Dir.: Claire Denis
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Julie Bataille, Michel Subor, Lola Creton
France 2013, 100 min. Drama French with English subtitles
BASTARDS is a much darker re-working of Claire Denis’s 2008 family drama 35 Shots of Rum. Whilst 35 Shots had more positive than negative characters, most of the characters in BASTARDS are exactly are very damaged people, who damage others even more.
Marco (Lyndon), captain of an oil tanker, abandons ship and returns to Paris to help his sister Julie (Bataille) whose husband Jacques has just committed suicide. Meanwhile, their daughter Justine (Creton) is roaming the streets of Paris naked, high on drugs and alcohol. Marco moves into an apartment building where he meets Raphaelle (Mastroianni), who happens to be the ex-mistress of Edouard Laporte, a business tycoon who has lend Julie and Jacques huge sums of money. Laporte still visits Raphaelle, who lives with their son, Joseph. Soon Marco and Raphaelle become lovers, Marco is at first unaware of the connections between his sister and the tycoon – let alone the reasons for Justine’s depraved life style.
The neo-noir element of the film is underlined by Agnes Godard’s photography (both director and DP work first time with digital equipment): shadows intrude even in daylight, and the night scenes are truly claustrophobic. Even the love-making seems brutal and often sadistic. Marco, who starts the film as an innocent, is soon dragged into the circle of deceit, exploitation and power games. Neglecting his own children, who live with his estranged wife, he soon forgets that he came to help his sister and abandons himself in his pursuit of Raphaelle. When the sad truth of the relationship between Justine, her parents and Laporte dawns on him, Marco becomes vengeful, and when he confronts Laporte violently, he is leaving Raphaelle with his revolver, having to make a choice….
Few films are so unremittingly negative, even nihilistic. The power of money is used to buy sex; parents neglect their children or worse pimp them, everybody is concerned most of all with upholding a bourgeois front. None of the characters is interested in anything but their own (even if only perceived) advantage. In this free-for-all, Paris comes off as a very cold place where there is no warmth, just consumerist facades. This dystopia seems dislocated, displaced and bereft of all inner values. The protagonists all act like teenagers, merely looking for excitement. It is a world dominated by male values, in which women have to submit (Raphaelle), participate (Julie) or be totally victimised like Justine, who in spite of all, still remains the most decent woman in BASTARDS – which is an indication of the vast wasteland this film portrays.
BASTARDS IN ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 14 FEBRUARY 2014 in CURZON CINEMAS AND NATIONWIDE and from 28 April on DVD
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