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‘Bastards’: Claire Denis film easier to feel than to grasp


Marco Vincent Lindon

Raphaelle Chiara Mastroianni

Sandra Julie Bataille

Edouard Michael Subor

Sundance Selects presents a film directed by Claire Denis and written by Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau. In French with English subtitles. Running time: 100 minutes. No MPAA rating (contains brief implied sexual violence). Opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Updated: December 30, 2013 11:30AM

“Bastards” (“Les Salauds” in the original French) has its share of characters deserving the title epithet. Some will face Marco (Vincent Lindon), the captain of an ocean tanker called to shore by bad news. French director Claire Denis portrays this decent man trying to make things right, despite the bastards.

An auteur of the allusive, Denis employs more ellipses than usual. She explains in her press notes that fast-tracking “Bastards” caused her and frequent co-scripter Jean-Pol Fargeau to omit transitions in their narrative. Conventional shortcuts include: “One month later” appearing on screen after a Paris suicide in the opening scene, an over-the-shoulder shot of Marco on his laptop relating the backstory of one bastard in the news, and a flash drive carrying lurid video of another.

“Bastards” entangles two families in bankruptcy and payback. Men leverage women for sexual advantage. Most extreme is the plight of Justine (Lola Creton), Marco’s violated niece we see walking naked through the night with bloody thighs. He will bedevil her despoilers, partly by a ploy of sexual trespass on the woman of another man.

Denis and longtime cinematographer Agnes Godard craft tactile imagery. Many shots feel embodied in the point-of-view of a character. And when a body is beheld, it is felt. “When Jean-Pol Fargeau and I write, we write sensations,” Denis told Sight & Sound Magazine in 2005.

Along with “White Material,” “The Intruder,” “Friday Night” and “Beau Travail,” among other Denis features, “Bastards” is both visceral and visual. Marco emerges as a protagonist compromised by more powerful, more perverse men.

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