Bastards

A Touch of Sin

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. A Touch of Sin Four stories of everyday people caught up in the maelstrom that is modern day China. Violence infects their lives, sometimes as victims, sometimes as perpetrators, and none of them will ever be the same again. Zhangke Jia‘s film made my list of 2013’s best foreign language films, and it marks a rare instance where Landon Palmer and I agreed on that assessment. In his own ‘best of’ list he wrote, “A work of national cinema meant primarily for an audience outside of its home nation, A Touch of Sin is a disturbing mosaic of contemporary global China, depicting the excesses and injustices of a country growing through an unprecedented combination of organized labor and capitalist exploitation. A potent combination of genre play and political commentary, Zhangke Jia’s episodic film is as much a masterwork of a tightly controlled, discomfiting tonal range as it is a revealing micro-examination of uniquely 21st-century forms of economic injustice. I believe we’ll be talking about this molotov cocktail of a film for years to come.” [Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

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teaser counselor

We’ve got people behaving badly for Ridley Scott, two young ladies sharing a tempestuous romance, Johnny Knoxville doing some terrible things in old-age makeup, Al Pacino hunting down Oscar Wilde, and a dozen other films fighting for your love. It’s another big week for releases (and Javier Bardem’s hair) so here’s your trailer-ized guide to what’s coming out:

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review bastards

It’s a bit hard getting a matching synopsis for the apparently confusing Bastards, directed by Claire Denis, but the common consensus is this: a sea captain (Vincent Lindon) gets a call from his estranged sister (Julie Bataille) that everything has gone to hell at home. Her husband has committed suicide and her daughter has been the victim of a vicious rape that lands her in the hospital. When he identifies the man who might be connected to both crimes, he starts up an intense affair with his mistress (Chiara Mastroianni) as a means of getting to him faster. The English-subtitled trailer for Bastards (Les salauds) is tense, dark and brief – a contemporary film noir with a great new wave soundtrack. As with many a psychological thriller, we get to see small hints of both sex and violence; while this is going to be heavy on the sexual content, they don’t let you forget what it’s really all about: power. He’s on a revenge mission, remember. Check out the trailer here:

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review bastards

Revered director Claire Denis brings to the Croisette easily one of her least-accessible jaunts yet with the impenetrable Bastards, an ill-organized revenge tale that unfolds in needlessly incoherent fashion, and despite a rather salacious, sexy premise, fails to get the pulse racing in all other departments. Marco (Vincent Lindon) is one half of the film’s beguiling sibling equation, a man who learns that his brother in law, Jacques (Laurent Grevill) has taken his own life, while niece Justine (Lola Creton) has been taken to hospital after suffering from severe mental trauma. In an attempt to make amends with his estranged sister Sandra (Julie Bataille), Marco moves into the same apartment block as the shady businessman she believes caused Jacques’ suicide, and embarks on an affair with his mistress, Raphalle (Chiara Mastroianni).

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After a series of unfortunate car troubles and power outages, I was finally able to make it over to my bartender’s house and catch my weekly viewing of Game of Thrones, and I’m glad I did, because episode four was my favorite of the series so far. We open with the dwarf Tyrion Lannister returning to Winterfell following his visit to The Wall. With him he has brought plans to help build the newly crippled Stark boy a saddle that will allow him to ride a horse. At this point in the series most of the interactions we’ve seen between the Lannister family and the Stark family have been antagonistic. When asked his motivation for helping the Stark boy, Tyrion quips, “I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things.” And there we have it, our theme. For the next hour Game of Thrones explores the lives of the black sheep of their families, the weak ones, the weird ones, the ones who never live up to expectations.

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