15 January 2014

Best of 2013: #4. Bastards (Claire Denis)

#4. Bastards (Les salauds). d. Claire Denis. France/Germany.

While there are a number of trends and themes running through this list, the thing that truly unifies at least the top 7 was their ability to haunt and resonate with me long after the credits. Claire Denis’ latest benefits the most from this sensation. Like many of her films, Bastards doesn’t offer much immediate satisfaction. The way Denis delivers information to the audience can tend to be rather obtuse or, in some cases, puzzling or, in most cases, disconcerting. For me, the word “puzzling” comes to mind with Denis’ work more than any other filmmaker because an unfinished puzzle offers the best visual analogy for many of her films. With carefully chosen pieces, she allows for us as the audience to imagine what lies in the empty spaces, and that isn’t a task that I imagine a lot of people enjoy having asked of them at the cinema.

With Bastards, the puzzle takes the form of a film noir, offering us glimpses of familiar traits of the genre. A wounded man (Vincent Lindon) reluctantly returns to Paris after his brother-in-law commits suicide in order to help his sister (Julie Bataille) settle the sizable debts and shady affairs that have brought the family and its company to ruin. Something’s fucked up with his niece (Lola Créton) who was hospitalized after being found walking the streets naked the night of her father’s death. And things get shaken up when he starts to get involved with a woman (Chiara Mastroianni) in the building where he’s living. There’s an unsettling air to nearly every scene, made all the eerier by the amazing synth-y score from Denis’ longtime musical collaborator, Stuart Staples of Tindersticks ("Put Your Love in Me"). And like two of her best films, Beau travail and The Intruder, Bastards has a wallop of an ending that’s nearly impossible to shake.

Bastards is available to rent on Amazon in the U.S. via Sundance Selects, and is currently on DVD in France via Wild Side Vidéo.

With: Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Michel Subor, Julie Bataille, Lola Créton, Grégoire Colin, Christophe Miossec, Alex Descas, Florence Loiret Caille, Hélène Fillières, Eric Dupond-Moretti, Sharunas Bartas, Nicole Dogué, Élise Lhomeau, Jeanne Disson, Laurent Grévill

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