Tuesday, 18 March 2014

bastards (w&d claire denis; w. jean-pol fargeau)

I lost my phone during the screening of Denis' film. I'd arrived that morning in London after flying from Montevideo via Miami. Mr Curry put me on a bus and together we went to watch Denis' latest. When I came out, I realised that after going half way round the world and managing to hold on to everything I needed, I'd left my phone in the cinema. I went back, without much optimism. And there it was. The man on the door was very friendly. Everyone in the cinema seemed friendly. As though they were on a mission to deny the validity of Denis' latest film.

Which took an altogether bleaker view of humanity. It's a few weeks since I saw it so the ins and outs of the plot and chronology have become foggy. In her best films, Denis' tricksiness is a delight. In the ones that don't quite come off, it becomes an irritation. It wasn't helping not knowing when the events were taking place, who arrived when in the elegant Parisian apartment block; who abused whom when; who robbed whom when. The intensity, focussed to such good effect on the character of Huppert in White Material, was diffuse. The warmth which made 35 Shots leap off the screen was absent. Everything felt cold and mechanical, which might have been in keeping with the film's thematic but didn't assist the viewing process.

When Denis is good she does things no other living director achieves. There's a fluidity to the narrative, the camera work, the score, the acting. But when that fluidity doesn't feel rooted in a narrative which can handle it, that same fluidity becomes overly opaque, leaving a film in search of its focus. Sadly, Bastards belongs to the latter camp. Fortunately, my phone retained its narrative focus, (to travel to the ends of the earth [Hackney] and feign loss but eventually be found), with more alacrity than the film. 

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