It is through the poetic potential of Deleuze’s philosophy of the “fold” that I have come to understand the enduring appeal that a bright, jade-green scarf holds for me in Claire Denis’ hauntingly beautiful film, Trouble Every Day (2001). Elsewhere, I have argued for Denis’ kissing-biting-mauling opus as an instance of baroque cinema: as a film that is rife with fabrics, fluids and folds, and a baroque breaching of borders, skin and surfaces.[i] Focusing on the green scarf, here I articulate gentler incarnations of the fold in Denis’ film as well as in poetically charged, wind-swept moments in cinema, more broadly.
There are “all kinds of folds,” as Deleuze reminds us, including the fold of the world itself (the fold-as-event). The fold-as-event he reads through the French symbolist poet Mallarmé and his fan poems, especially, where “the fold of the world is [like] the fan,” and we come to “glimpse the visible through the mist as if through the mesh of a veil […]”.[ii] In Trouble Every Day, the gradual unfolding of the green scarf opens up onto the mobile flux of the world. The scarf first appears as a stylish yet functional sartorial adornment—worn by an American newlywed, June Brown (Tricia Vessey), in Paris on her honeymoon. As she stands outside of Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral, encircled by the arms of her husband (the film’s “monster,” Shane (Vincent Gallo), the scarf neatly encircles her neck. When June visits Notre Dame’s rooftop with Shane, the scarf appears newly folded in wrapped form. It is wrapped around June’s head (perhaps as part of her effort to stave off the wind) and knotted so as to drape down her neck. As June laughs and smiles into Shane’s camera (and indirectly, Agnès Godard’s camera), she struggles to remove the brightly colored scarf from her head because of the gusts of wind that surround her. Set aside on the cathedral’s ledge for a moment by June, the scarf becomes the intentional focus of the film, standing out luminously against a chilly sky. Wind visibly ripples through the scarf’s delicate folds of green fabric before the scarf is picked up by a breeze and carried out across Paris. The camera follows the scarf’s floating trajectory, rising and falling, before Denis returns the film’s focus to Shane and June.
While I return to this sequence time and again, I have no wish to “fix” a meaning to the passage of the scarf in Denis’ Trouble Every Day—unless it involves the poetics of the fold (“no longer the matter through which we see but the soul in which we read the world” finding a commensurately fabricated, windy form in the film.[iii] As Deleuze tells us, via Mallarmé, the fold is “sensitivity itself,” and it is “inseparable from the wind”—a jade-green scarf, lost to the wind, still floating…[iv]
[i] See Saige Walton, Cinema’s Baroque Flesh: Film, Phenomenology and the Art of Entanglement (Amsterdam University Press, 2016); see also Saige Walton, “Enfolding Surfaces, Spaces and Materials: Claire Denis’ Neo-Baroque Textures of Sensation,” Screening the Past, 37 (2013): https://www.screeningthepast.com/issue-37-aesthetic-issues-in-world-cinema/enfolding-surfaces-spaces-and-materials-claire-denis%E2%80%99-neo-baroque-textures-of-sensation/ (accessed 5th Nov 2023)
[ii] Gilles Deleuze (trans. Tom Conley), The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1993), p. 30. For a helpful discussion of the fold-as-event and its connections to poetry, see Tom Conley, “Folds and Folding,” in Charles Stivale (ed.), Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts (Trowbridge: Acumen, 2011), pp.199-202.
[iii] Deleuze in Conley, p. 202. Deleuze also speaks of the potential for a “liberation of folds” in which billowing fabrics, ribbons, or folds of clothing can “acquire an autonomy and a fullness,” aside from that of human bodies. See Deleuze, p.122.
[iv] Deleuze, p. 31.