Bastards: New York Film Festival 2013

It’s almost certain you’ll be lost during Claire Denis’s elliptical, bracingly angry portrait of a French family undone by its...

New York Film Festival 2013: Bastards

It’s almost certain you’ll be lost during Claire Denis’s elliptical, bracingly angry portrait of a French family undone by its failures and perversities. That’s the point, though, and it makes for one of the festival’s most difficult yet rewarding experiences. Vincent Lindon plays a ship’s captain who abandons his post to seek revenge on the person who destroyed his family, though his motives aren’t laid out so much as abstractly implied. Working with her usual cinematographer, Agnès Godard, Denis conjures a mesmerizingly morbid atmosphere (rain-slicked city streets, a dingy barn in which something terrible went down) and populates the film with all number of noir-movie types, from a richer-than-God businessman (Michel Subor) to a catatonically damaged young woman (Lola Créton) with a secret. It all builds to an unforgettably lurid finale—a low-res homage to William Faulkner’s novel Sanctuary—that snaps this punch-drunk nightmare into fearsome focus. Click for showtimes.—Keith Uhlich

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