Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bastards (2013) New York Film Festival 2013

A great looking film with great performances Claire Denis's Bastards is a film best described as a dramatic mess. Told in a disjointed manner that seems to jump around in time, Denis has fashioned a film that looks as though some one took a perfectly good story and then cut it up, rearranged it, and then added in a couple of extra bits that had nothing to do with the story.

This is nominally the story of a tanker captain named Marco who goes AWOL to help his sister and niece. It seems his brother in law has killed himself in the wake of business deals that have gone bad. On top of it all his niece has been sexually savaged. Taking an apartment in the building of mistress of the man thought to be responsible for all the devastation, Marco plots revenge.


I say maybe because it's never really clear what exactly Marco is doing. He's banging the mistress, but beyond that I'm not really sure. He drives, around talks to his sister sees his niece's doctor and spends money. Well he does run down a couple of leads only one of which ends up meaning  anything...kind of.

Truth be told this movie makes no sense. No, it really makes no sense despite what the director thinks. Many of my fellow film writers have gone into fits of rapture about this film calling it a dense puzzle to solve. Rarely have I ever wanted to bang so many people's heads together for letting the reputation of the filmmaker blind you to the fact that she's feeding you a shit sandwich and calling it roast beef. This movie is a shit sandwich and shame on you if you think otherwise.

There are plot holes. Plot holes? Actually chasms. There are huge gasps of logic that prevent this film from ever generating any tension or any sort of sense.

You want lack of tension- hero and villain meet about 2/3s of the way in for coffee in the least tense scene in a thriller I've seen all year.

Explain to me, if you can, what exactly Marco is doing. No, really what is he doing? He's not really watching the bad guy. He's kind of helping his sister. You would think there is a revenge plot afoot, but can you really find it?

Can you tell me how Justine, after being violated can walk out of a farm house in the country, to the city, in high heels and nothing else all the while heavily bleeding from her vagina? On top of that the first people she runs into are a couple of cops sitting in their car with their lights on?

How about the night time search scene where the police turn up the mistresses son's bicycle in the forest-with the implication that something has gone wrong, when he's always perfectly fine? Where does this fit in the scheme of things?*

I've got questions about the pair having sex on the stairs and falling asleep buck naked but I'll leave those and many others for you to unlock.

Taking it completely on it's own terms, this film is good looking but other wise a complete and utter mess and should be avoided.(For the record Denis says the film makes perfect sense. I would expect that, I mean she made the accursed thing so she knows all the stuff we don't see)

I would love to say that perhaps it's less a thriller than a character study, but we never get to know anyone enough to call it a study (Marco is too tight lipped to really know anything about him). Perhaps maybe it's a rough sketch of the mistress, but if that were the case why is this film 100 minutes?

Not to put too fine a point on it this is one of the worst films of the year.

*- Addendum-

I'm told by Alec Kubas Meyer who interviewed Denis that:the bike sequence is a dream -I can't work out how that is within the context of the narrative, but that's what the director told him.

I will post a link to Alec's interview as soon as its posted.

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