It’s 40 years since Chinatown reinvigorated film noir with more explicit representations of violence and cynicism. Claire Denis’ contribution to neo noir, based in part on William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, foregrounds male complicity with the darkness of the genre. If, in classic noir, the femme was the ‘mame to blame’, here men are – in the main – scumbags of the highest order. This is even mostly true of our protagonist, moodily played by Vincent Lindon who, at least, seems to be motivated by goodness.
I found the plot typically noirish, it had me peering into the dark to fathom what was going on; my viewing partner, however, had no such problem. But then maybe her gender, female, meant it made sense to her. I’ll try not to ‘spoil’ but my first reaction was the the depraved coda was unnecessary as we already knew what had happened. In retrospect I think Denis was right to include it; it was more, I think, I just didn’t want to see it at the time having been mired in the darkness of Bastards for 100-odd minutes. Now, it makes sense to have done so.
Denis’ films are always worth seeing and can be one of the view directors that can be considered an auteur; a point made by Roy Stafford in his introduction to the film. Roy was launching his excellent The Global Film Book which I can recommend to anyone interested in cinema.