Marco is a man whose cut himself off from everyone he's ever known, opting for a life at sea. When Marco learns of brother-in-law's suicide, he returns home to avenge him as well as help his estranged sister and teenage niece who has fallen down an incredibly dark and tragic path. Claire Denis' The Bastards is a deeply unsettling film that skillfully navigates a film noir-type structure in delivering a scathing commentary on greed. Besides Marco's journey, the other main narrative thread centers around Raphaelle, a woman whose essentially sold her soul in exchange for the financial security of her son. She is married to an incredibly sleazy, disgusting, and filthy rich man who is truly the embodiment of greed. Of course Vincent and Raphaelle's story cross paths, as they become lovers with other interesting details emerging throughout. The Bastards is a dense film with lots of great character dynamics and subplots but Denis' approach really manages everything beautifully. Denis's oblique narrative is very much intact, showing off her astonishing understanding of how to construct a story. The film never force feeds the audience anything, with Denis realizing that less can be more. There are many actions and situations that simply take place off screen, often with more resonance because of it. Played beautifully by Vincent Lindon, Marco is such a fascinating character. A man's man who is both rugged and direct, it's a fascinating exploration of a character who is forced to witness the horrifying circumstances centered around his niece. As the film moves forward it beings to come clear that Marco is the only character who isn't a slave to money, making the ending incredibly powerful. Thematically the film delivers a scathing commentary on capitalism and greed. I exceptionally loved the correlation and contrast between the two mothers of this story. Denis is essentially presenting us a war of maternal instincts vs. financial security to profound and disturbing effect. Make no mistake this is not an easy film to watch as some of the subject matter becomes incredibly unnerving and horrifying, but Denis' The Bastards is an incredibly well made piece of filmmaking that is easily one of, if not the best film of the year.
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