Oct 9, 2013

NYFF: The Bad And The Ugly

We're almost 3/4 of the way through our movie marathon, and this year's edition of the Festival has been a little lackluster, in our humble opinion. 

We've seen a bunch of duds, starting with the silly, humorless Real, by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a movie for 14 year-olds without a shred of lightness or wit. It's a science fiction romance about a young woman in a coma, and her boyfriend, who is allowed to roam her mind. The premise is fantastic and full of interesting possibilities. The movie is great to look at, with a crisp, stylish use of CGI, and it has some good creepy moments. Being inside someone else's mind is not necessarily a walk in the park. I fail to understand how it made to the festival. It's not a good sign when the audience claps thinking the movie is thankfully over and laughs when it insists on going on. This is one instance where a smarter remake is in order.

I hated Bastards, Claire Denis' exploitative, sordid, gratuitous, sloppy movie. I surmise she set out to make the film noir to end all noirs, some sort of depraved version of Chinatown, and, as far as I'm concerned, it did not pan out. Her brilliant contribution is to think she can intersperse bits of plot out of sequence, but this is not only disorienting, it's confusing and makes no sense.  
Bastards is a visually and spiritually ugly movie, with a puerile, simplistic wish to disgust disguised as an attack on capitalism (major yawn), a flimsy plot and otherwise dignified actors like Vincent Lindon (only good thing in the movie) and Chiara Mastroianni trying to impart coherence to barely sketched out characters.
It's a good story. A ship captain, estranged from his wealthy family, comes to shore to help his relatives at a difficult juncture and unravels a web of human depravity: a classic tale of diving into the darkest pits of the underworld. But nothing is believable. Instead, Bastards is some sort of pretentious intellectual exploration of genre. Plus, every time I see Lola Creton and her insufferable pout onscreen, I want to strangle her.
There are very few times when I want to unsee a movie, when a movie so pollutes my consciousness, that I want to scrub my brain with lye. This is one of those times. And it's not that what disgusts me is the trite revelation of depravity that Denis taunts the audience with for two hours and saves like a dog salivating over a bone towards the end; it's the utter lack of empathy, grace or genuine human feeling. That, and the terribly cheesy music, vulgar and in bad taste, like the rest of the movie. It made me gag.
The fact that Bastards was made by a woman doesn't make it any less prurient and exploitative. This movie is the equivalent of watching an exhibitionist fondle his dick in public. There is no meaning, only self-absorption and the perverse wish to molest.

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