Claire Denis

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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Nobel Theater

There is no Nobel Prize for Cinema, but there should be. Not that it’s anyone’s fault, of course. Alfred Nobel put aside the funding for the five prizes (Medicine, Peace, Physics, Chemistry and Literature) in his will, and he died in 1896. It seems entirely likely that the Swedish inventor and philanthropist never even saw a single film projected in his life. Why would he set aside some of his fortune to reward the practitioners of an art form that had been around for less than a decade? I suppose one could leave it at that. Tough luck, cinema. But in 1969 the Swedish Academy began giving out the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. If they can grant an annual award to a fake science, then they can certainly do the same for an entirely real art. What would such a prize look like? It should probably take most of the parameters of the Nobel Prize in Literature, which is the only current award that recognizes artists. The aren’t really specific criteria, except that the recipient has to be living. The list of prior laureates is international and interdisciplinary, including novelists as well as poets and playwrights. And, most importantly, the prize is given out for an entire body of work. Individual books have been included in citations, but that’s rare these days.

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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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Africa, more than any other continent, seems destined to be represented cinematically as a place filled with danger, strife, uncertainty, and upheaval. If the wild life or harsh conditions don’t get you a citizenry motivated by fear, religion, or anger most certainly will. But surely there’s joy to be found somewhere within its borders? Some pockets of happiness and smiles? Some village where something as trivial as a Coke bottle can lead to a tale of humor, warmth, and slapstick? No? Nothing? Fine. Let’s take a look at Claire Denis’ bleak, violent, and challenging film White Material instead.

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