TONY Interview: Bastards' Claire Denis

The celebrated French auteur discusses her bracingly bleak new feature.

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Claire Denis, director of Bastards

Claire Denis, director of Bastards


What it’s about: A sea captain (Vincent Lindon) returns home to take revenge on the debaucherous billionaire he holds responsible for a family tragedy.
Best known as: The art-house auteur who made Denis Lavant dance to Eurodisco in Beau Travail.
What else you should see: Trouble Every Day, 35 Shots of Rum.

On the event that inspired Bastards: I was on a street in a very nice district of Paris. There was this mysterious shop that I thought was closed down; all the doors were open, and they were cleaning everything. I saw these two round red beds on the pavement. I talked to the workers and they said, “Don’t you know this place?” It was a swingers’ club, and those two beds were dirty and stained. To see it in daylight was really ugly: You cannot dream of anything. You cannot imagine the beauty of skin. It’s crude. It’s raw. That’s it.

On the influence of Akira Kurosawa and William Faulkner: I think Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon) is a little bit like the character Toshirô Mifune plays in Kurosawa’s noir movies like The Bad Sleep Well (1960). He’s a guy that is strong and reliable, and yet he’s cheated. The Faulkner homage was always there. He was someone who knew there was no redemption in the end. That struck me when I first read him at 15; I was sure he was right. Whatever you are—rich or poor, prostitute or heir—you’re doomed.

On the cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Put Your Love in Me”: Stuart Staples [lead singer of frequent Denis collaborators Tindersticks] wanted to write a song for the film. He had something in mind, but then he came to see dailies and said, “Strangely enough, I’ve been listening to a song by Hot Chocolate.…” After he saw the film’s final images, he decided to record “Put Your Love in Me,” adding a bit of screech in his voice. It was perfect.

On the ambience of the film: I am told Bastards is bleak. I was not aware of it while making it. Maybe in retrospect I’ll see it. Sometimes bleak is good. Sometimes bleak is necessary. Some part of life is always bleak.

Bastards opens Fri 25 at IFC Center.

Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich

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