Vincent Lindon in Bastards

A powerfully unsettling film, Claire Denis’ Bastards (Les salauds) shows the physical and emotional disruption of a family through non-linear storytelling. Beginning with a crime scene and a naked woman wandering through the streets of Paris, the film slowly puts together the pieces to show how the sex-driven activities of one powerful man affects the lives of his whole family.

Marco Silvestri, played by a wonderful Vincent Lindon, is a lonesome ship captain with an ex-wife and two daughters that gets called home by his sister, whose husband committed suicide. Marco’s niece, Justine (Lola Creton), has been brutally sexually abused by Edouard Laporte (Michel Subor) and Marco wants to take revenge. In the process, he falls in love with one of Laporte’s mistresses (Chiara Mastroianni), which complicates things and leads to a shocking conclusion.

The slow unfolding of events is beautifully captured by Denis’ long time collaborator Agnès Godard, who is shooting for the first time in digital. Her noir camerawork searches out strong shadows and avoids the light, darkening the mood of the film as the story delves into a horror where no one is innocent. As The Hollywood Reporter writes: “Shooting digitally for the first time with frequent collaborator Agnès Godard, [Claire Denis] creates a moody visual canvas full of mesmerizing dark textures, with the brooding techno scoring providing the ideal aural accompaniment.”

Chiara Mastroianni in Bastards

But the real gem of Bastards is the acting. It's impossible to look away from Mastronianni's embodiment of a single mother who is heavily dependant on a man she once loved, while Variety thinks that “Lindon’s compelling performance gives his character psychological gravitas.”

The raw emotion on display carries over into Denis' dedicated filmmaking. As she said during a recent NYFF Live talk: “Creating gives me the feeling that I am alive. When I feel nothing, I may as well be dead. I like to be emotionally involved with things.”

Bastards (Les salauds)
Director: Claire Denis

Writers: Jean-Paul Fargeau and Claire Denis
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Lola Creton
Section: Official Selection
Screens: October 6, 9, 13

NYFF Official Description:

Claire Denis’s jagged, daringly fragmented and very darkest film – visually, psychologically, and politically – is that rarest of cinematic narratives, a genuinely contemporary film noir. Inspired by recent French sex ring scandals involving men of wealth and power, Denis positions the superb Vincent Lindon (the lover in her 2002 Friday Night) as the movie’s moral and erotic center. Lindon is a sea captain gone AWOL to come to the rescue of his estranged sister (Julie Bataille) and his teenaged niece (Lola Créton, star of Mia Hansen-Løve’s Goodbye First Love); Chiara Mastroianni is Lindon’s married lover, who has sold her soul in exchange for the security of her young son; and the remarkable Michel Subor, an erstwhile Denis collaborator since Beau Travail, is the very embodiment of an evil beyond comprehension. Shooting digitally for the first time, Denis and her long-time camerawoman Agnès Godard impart their trademark tactility to every image.