Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original title: Les Salauds
France/Germany, 2013. Alcatraz Films, Wild Bunch, Arte France Cinema, Pandora Filmproduktion, Palatine Étoile 10, Soficinéma 9, Indéfilms, Canal+, Cine+, ZDF/Arte, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee, Region Ile-de-France. Screenplay by Jean-Pol Fargeau, Claire Denis. Cinematography by Agnes Godard. Produced by Brahim Chioua, Laurence Clerc, Olivier Thery Lapiney. Music by Stuart Staples. Production Design by Michel Barthelemy. Costume Design by Judy Shrewsbury. Film Editing by Annette Dutertre.
Claire Denis, the master of detailed fixation, goes towards one of her darkest subjects yet in this searing drama. Vincent Lindon abandons his job as a ship captain after his sister loses her husband in an accident and accuses a shady tycoon of being involved in his death. The investigation leads Lindon into the arms of his suspected target’s mistress (Chiara Mastroianni) and into a bizarre and upsetting world of online porn and exploitation of minors that involves his niece, but as is typical with Denis, it all unfolds in bits and pieces in a hypnotic, visually arresting style.
This one takes on a strangely unusual weight of narrative burden for Denis, she covers a lot of territory for a filmmaker who is far more proficient at looking very closely at smaller human intersections and making beautiful fodder of them at feature length. Where her pinpointed views of objects are often the method through which she details a narrative, here they are not as significant as the information pouring from the characters’ mouths, but this odd juxtaposition between a more traditional cinema style and the directors’ usual foray into enigma does not make Bastards a disappointment. For all its minor discomforts, it still maintains the bewitching level of intensity that all her films benefit from, and the sequences where she really soars (driving in the dark while riding Grégoire Colin‘s lap, a depressing but highly memorable re-enactment of the evidence at the heart of the story in the film’s conclusion) will stay with you for days.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2013