredi soir (2002), White Material (2009), and High Life (2018). The images of human hair found across these works, I argue, serve three purposes: to materially communicate human identity; to signal the body's excessive, unassimilated materiality; and to corporealize the passage of time as a form of dead matter that complicates a distinction between organic and inorganic bodies. This article uses the work of German film theorist Siegfried Kracauer, who himself took an interest in skins and scalps, to ground Denis's filmic hair theoretically. There has so far been little work linking Denis's films to Kracauer's writings-and fewer attempts to theorize filmic hair-but doing so sheds new light on how we encounter hair on screen. On a broader level, then, this article adds to a wider scholarly effort to develop a "theory of hair" that can account for hair's presence and significance in cultural and cinematic discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalCanadian Journal of Film Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Film Studies Association of Canada CFFS/RCEC. All rights reserved.


  • Corporeality
  • Denis
  • Hair
  • Kracauer
  • Materiality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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