Denis regular Alex Descas and this year’s Cannes Grand Prix-winning director Mati Diop take the key roles in this film, which remains one of my favourites of the decade. Much of my love for it is not so much in what happens as in how it unfolds — just the one scene in a backstreets Parisian bar soundtracked to the Commodores’ “Nightshift”, which is for me the emotional core of the film, seems to lay bare all the dynamics going on amongst these characters: a father, Lionel (Alex Descas); his daughter Jo (Mati Diop); an older woman and neighbour, Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue), who’s always been in love with the dad; and Grégoire Colin as Noé, who has a crush on Jo. They are all trapped a little bit, as neighbours in an apartment block, as people whose lives seem to be following a set path (in the case of Lionel, who drives trains, very literally so) and who don’t know what exactly they do want. There’s a sense of pain at getting older, but also a comfort in gestures like eating together, with the film opening and closing on images of rice cookers, the sort of symbolic centrepiece of shared family meals (and it’s no surprise, perhaps, to learn that an Ozu film was the inspiration for this one). I love the feeling of movement, the cautious emotional resonance, and the burnished look of the film. It’s a glorious ode to the richness of life and even a modern city symphony in its own way.
CREDITS Director Claire Denis; Writer Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau; Cinematographer Agnès Godard; Starring Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Grégoire Colin, Nicole Dogue; Length 100 minutes. Seen at ICA, London, Sunday 26 May 2019 (and earlier at the Renoir, London, Sunday 26 July 2009).
So much for writing separate posts for everything; that didn’t really work out for me in the long-term. I still watch a lot of movies (more than ever) but in terms of writing I go through phases, as I’m sure many of us who try and write about films do, and right now I’ve not really felt an urge to write up my film reviews (beyond a few short sentences on Letterboxd). So here’s a round-up of stuff I saw in May. See below the cut for reviews of…
Captain America: Civil War (2016, USA) Cold Comfort Farm (1995, UK) Desperately Seeking Susan (1985, USA) Down with Love (2003, USA) Everybody Wants Some!! (2016, USA) Evolution (2015, France/Belgium/Spain) Feminists Insha’allah! The Story of Arab Feminism (2014, France) A Flickering Truth (2015, New Zealand) Green Room (2015, USA) Hamlet liikemaailmassa (Hamlet Goes Business) (1987, Finland) Heart of a Dog (2015, USA) Lemonade (2016, USA) Losing Ground (1982, USA) Lovely Rita (2001, Austria/Germany) Luck by Chance (2009, India) As Mil e Uma Noites: Volume 3, O Encantado (Arabian Nights Volume 3: The Enchanted One) (2015, Portugal/France/Germany/Switzerland) Money Monster (2016, USA) Mon roi (aka My King) (2015, France) My Life Without Me (2003, Canada/Spain) Our Kind of Traitor (2016, UK) Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties) (1975, Italy) Picture Bride (1994, USA) Radio On (1979, UK/West Germany) She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014, USA) Sisters in Law (2005, UK/Cameroon) Star Men (2015, USA/UK/Canada) Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005, USA) Trouble Every Day (2001, France/Germany/Japan) Underground (1928, UK) L’Une chante, l’autre pas (One Sings, the Other Doesn’t) (1977, France) Visage (Face) (2009, France/Taiwan) Zir-e poost-e shahr (Under the Skin of the City) (2001, Iran)
It may be that I’m rather shoehorning this new Claire Denis film into my themed month. It’s certainly not about filmmakers in a traditional sense, but there’s an element of it that recalls, say, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom in dealing with a nasty fringe of exploitational filmmaking, not intended for public consumption.
ADVANCE SCREENING FILM REVIEW || Director Claire Denis | Writers Jean-Pol Fargeau and Claire Denis | Cinematographer Agnès Godard | Starring Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Lola Créton, Michel Subor | Length 100 minutes | Seen at Hackney Picturehouse, London, Wednesday 5 February 2014 || My Rating very good
At some level this new film by French director Claire Denis is an hommage to film noir, that famous Hollywood style of filming crime dramas in the 1940s and 1950s which emphasised the characters’ sexuality just as it muddied its contrasty black-and-white filming with shades of moral grey. Bastards is not filmed in monochrome, but there’s plenty of darkness through which the characters drag themselves, as if hinting at barely-suppressed pools of torment. There’s a crime at its heart, too, but that takes some time to come to light. It also touches on themes familiar from Denis’ other films, a compact yet wonderful body of work of which this is a further facet.