MIAF 2014 DAY 5: International Program #3, South American Showcase #2: Stories Myths & Music

25 Jun

International Program #3

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The third of the international competition programs. Some compelling stuff in this session, although there were no obvious festival winners. My top picks were:

Darling – Izabela Plucinska. Very unique animation using a large clay surface and moulding the animation into it. Making clay flow this fluently on a surface like this is a strenuous task to say the least. But when it looks this good – totally worth it. The film only uses green and black but without mixing them. You know you have something special when you can’t imagine how they managed to pull the whole thing off while maintaining sanity.

Allergy To Originality – Drew Christie. Intelligently written American film about how everything at the cinemas nowadays is a sequel, prequel, adaptation, spin-off, or just completely derivative of something else. The discussions that follow are philosophical and researched… using Wikipedia’s pages on plagiarism and originality. It becomes a battle of wikipedia knowledge.

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Ex Animo – Wojciech Wojtkowski. I always appreciate the films that give us an insight into how they are made. In this case we start with a man placing individual pieces of A4 paper with artwork onto a screen and taking a photo of it. What proceeds is a whole bunch of random crazy. It must have taken thousands of individual papers to put together nearly seven minutes of this and make it so smooth.

 

 

South American Showcase #2: Stories Myths & Music

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This collection of South American films were easier to comprehend than the last South American session as there was a theme surrounding them all. Whether it told a true story, mythical story, or revolved around music, these films were all noticeably culturally connected. Here were the standouts:

Lucia – Cristobal Leon, Niles Atallah, Joaquin Cocina. Here is one hell of a creepy film. Although I have linked the title to the film, to avoid nightmares I would advise against watching it alone at night. In saying this it is also a great film in the way that it visually portrays its story. Visually this film consist of a bedroom that is gradually trashed and transformed into a chamber of tortured souls. The only sound we hear is the terrified whispers of a young female. The atmosphere this film creates is chilling. Unfortunately unless you understand Spanish you will most likely have to see the film twice to get the full experience. Spanish is spoken so quickly that to read the subtitles you need to focus at the bottom of the screen and miss the animation. Nevertheless, any experience of this film is a positive one.

Wind Up Memories – Adriana Copete. Oddly eerie ode to grandparents and preserving memories. I’m not sure whether it is a cultural thing in South America to be subtle about looking into your family’s history, but that is definitely the impression this pencil and stop-motion animation portrays.

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Pinchaque, The Colombian Tapir – Caroline Attia-Lariviere. Cute and quirky nature documentary about a rare animal in Colombia, the mountain tapir. If more documentaries were made like this, with engaging animation, cute characters, and the ability to be narrated in different languages, the world would be a more knowledgeable place.

Chile Imaginario – Claudio Diaz. Powerful assault on the senses; this is a Chilean protest film that carries a strong message about life in Chile in a very in-your-face manner. It begins with voices overlapping voices that project the message “Chile, you suck. Get your act together!” What proceeds is several monologues of Chilean citizens and their experience growing up in Chile. Not one of the 1200+ seconds that make up this film has stillness; there is always something happening whether one of the characters is talking or the flamboyant colours in the background are shimmering. The film doesn’t allow you to look away; it has a message and it wants you to understand it. The film does end on a positive note saying that Chilean life is improving but still has some way to go. A film of this technical ability that has a strong message without completely trashing its subject is how you successfully get your word out.

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MIAF 2014 DAY 4: International Program #2, South American Showcase #1: Style Guide

24 Jun

International Program #2

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The second of the competition programs. In the 5 years I have attended MIAF this would have to be one of the best single sessions of anything I have ever seen. Normally about half the films I tend to forget shortly after seeing them as they leave little to no impression on me, but all 12 films from this program genuinely had something going for it whether it told an interesting story, was visually stunning, had its own unique style, or was out-of-this-world crazy. It was tough, but these are my top picks:

Na Ni Nu Ne No No – Manabu Himeda. Here is your typical Japanese craziness which I adore; however, this film was for some reason edited for MIAF. Na Ni… is normally split into three parts though MIAF only showed the first which involves human bodies with the Japanese characters as heads who dance around until Nu dies, but then comes back to life and dances some more. The crowd still loved it though I wish they could have seen the other two parts as well as the delightful intro to the film.

Resistant Soul – Simone Mass. Beautifully illustrated Italian pencil animation highly affected by war. Mostly black and white with a tiny bit of colour, but full of power.

Big Hands Oh Big Hands, Let It Be Bigger And Bigger – Lei Lei. I love watching Lei Lei’s films. Any artist who has a distinct style to them is commendable in my books, but Lei Lei’s films are so full of colour, humour and flow with a lot of excitement. They almost have this conveyor belt feel to them, and Big Hands… is no exception. Complete with a chorus by Chinese primary school students, these workers at a confectionary factory increase their productivity by having enormous hands.

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Land – Masanobu Hiraoka. The best film of the session; this colourful and full of life computer animation is breath takingly beautiful. Not much can be said in terms of story as there isn’t really one there, but it’s so damn beautiful to watch that I will let the film speak for itself.

Wee Willie Winkie – Yusuke Sakamoto. There were a few films in this session that left the audience with a “WTF?” kind of feeling, but nothing more than this film. This beautifully illustrated Japanese film involves a man beating a giant crawfish on the head in the middle of a city street while protesters look on, a man having breakfast with a sexually desirable life-sized fried egg with women’s legs wearing high heels who ultimately turns him into a bird, and a recurring street mime-type person who gazes into the city until he takes a huge bite out of it. Yeah.

 

South American Showcase #1: Style Guide

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Going into this session I was quite sure I had never seen any South American animation before (not including Disney’s The Three Caballeros. Which I don’t even know the amount of South American contribution); a problem easily solved by this festival. By the end I just wanted more. This wasn’t only because I love the Spanish and Portuguese languages, nor did these films have a definite defined style they could call their own, but because they were all interesting. I know that seems like a very general term to use, but it’s the most suitable one – all these films were interesting in their own way that made me want more. Luckily there are two more chances in this festival to get more. Happy days. My top picks were:

Carne – Carlos Alberto Gomez Salamanca. Morbid black & white film combining paint and scratch techniques to produce all-round creepy vibes. The ambient soundtrack and sound effects add to the slaughterhouse feel. And now I am hungry.

At The Opera – Juan Pablo Zaramella. Another film made so perfect by its simplicity. At only one minute in length we see an assortment of audience members in an auditorium crying while beautiful operatic vocals can be heard. More people cry until we see the stage where there is a choir of singing onions.

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Passages – Luis Paris. Beautiful black & white animation watching a cyclist ride through his neighbourhood. Accordion music accompanies this beautifully serene film.

The Me Bird – Gabriel Kempers, Maria Ilka Azedo. I loved this film from the first nanosecond that my eyes were physically able to comprehend light and images. This is cut-out animation on steroids. Made of up over 3,500 cut-out images, every image we see shrinks into the background and is replaces by a new one giving the illusion of movement. The movements are of a ballerina dancing, and dance has never impressed me this much before. If this film does not impress you then animation is absolutely not your thing, simple as that.

MIAF 2014 DAY 3: Sacrebleu Showcase & Paris Programs Launch

23 Jun

Vast amounts of the world’s best animation comes from France. Sacrebleu Productions is a French animation company that produces a lot of France’s amazing animation of all styles. The one common quality of the films in this showcase is beauty. In their own way, each one of these films is beautiful to watch. The best films of the session:

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Where Dogs Die – Svetlana Filippova. Gorgeous sand animation about the eerie way that animals always seem to be the first to know about tragedies. This film looks stunning. And when you consider that a single sneeze could ruin an hour’s work it makes you appreciate the film even more.

My Little Brother From The Moon – Frederic Philibert. Very sweet drawn animation about a little autistic boy that is told through the eyes of his slightly older sister. What makes this film so adorable is that it tells the story of a child who is clearly different, and his sister realises this, but instead of fearing him or feeling sorry for him she does what she can to understand him; and it is all narrated by a young French girl.

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Moi – Ines Sedan. Interesting film about gender confusion and eventual realisation; it involves a man who has a woman inside him, then a whole bunch of women and men dance together and the woman breaks out and all seems right. The black & white cut-out animation works perfectly with the film’s theme.

A Blue Room – Tomasz Siwinski. My perception of this film is a man in a room who is reflecting over his life during a near-death experience. He is dwelling on his regrets and considering what he would have done differently. Even if this isn’t the exact story, even if you are unable to find a story here it doesn’t matter because the painted animation and string instrument score make this film too beautiful to look away from.

MIAF 2014 DAY 2: Australian Showcase, International Program #1, Late Night Bizarre

23 Jun

Australian Showcase

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The most important session of the festival to us Aussies; Australia never fails to impress me with its vast array of styles and storytelling techniques. I cannot stress this enough: here is something this country does so well that it simply needs as much support and exposure as it can get. 19 films made up this year’s Australian Showcase. It’s going to be tough picking a winner from this bunch; nevertheless here are my top picks:

Love the Way You Move: Slightly Off Centre – Aaron McDonald, Ben Ommundson. Fantastic music video involving a Soviet research team experimenting with shoes that turn people funky and give them sweet dance moves.

The Elephant’s Garden – Felix Colgrave. This is my pick for best Australian film this year. It is a totally psychedelic observation of nature from another universe. Full of colour, imagination, and an experimental soundtrack; this is why I love animation.

Second Chance – Chris Busuttil. Exceptionally cool neo-noir involving a criminal, Edmund, presumably a hitman with many regrets, adapting to everyday suburban life. The use of colour in this film is very clever. Edmund and his house are shades of grey whereas the outside world is full of colour. Every time Edmund gets a taste of the everyday world colour spills into him. The voice acting is also very well done, which can be the difference between a film succeeding and failing (unfortunately The Duck fails in this respect).

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Teagan – Igor Coric, Sheldon Lieberman. The touching true story of a transgender male going through his transition to become a woman. It is narrated by Teagan Thisby Young, the film’s subject. You can actually feel the pain in her voice while talking about her past and the relief she felt when she finally became a woman. The watercolour animation style aids the emotion of the film.

Bless You – Phillip Watts. Gorgeous little film meshing several different animation styles like traditional drawn animation, to cut-out to, to CGI; we are introduced to God who is creating Melbourne CBD in the style of SimCity. And then exactly like SimCity god creates a Godzilla-type creature and puts it in the middle of the city. Of course Godzilla happens to be adorable, but then he jumps on a chilli factory, god sneezes and the city is demolished. This all happens in 90 seconds. So simple, so great.

 

International Program #1

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The first session of the competition programs and what a way to start. This session was full of memorable films all for different reasons. The best ones were:

Sonata – Nadia Micault. I already brought this film up in my last post but it deserves another mention because it is so visually stunning.

Choir Tour – Edmunds Jansons. Quirky little Latvian film about a school choir on your. The minimalist look and the use of the choir as one rubbery blob with many faces makes this film stand out. The icing on the cake is how it finishes with an actual choir performing for the film.

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To This Day – Shane Koyczan. Incredibly powerful poem about identity and self belief translated into film in the most amazing way possible: through all styles of animation. 2D, 3D, CGI, stop-motion, collage, montage, cut-out, claymation, everything you can think of. The mesh of styles fits perfectly with the film’s topic of those who struggle and survive at school. The message is that beauty is within all of us; that we cannot dwell on the words of others; that we need to stay strong in the toughest of times. The many styles of animation, the story told through the poem, and the passion in the narrator’s voice makes this one of the most powerful films I have ever seen and is my pick for Best of the Festival.

Plug and Play – Michael Frei. The experience of watching this film is very much like watching a David Lynch film; you can tell there is a lot there even if you can’t make sense of it. The whole film is black and white with two hands, a light switch, two computerised voices, and a few people who have plugs or sockets for heads. Sounds simple, so why am I so desperate to see it again?

 

Late Night Bizarre

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Oh yes, the might Late Night Bizarre, the cult classic of the animation festival that has taken on a life of its own. You come to this session you know you’re not going to be the same coming out. It will either damager you or make you popular among your friends for having something to show them.

Cowpokes Livin’ On The Edge – John Akre. Simple cut-out animated song packed with dry humour about three cowboys who have camped too close to a cliff’s edge. The deep, monotonous vocals really drive it home.

Trusts and Estates – Janette Bonds. True stuff is the funniest. This film is an actual overheard conversation between four businessmen at a restaurant who do nothing but talk shit to each other. It’s one of those hilariously crass conversations that sometimes we wish we could record to remember the awesome burns we deliver to our friends.

Mister Super Juicer – Aaron Peeples. An infomercial about the greatest wet liquid, a time machine, a god, a lover, a miniature golden lighthouse with an infinite smile. I am of course talking about ‘juice’. I wish all infomercials were as delightfully psychotic as this one; TV would be so much better.

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Doctor Lollipop – Aliki Grafft. Fantastic spoof of the old Disney films involving singing woodland animals. Doctor Lillopop is a unicorn doctor who needs to perform surgery on a dinosaur who has eaten too many talking animals. Beautifully animated and hilariously executed this was no doubt a crowd favourite.

Rabbitland – Ana Nedeljkovic, Nikola Majdak Jr. Satirical stab at pretty much all politics. The pink rabbits have no brains, just holes in their heads, so they are always happy. Every day they have an election where they must vote, but only ever for the same group of evil girls. Some don’t make it back alive, but this is still a happy day in Rabbitland. The political satire comes from brainwashing, rigged elections, dictatorship, bending the truth, suppression, pick your favourite.

Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) 2014

20 Jun

Ahoy film fans! It’s that time of year again to celebrate the eclectic art form of animation. For the next 10 days animation will be filling ACMI cinemas in Melbourne’s Federation Square; and I’m talking REAL animation. The kind of animation you have not seen but absolutely should. This is a unique film festival in the way that the screening session are made up of a compilation of around 10-18 short films with a particular topic or theme. These topics can range from the competition films (which are in the running for the best of the festival), to national focuses (this year being France and South America), to studio focuses (this year being Canada’s Quickdraw Animation Society and France’s Sacrebleu Productions), to technique focuses, to a special screening for children (which I made an effort to see every year, being the big kid that I am).

Last night I attended the Opening Night gala screening, with complimentary sparkling wine. I felt so fancy. The purpose of the Opening Night is to get a taste of what the festival will be serving. The opening film was the incredibly beautiful Sonata directed by one of the festival’s special guests, Nadia Micault from France. Her film is a modern spin of the rotoscoping technique of animating popularised by Disney’s feature films. We then saw a couple of Australian films from the competition programme which are always so special to watch because contrary to what many may think, Australian animation is quite impressive and well worth a watch. Following these were some more foreign films, a film from the kid’s programme, the token abstract film, and some humorous CGI.

MIAF really is something special. It is supposedly the third largest animation festival in the world. Why not help it reach that number 1 spot? If it’s not as great as I’m making it sound, feel free to hurl abuse at me.

Check out the website for more info.

Roger Moore and Sean Connery Sit Down to Review Thunderball

29 Nov

The Bond saga continues…

Roger Moore and Sean Connery Sit Down to Review Moonraker

16 Oct

Simon Godfrey invites Sirs Roger Moore & Sean Connery to watch and review Moonraker. Via simongodfrey.co

Review: Stories We Tell (2013

9 Sep

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By Patricia Tobin

Stories We Tell follows Canadian writer/director Sarah Polley in uncovering her very own family secrets. Following her mother’s death when she was eleven, Polley started growing close to her father, retired British actor Michael Polley.  Her parents’ tumultuous relationship was an open secret, and Polley soon discovers the truth behind her mother’s extramarital affairs that might change her life forever.

Polley’s investigation behind her family history includes interviews with relatives and close friends, and re-created home movies footage, shot on Super-8. This blend of actual interrogation and fictional sequences reveals not only the multiple versions a story often consists of, but also the idiosyncratic nature of human beings. The interviews showcase Polley’s earnest siblings giving candid anecdotes, but sometimes opposing views on their parents’ relationship. The fictional home movies are certainly nostalgic – they help give audience members a chance to imagine what really happened, and is perhaps, also a mechanism for Polley to cope with the past. In addition, Polley‘s father, Michael, provides the voiceover narration of his own personal account, and Polley deliberately includes scenes of her father rehearsing the lines. This fusion of the real and the not-real plays with the fleeting nature of truth and memory, and questions just which account could be trusted. Furthermore, this interweaving of juxtaposing scenes recognises that all the different sides of any story are just so human.

Polley’s deeply personal tale encapsulates the core elements of every family – love, unity, and unconditional acceptance.  It acknowledges certain issues of belonging and aspects of identity as well, but the subject of family eventually becomes overshadowed by the notion of storytelling.

The most striking feature of Stories We Tell is Polley’s assertive authorship that shines in every scene. Throughout the documentary, her careful and calculated editing is highly evident – after all, she pieces together her family history to form a compelling narrative. Her authorial voice is firm and it is never lost amongst the numerous voices. This highly conscious, metafictional quality of the film gives rise to her own side of the story.

Stories We Tell is heart-warming and poignant, using intimate tales to present a film that appeal to all. As a documentary about storytelling, Polley’s discourse of intimacy and authenticity has a distinctly human feel. Polley is not afraid to reveal personal vulnerabilities and aspects about infidelity. Ultimately, Stories We Tell draws from the age-old tradition of storytelling. Narratives bring families together, or even apart, but most of all, it moulds individuals to who they are today.

Patricia Tobin is a full-time university student and a part-time marathon napper. She writes theatre reviews for ArtsHub and sub-edits for Lot’s Wife. She tweets at @havesomepatty, and writes about film at http://screenappeals.wordpress.com.

Review: The East (2013)

3 Sep

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By Patricia Tobin

The East is an environmental espionage thriller that presents an intriguing and daringly innovative mystery. Co-writer/actress Brit Marling stars as an undercover spy, code-named “Sarah Moss”, who infiltrates The East, an eco-terrorist collective. Led by the charismatic, saint-like figure Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), The East leads a bohemian lifestyle, practicing freeganism and bizarre practices of cleaning each other. At the same time, the group ruthlessly plots against heartless corporations who poison rivers and profit from lethal drugs.

 

The East is perhaps not a typical thriller per se, but it does have an underlying tone of suspense throughout. The film effortlessly retains the audience’s attention, anticipating the collective’s next move. In addition, The East’s excellent pacing injects a certain infectious vigour that propels the story forward. On the other hand, the film gradually manoeuvres towards the drama terrain with glimpses of character backstories and an unnecessary romance. Predictably enough, Marling and Skarsgård exchange longing stares that quickly become tiresome.

 

The crisp colours that represent the cold, corporate climate and the warm undertones that belong to the hippie lifestyle of The East eventually become indistinguishable. Co-writer/director Zal Batmanglij deliberately interweaves sequences from the different societies with abrupt cuts, to form an unforgiving world filled with madness, vengeance and brutality. It is easy to see which side Batmanglij leans towards, but The East rejects any clear indication for a good-versus-evil dichotomy. Ultimately, the film favours the underdog, but it dares to show the startling consequences of bearing an anti-corporate message.

 

Marling portrays Moss as a clever and resourceful agent, but her reasons behind her actions are highly unclear. At one point, she half-jokingly asks her boyfriend, “Why do I have this job?”. Her motivations are never addressed again, but Marling’s likeability and sharp acting skills attempt to make up for this oversight. Similarly, Skarsgård’s trademark broodiness and moral ambiguity is oddly charming as well. The supporting cast is decent too ¡ª Ellen Page’s Izzie is a radical extremist who has daddy issues and Tony Kebbell’s Doc is the team medic who struggles with his own dark past.Lastly, Patricia Clarkson stars as Moss’s stern-faced boss; her icy tone and glacial demeanour certainly gives a lasting impression.

 

It is easy to dismiss The East for its cumbersome cliches, the romantic storyline is redundant and regrettably, there is a token black guy in the group. However, the film’s immensely gripping storyline is irrefutably engrossing. The East boldly presents strikingly modern ethical dilemmas, and its refreshing take on an often overlooked topic in Hollywood should definitely be rewarded.

Patricia Tobin is a full-time university student and a part-time marathon napper. She writes theatre reviews for ArtsHub and sub-edits for Lot’s Wife. She tweets at @havesomepatty, and writes about film athttp://screenappeals.wordpress.com.

MIFF 2013: Bastards

14 Aug

By Brent Morrow

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French master Claire Denis’ latest launches into being a frame-spanning gush of water, with odd drops catching light as if specks and scratches on a particularly worn film print. Denis and regular DP Agnès Godard’s approach is as filmic as ever, despite having shot Bastards on the digital Red Epic, allowing for a murkier palette of grey-browns and as low lighting as possible to flatter the seediness of its world. The nocturnal deluge continues, reflected on the walls aside a pacing man and an unmarked envelope, then drowning a crime scene we learn is his suicide. A young woman wearing only heels wanders stupefied down a cobbled street. Denis elliptically feels her way into the mood, the narrative, seducing an active and attentive viewer, and probably baffling or boring a lazy one. Neither viewer will have to work as hard as for the overwhelming L’intrus, as Bastards sits closer to White Material and Trouble Every Day on the temporal/metaphorical ambiguity level. With this film it’s essential to ponder on how the quasi-detective fiction, puzzle-like manner plays on one’s associative reading of the narrative.

We wonder if the man killed himself unable to bear with some harm done to the girl (Lola Créton), or conversely if her incident somehow resulted from his death in nihilistic grief. The “answer” such as it is will for some time obscure that connection before becoming a good deal more complicated and disturbing than your mind could have inferred. This opening is not so removed from the subjectivity of Beau Travail and White Material in which the main characters seem to reflect upon their transformative experiences while riding public transport, informing the diegesis. That is, we could be privvy to the images conjured by Vincent Lindon’s navy merchant as he attempts to make sense of the shocking but vague details giving to him by his sister about her family’s recent traumas.

From here we assume Lindon seeks revenge on the wealthy tycoon (a Mabuse-like Michel Subor) whose money-lending is to blame for the aforementioned suicide of Lindon’s brother-in-law. This “revenge”, while not revealed to be a false lead (he stays at the apartment next to Subor, after all, and is shown Googling articles about the man), is at least distracted by or refracted as an affair with Subor’s young wife (Chiara Mastroianni), and in classic noir fashion (think Chinatown), turns drastically hopeless. Here, too, a vision of Mastroianni and police coming across her son’s wrecked bike in the woods, wedged between shots of Lindon lying in bed. His imagination predicting the revenge? An actual flash-forward? The narrative only approaches this again when Subor returns home with the boy to retrieve the bike. Denis allows us to now suspect Subor, or else an accident. Misdirection, perhaps, but it’s in the sowing of those seeds of viewer mistrust that Denis’ ambiguity makes good on the noir premise, and the title.

If Denis’ films are about the push and pull of family, the bittersweet or traumatic transition between homes (Friday Night, quite literally), Bastards follows suit. Lindon, beckoned back, attempts to clean up the mess out of some obligation to his family—yet he had eloped to the seas years prior, escaping them. His actions throughout the film are thus rather aloof, in self-interest, and ultimately he finds himself at odds with everybody. Mastroianni is tempted away from her comfortable family life by the masculine but benevolent presence of the sailor—demonstrated in one vintage moment of Denis sensuality in which she (both shes) gazes at the contours of Lindon’s muscled back beneath his shirt—before resolutely affirming her position come the end. And Créton presumably rebels via dangerous sexuality, but perhaps she is in fact obedient, masochistically so—the rotten fruit of bourgeois depravity. Denis customarily works with close-ups (so often here profiles meeting the edge of the frame with an ear centrally composed), barely visible faces we must cling to for all the uncertainty. Yet Créton remains impenetrable to us; one earnest declaration of love aside, she is entranced by Dionysian youth. Tindersticks take a cue from her: their score is a hypnotic stir of pleasure, ruin, and menace, more than crucial in establishing the film’s mood.

Bastards could be taken to task for its ultimately lurid content, where contrastly the non-hyperbolic universality of 35 Rhums and the microcosmic reality to the violence of White Material rise above. A metaphorical reading, the central family as symbolic of the aforementioned “bourgeois depravity”, may be too vague. Nonetheless, one can not ignore the ebb and flow of perturbing, violent films with the lighter, more tender efforts that make up Denis’ oeuvre (it is more accurate to say each film contains a complex combination of those extremes). Bastards is likely the most accomplished of her darker films, if for no other reason than the now-expert fractured assemblage of beguiling images towards a disquieting atmosphere and final impression. This is exciting cinema.

Brent Morrow watches A LOT of films and writes about them at Technicolor Red (http://bmtr.wordpress.com/).