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Friday, October 25, 2013


Photo credit:  Camille DE CHENAY

2013, 96 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Claire Denis' Bastards is quite the film - fragmented, nasty, bleak, and inaccessible.  It doesn't always work due to the fragmented structure and conventional story, but it does have enough strong performances, intrigue, and disturbing scenes to keep it interesting.

The film tells the story of Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon), a man who returns from sea to deal with some family issues which turn out to be far more disturbing than he ever imagined.

The less you know about Bastards the better.  While none of the twists are earth-shattering, they are still interesting and knowing little helps.  The final sequences of this film are what make it as powerful and as disturbing as it is.  They are thrilling and they hammer home Denis' dark worldview.  The final shots are brilliant and disturbing on multiple levels.  Bastards is a perfect title for this film as almost everyone is a bastard.  Marco is a good man, but no one else around him is.  The ending shows just how how horrible everyone is and ends the film on a disturbing, bleak note.  This finale contains some electrifying music by Tindersticks (the entire score is fantastic), which adds to the film moody atmosphere.

The acting by everyone is very good, but Vincent Lindon is the highlight in the lead.  His performance is subtly commanding.  He makes Marco a tough, but sympathetic character, as he is the only character in the film who isn't despicable.

As compelling as much of Bastards is, the fragmented structure really hurts it, as it makes the film very hard to follow and lessens the impact of some scenes that could have been very disturbing and memorable.

Overall, Bastards is a good film hurt by a muddled narrative.  Many will be put off by its bleak worldview and relentless nature, but those two things will be the reason why many others will love it.  I liked this film and would recommend it to arthouse cinema fans who like their movies dark.


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