A very enjoyable discussion took place following the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre Film Club screening of the French film Bastards (2013). A great deal of time was spent trying to analyse the films non-linear narrative and work out what the film was about. And although the plot was not absolutely clear none of the Film club actually disliked the movie!
Introduced by Brendan Kearney, recently returned from ‘down under’, who gave us a brief account of tonight’s director. Known as the dark queen of French cinema Claire Denis was born in Paris in 1946. She was an assistant director from 1974 until 1987 and during this period worked along side Wim Wenders on Paris Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987). Her own directorial body of work has dealt with themes of colonial and postcolonial West Africa (White Materials 2009) as well as issues in modern France (35 Shots of Rum 2008). She is said to pay more attention to the characters than the narrative, and is reputed to ‘shot fast and edit slowly’.
Her films have often proved challenging and confrontational viewing and tonight’s film was no exception. It concerns tight-lipped Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon, Mademoiselle Chambon 2009) a captain of an oil tanker who has too return to Paris to help his sister Sandra (Julie Batalle). Her husband has committed suicide because of the failure of the family shoemaking business and his debts to a sinister businessman. Sandra’s daughter Justine (Lola Creton, Bluebeard 2009, Something in the Air 2012) has been injured in mysterious circumstances involving a cornhusk! Brendan went on to say that to give away any more would spoil the movie. But he did inform us that that this was the fifth soundtrack that the English indie band Tindersticks had produced for Denis and that Bastards would not be quite be as atmospheric without their pulsating score.
|Michel Subor as the businessman.|
The film is prominently dark and with her regular DOP Agnes Godard placing her camera up close and personnel gives it a macabre noir feel. A film that can be described as a tragedy, which like any good tragedy involves suicide, murder, car crashes and revenge, but mainly it is shrouded and deeply imbedded with sex: normal, abusive and incestuous. Similar to Miss Violence (2013) its a harrowing, but slightly laboured film, one I’m glad I had the opportunity to see, I’m not sure if I would want to see it again, although it certainly may be clearer on repeated viewing’s?
 Narrative by eye and not by ear, gestures and looks 35 Shots of Rum has little or no dialogue. The story is a tender but uncomfortable, almost incestuous relationship between a father and his daughter. The viewer may not realise that Lionel and Jo are actually father and daughter until its confirmed 20 minutes into the film. Based on the directors grandfathers relationship with her mother Claire Denis 2008 film is set in high rise blocks of flats in a suburb of Paris.