Claire Denis (France, 1946), the daughter of a French diplomat, was
raised in the French colonies of West Africa.
She debuted with a film about African colonialism,
S'en Fout la Mort/ No Fear No Die (1990) marked the first collaboration with actor Alex Descas.
J'ai pas Sommeil/ I Can't Sleep (1994) is a thriller with many layers
of meaning, presented via parallel stories that slowly converge towards
a rational, linear narrative. It deals with the milieu of the gay subculture,
the plight of poor immigrants, the drama of lonely elderly people,
and, in general, the deadly uncontrolled chaos that lurks behind the apparent
robotic order of a rich modern society.
The three main characters are outsiders moving in different directions:
one just arrived and wants to stay and succeed, one wants to go back to his
country, and one is a criminal who is doomed to spend the rest of his life
in this country but in jail.
The murders themselves are largely a footnote in the film. We understand
that there is a serial killer on the loose, and that this is related to the
story, only well into the film. The killings are not the center of the film
but a peripheral phenomenon.
Denis seems largely indifferent to the fate
of the victims, who are all "outsiders" in their own native society
(useless, isolated, abandoned to die alone).
There is an eerie power in the way Denis discloses what is happened
in a circumstantial manner, letting us wonder what is happening before
The first scene is like a metaphor for what follows: two cops are flying a
helicopter over the city in the fog and laughing nonstop.
A young attractive woman, Daiga, is driving an old Soviet car into Paris
while casually smoking a cigarette. Other drivers can't stop looking at the
old car. Meanwhile, the radio talks about the series of gruesome killings of
lonely elderly women. In fact, we soon see a dead body eaten by flies inside
a dark apartment, and the cleaning lady that will soon discover it while
washing the floor in front of the door. Daiga stops at a cafe and parks
illegally in front of it. She tries to reach a relative by phone. When she
walks out, two cops lecture her about parking properly. She tells them
that she's coming from Lithuania.
We are then introduced to two black brothers. One, Theo, has a little child and
clearly doesn't like the other one, Camille (a female name)
who is wearing women's stockings.
Daiga waits for her old aunt Ira who is delighted
to see her and is happy to help her find a place to stay in Paris.
Ira takes Daiga to visit a friend, Vassia. Vassia doesn't have a room for Daiga
but sends them to a common friend, Dushka, who runs a hotel.
Theo brings the child to visit his white mother, Mona,
who lives in a nice apartment.
Dushka offers Daiga a room in the hotel in exchange for work as a maid.
Camille and his white lover stay in the same hotel and haven't paid rent
in a while. Dushka pretends to be angry at them but they are nice to her
and she forgives them.
Camille and his white lover are also involved in drug dealing.
Daiga sees Camille and his white lover hugging naked.
Daiga walks in the streets and is followed by a cop who wants to flirt with
her. To lose him, she walks into a movie theater that is showing a pornographic
movie and laughs loud at the scenes.
Meanwhile, Theo and the child get ready to sleep on the roof of Mona's
multi-story building. Mona leaves her apartment and joins them and sleeps
next to the child in the cold. Theo and Mona can't get along because
Theo wants to go back to Martinique with the child.
Camille works as an entertainer, dressed like a drag queen, in a gay club.
Then we see the dead woman in the morgue while the radio talks about her
killing, one in a long series of unsolved killings of elderly women.
Daiga gets an appointment with a producer, hoping to get a part in a movie,
but instead the producer is only interested in having sex with her.
A newspaper talks about 190 cops hunting for the serial killer.
Camille visits Theo and Mona but leaves without asking what he wanted.
Theo meets him later and gives him money, but Camille still doesn't tell
him what bothers him.
Mona tells her sister that she had another fight with Theo over Martinique
and the sister is not surprised.
Camille's lover wants to quit.
Camille and his white lover follow an old lady home, then they coldly kill her
and look for valuables in her apartment. A delivery boy rings the bell a few
minutes later and we know that he will find the body. We see the body moving:
the lady is alive. Later Camille's white lover enter another old woman's
apartment and let Camille kill her.
Meanwhile Daiga cleans Camille's room and finds all the pictures of the
drag-queen. The old lady is hospitalized and is able to describe the attackers
to the police. Camille joins a birthday party for his mother. Theo and the
child are there. Camille dances with his mother. Later Camille's white lover
leaves the hotel without saying a word and we see Camille with a new lover.
Daiga tries to sell her Soviet car to a collector of Soviet things. Vassia
translates while the buyer test-drives the car. At one point Daige spots
the producer in a sport car, takes the wheel and rams her car into the
producer's car, repeatedly. The producer, however, takes responsibility
and tells the police that it was his fault. Vassia and Ira have to go to
the police station to help Daiga be released. Vassia senses that the car
may be stolen. At the police station Daiga sees a poster of two wanted men
who look like Camille and his lover (clearly the reconstruction created
thanks to the victim who survived). We are not told whether she tells
the police that she recognized the killers. Daiga follows Camille in the street
for a while. They enter the same cafe and he even buys her a drink, but then
leaves without saying a word. Daiga walks back to the hotel and we see that
a police car have been following them.
Mona steals the child from Theo while Theo is playing violin in a night-club.
The cops arrest Camille, who readily confess to all the murders,
and later the cops also bring in Theo and their mother.
Meanwhile, Daiga walks into Camille's room and searches it. She finds a bag
full of money and takes it.
Camille's mother is devastated. Camille and Theo don't exchange a word as
Camille is taken away in handcuffs. The cops also arrest Camille's white
lover and accomplice.
Meanwhile, Daiga is driving away with the money.
Nenette et Boni (1996) is a coming-of-age drama that centers on two siblings from a broken family: one will transition from an obscene fantasy to a responsible reality, while the other will transition from lonely desperation to real family bonds.
Two disturbing youths have found psychological balance and a meaning in life.
A white man is trying to sell fake phone cards to a group of black people.
(How this relates to the main story will never be explained in the film).
A young man drives around at high speed as if he's looking for someone and almost runs over a woman. At home
Boni, a pizza chef, reads a delirious manifesto that he wrote, mostly
fantasizing about a female neighbor who runs a bakery, and partly about
his status as a man without parents because his mother died and his father
abandoned them when he was a child.
He grabs a shotgun and aims it at cats.
He helps a friend unload fishing rods from Taiwan, and the friend gifts him
a coffee maker.
At night he falls asleep fantasizing about the baker.
He is woken up in the morning by the noise of the coffee maker.
The scammer of the first scene takes pictures of used phone cards in a train station.
A girl gets off the train, and eats breakfast on a bench.
Later, Boni sees her sitting in the street but ignores her.
Boni and friends drive away in a van to sell pizzas.
Boni visits the bakery to stare at the sexy baker but also has to witness her husband kissing her.
The girl, Vanessa, talks to Boni's friend who is using his place to work on his
car, and gets him to pay for her breakfast.
Boni and friends make pizzas out of the van, then drive home at night.
Boni breaks the window of the baker and runs away.
His friend tells Boni that he met a strange girl.
When he's almost asleep, the girl, Vanessa/ Nenette, shows up.
It's his sister and she argues that she is in her mother's house.
Boni reproaches her for never visiting their mother when she was dying.
He kicks her out, then resumes his erotic fantasies about the baker.
The following morning he realizes that his sister read his erotic fantasies and fights with her.
She tells him that she is pregnant and ran away from their father.
She refuses to tell him who got her pregnant.
She sleeps at his place even if he doesn't invite her, insisting that it is her mother's home.
His friends are surprised to learn that he has a sister.
Meanwhile, their father Felix is worried about Nene's disappearance.
A friend tells him that he gave Boni his pizza van so he could start a career.
Boni forces Nene to see a gynecolost. She would like to get an abortion but the doctor thinks it's too late.
Their father shows up, looking for Nene. Boni sends him away threatening to kill him.
Nene tells Boni that she wants to kill the baby when he's born. Boni slaps her in the face.
Boni stalks the baker while she is shopping, she sees him and she's happy to see him and they have a drink at a cafe. (This could be real or imaginary)
Later he makes a pizza as if he was making love to her.
His father returns to visit Boni, bringing a box of food and trying to explain
why he abandoned him, but Boni doesn't forgive.
Their father begs in vain Nenette to come home to him,
but she doesn't even open the door of her room.
The father leaves telling them that they are always welcome to move in with him.
Nenette wants to give birth anonymously and have the child adopted by
another family, but Boni gets furious.
She tries to provoke the abortion in the bathtub but almost kills herself
and Boni saves her. Boni then listens to the foetus in her belly.
He imagines shooting his father in the face.
Boni prepares the house for the new baby, but Nenette packs her bag
and walks to the hospital alone, determined to give birth anonymously.
Boni tries in vain to enter the hospital room.
After giving birth, she weeps but doesn't want to see the baby.
Boni buys flowers at the market, returns to the hospital hiding his gun in the
flowers and steals the baby at gunpoint.
Boni takes the baby home and treats him like his own baby.
At the hospital Nenette is indifferent to what is happening.
In the last scene she is calmly smoking a cigarette.
Beau Travail (1999), about the French Legionnaires, with Agned Godard's
cinematography, is one of her best, certainly the best from a visual viewpoint.
The first ten minutes are visually striking.
While very simple, the story is told in a sort of enigmatic way, leaving motives
unexplained and even the conclusion unseen (will he kill himself? will the other man survive?)
The narration indulges in photographing group movements, and in a sense the
film is a ballet, in which the dance continues outside the night-club with the
training and marches of the soldiers.
It is mostly a psychological study of
the turbulent soul of lonely people living meaningless lives.
The film opens in a dance-club of Djibouti: it's an allegorical scene in which
the protagonist is dancing with his girlfriend while a young handsome soldier (who will turn out to be the cause of his downfall) walks by them.
But then the film quickly shifts to a military
base in the desert, where a group
of French legionnaires are standing up in the sun as an endurance test.
We then see water and a hand that is writing on a piece of paper.
We finally understand that a retired sergeant,
Galoup, is writing his memoirs of his service in Djibouti
from his home on the Mediterranean.
We see him pruning the trees outside his house remembering a soldier named
Gilles, and he mentions remorse.
Then we see the soldiers training in the heat of Africa under his command.
Local women dressed in traditional costumes watch them amused.
Now we see documentarian scenes of life in the African village.
We are back in Marseilles, where Galoup is doing his laundry and think of his
old commandant Bruno, a bored man without ideal and without ambition, who
drives around with his black chaffeur Ali.
Galoup, instead, calls himself "the perfect legionnaire".
We see a close-up of Bruno lighting a cigarette.
Then again the dance-club. Legionnaires, led by Gilles, walking around lazily at night.
In the morning they
carry a black man and then the black man carries one of the white legionnaires.
Then we see the soldiers doing their laundry in the desert, while Bruno watches them.
A Russian soldier, who joined the Foreign Legion, is learning French words.
We are introduced to
Galoup's girlfriend Rahel, whom we have seen dancing at the disco.
Galoup's voiceover informs us that he was jealous of Gilles because everybody was impressed by him (a repressed homosexual attraction?)
One day a helicopter exploded and plunged in the sea.
Gilles heroically saves one of the soldiers.
The other one dies and we see the funeral by the sea.
Bruno praises Gilles' heroism in front of everybody, which makes Galoup even more jealous.
Galoup tries to raise suspicions about Gilles when he plays chess with Bruno.
Galoup plays snooker with Bruno.
While the story continues, we see snippets of Galoup's life in Marseilles (buying a newspaper, on a train, ...) and we hear his somber confessions.
The soldiers train at the beach and curious villagers watch them from a distance.
Galoup takes them to dig in a rocky landscape.
At night we hear how he keeps thinking of Gilles, how he longs to attack him.
The following day they are again marching in the rocky landscape.
Then they are training in the sea, simulating a landing.
The routine seems rather pointless.
A brief conversation between Bruno and Gilles informs us that
Gilles is an orphan: he was found in a stairwell.
The soldiers keeps working in the rocky wasteland like a chain-gang.
It's ramadan and the locals pray in the mosque.
Galoup keeps a diary and writes about Gilles: "I will destroy you".
One night Galoup discovers that a sentinel has abandoned his post (although it's only to pee) and sentences him to dig a hole under the scorching sunshine with no water. The punishment seems too harsh but Galoup has no mercy.
Gilles brings some water to the pour soul and Galoup stops him. Gilles punches him in the face.
Now Galoup has his chance to destroy Gilles: Galoup drives Gilles far away into
the desert so the young man has to walk back to the barracks using his compass.
However, the compass is broken and Gilles gets lost in the desert.
We see him lying down in the sand.
Since he doesn't return, people assume that he deserted.
But later a soldier recognizes Gilles' compass at the market, and Bruno somehow
guesses that Galoup broke the compass and caused Gilles' death: Galoup's
in the Foreign Legion
is finished and he'll be lucky to avoid court martial.
We now see a flashback in which a caravan stumbles into an unconscious Gilles
and saves him. And then we see a woman giving him water in a bus.
Back to Marseilles, Galoup lies down on his bed staring at his pistol.
A close-up of this his muscles are twitching.
The film than shifts to the night-club where a lonely Galoup dances frantically
Trouble Every Day (2001) is a porno-horror about the sex lives of vampires.
Vendredi Soir/ Friday Night (2002) is an adaptation of
Emmanuele Bernheim's novel.
L'Intrus/ The Intruder (2004), yet another narrative experiment a` la
Christopher Nolan's Memento (2000),
can be an incredibly frustrating experience.
For much of the film what we perceive is a collage of very brief scenes,
most of which seem unrelated to each other. There are
close-ups of arms and legs that hide or delay the view of faces.
Key scenes are shot (by Agnes Godard)
in very dark places where you can't make out what is happening and who is there.
There are close-ups of ordinary objects like a blanket with no follow-up.
There is very little dialog.
The very first scene seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the film.
The puzzle is not only narrative, it is also visual, because the camera lingers
but does not reveal.
A female border guard stops a car. She is training her dog.
At home she has sex with her husband while their baby is crying.
However, little by little the film reconstructs the protagonist's past, present
and, above all, conscience: he is rich, has lived in different parts of the
world, has left behind skeletons in several closets,
lives in seclusion, has a much younger
girlfriend, has a son he doesn't like, is haunted by the way he got his new
heart, and is determined to buy a new heart and a new son, i.e. a new life.
But much of this might be just the work of
a delirious mind that reimagines his life's story, recasting characters he
really met in new roles and with new outcomes.
The "intrudder" of the title may refer to many things: there might indeed
have been an intruder killed at the beginning, or the intruder might be the
new heart inside his body, or the intruder might be the false son that a
village creates for him. Or it can be the protagonist himself, an intruder
both in the virgin mountains and in the virgin islands.
By the shore of a lake in a forested region a naked middle-aged man, Louis,
is enjoying the views in the company of his dogs. When he ventures into the
lake, he almost drowns. His heart is clearly not doing well. Someone is spying
him. Back in his cabin he grabs a gun and then we hear a shot,
but the camera has already moved to show us a meaningless panorama of the lake.
His only company up there is a young female
dog breeder who lives on the other side of a fence.
The same middle aged man is biking on the mountain road. He stops and stares
at something with his binoculars. Back at home he makes love with his much
younger girlfriend. Again, we can tell that his heart is not doing well.
Later we see him cleaning a bloody knife and we see him wrapping the dead body
of a young man.
Meanwhile his girlfriend drove to town and opened her pharmacy.
Louis types a sentence in Russian.
He remembers a coffin and a funeral.
When he goes to town, he is approached by a young man and his wife, who show
a newborn baby. Initially Louis tells them that he doesn't have money but then
he gives them some: they are his son and his daughter-in-law, whom he clearly
does not like.
Louis visits his sexy neighbor to leave her his dog because he's going on
a trip. She makes fun of his craziness. He even tries to touch her sexually.
He starts driving out of the forest, briefly chased by a dog.
He drives the whole night on the unpaved road through forest.
Meanwhile his son and his wife walk in the woods carrying their children.
The handheld camera follows them for a while.
In the middle of the night
Louis sees people jumping out of the woods like they are hiding: more intruders.
He arrives in town early in the morning .
He's all dressed up and, as he
gets out of the car, he shaves.
He picks up something from his safety box at the bank: lots of money.
He moves into an expensive apartment downtown.
There he meets a Russian woman, another young
sexy woman, and gives her the money to buy a young man's heart.
Back in the countryside, the static camera shows a hunting party who
stumble on the same sexy Russian who is smoking a cigarette.
The dogs find something (the corpse of the intruder shot by Louis)
and we hear a shot that scares them.
Louis buys an expensive watch.
Now the scene shifts to a winter landscape. A young man and the sexy Russian
girl ride horses in the snow. They are pulling the body of a man in the snow.
It is Louis, almost dead. He says he already paid. She replies that he has not
paid enough. and this might all be a nightmare.
Louis lies in bed with his new expensive watch and checks his knife.
Back to the winter landscape: a woman (the dog breeder?)
finds the body of a young man under a layer of ice.
She breaks into a cabin (Louis' cabin?) and
takes a bath in front of the fireplace.
Two men with guns carry dead the body out of the iced lake.
A heart is abandoned in the snow, and a young woman is
dead next to it. This, again, looks like a nightmare.
Louis can't sleep in his luxurious apartment. It is snowing on the city.
A short blind old Chinese woman comes to massage him.
He has a long scar on his chest, the remnant of a heart operation.
From the window he can see that the city is covered in snow.
Then the scene changes again. He wakes up, looks outside, and... there is
no snow at all, and in fact it is a sunny day, and from his window he has
a great view of the sea. In the elevator he is surrounded by Chinese people,
which means he is somewhere in China. In the elevator there is also a
Russian couple, the same sexy woman and a young man.
It is a hotel not his apartment.
The camera shows ships in the harbor from odd angles.
Some major celebration is going on.
Louis is there for a formal business meeting. The Chinese businessmen
say that they accept his offer.
They congratulate him for starting a new life at his age.
He says he is doing it for his son.
Later he drinks alone in a humble restaurant. He
walks out drunk with somebody he just met and realizes that the
Russian woman is following him. He yells at her in Russian to leave him alone
because he has a weak heart.
It sounds like this is a flashback to when he went to China to purchase a
new heart. The Russian woman may have been at the service of the Chinese
to find the heart on the black market.
Back in the woods Louis' son enters a cabin (Louis' cabin?) and
finds blood, burned papers and letters from his father. The son
cries reading of father's love.
The scene moves to Tahiti. Louis wants to leave his money to his long lost son.
He lies down in bed and there is no scar on his chest, so it must be before
the heart operation. He takes a
small plane and a motorboat to reach a remote place. He meets a
woman who has a teenage boy. Louis asks her about
Tikki, his son. She tells him that his son does not want to see him and does
not want his money.
The camera shows a young surfer in the ocean.
An older local man, Henri, comes out of a humble shack and meets Louis in
the place where a house used to stand. The two men are old friends.
Louis tell Henri that he has come to find his son. Louis enrolls Henri to
rebuild and resupply the house where he expects to meet his son.
Now we can see the scar on his chest.
The camera shows a storm on a ship and a young man crouching in the rain.
We can't hear his words.
A doctor visits Louis while the native cleans up the trail to his house.
Now we are in a hospital room. Louis
is lying in bed watching two Tahitian nurses,
so he must be sick before the operation.
The natives are digging a grave and mourners are singing around a table.
Now we witness a commission screening young men to pick one to act as
Louis' son, someone who can pass for a white man's son.
This is one of the few scenes that is long enough, in fact too long.
Henri is part of the jury. They can't pick anyone but then a young man named
Toni shows up at Henri's place and he is picked.
From the conversation among the natives it sounds like they literally
don't know which young man could be Louis' son or if such a son ever existed
Henri shows up at the hospital to introduce Toni to Louis. Louis gives him
some money, but the encounter is not emotional at all.
Next, we see Louis at the morgue as they are showing him the corpse of a young
man (who looks a lot like his son in Europe, the one with the babies).
Henri helps Louis carry the coffin to the ship where it is loaded.
The camera indulges in a very long take of the island at dusk as the ship
The last scene shows the dog breeder in a sleigh driven by six dogs
enjoying her ride through the snowy landscape.
35 Shots of Rum (2008),
the story of a middle-aged widower and his adult daughter who live together
in a humble apartment, inspired by Ozu's Late Spring,
marks a return to the atmospheric psychologic cinema of Beau Travail.
White Material (2009), co-written with novelist Marie NDiaye, is one of her best, a family tragedy set in the context of a national tragedy.
The while family has the stigmata of colonialism and is surrounded by black
people who, for one reason or another, don't really want them there.
The family is not involved in the politics of the civil war but their
plantation becomes a battle zone between rebels and government.
In the middle of all this violence, the bigger drama takes place inside
the family: the boy, humiliated by child soldiers, goes mad and basically
joins them, and the mother, who is already mad in her determination to
harvest the coffee, goes even madder when her son is killed, and becomes
murderously mad. The story is told in a style that is as violent and
brutal as the madness of the woman and the violence that she doesn't
want to accept until she becomes part of it. The plantation that she
worked on has become the meaning of her life, and she risks the lives
of all the people around her (workers and family), and ironically she
is the only survivor at the end. Her madness knows no limits.
The difference between her madness and her son's madness is that hers is
a colonist's madness (the plantation has become an existential necessity)
while the son's madness is caused by the humiliation inflicted on the
colonist by rebelling former subjects. Two historical generations go mad in
Africa for two different reasons: first greed and then decline.
A flashlight is exploring the contents of a house in the dark. The flashlight
stops on a dead black man. Soldiers are staring silently. Then they set fire
to the building, and we see that a man is suffocating inside.
Then a flashback begins.
A white woman, Maria, walking on an unpaved road in the savannah,
flags down a truck which is so overcrowded that she has to hang outside
the back. At a checkpoint the soldiers check the documents of the passengers
and she, the only white person, is accused of helping corruption when she
admits that she had to pay a hefty bribe earlier to drive out of her property.
Another flashback shows her happy riding a motorcycle through the savannah.
She finds a uniform and a radio. A
helicopter flies low overhead and shouts a warning that she must leave
immediately, that the French army has already pulled out.
A black man is hiding in the vegetation while soldiers on a jeep are
looking for him. He walks to an abandoned church and finds the body of the
slaughtered priest. He takes a horse and rides through dead bodies.
We learn later that this is a legendary rebel, the Boxer.
Maria remembers when her workers walked out on her, scared of the rebels that
were advancing. The flashback shows her begging them in vain to stay just
a few days until harvest. She runs a coffee plantation and cannot fathom the
idea of wasting all their work now that it's almost time to harvest.
The other white people who live there are an old man, the owner of the
plantation, her son Manuel, and a man of her age, Andre, her lover and the
father of Manuel.
We see the rebels advancing in the savannah, most of them children armed
with machine guns. They find the horse and the man who was riding it, and
they are delighted to recognize the legendary leader called the Boxer.
Maria looks for her son Manuel but instead finds the wounded Boxer.
She hides him and feeds him.
She takes a truck to go look for new workers.
She thinks the panic is ridiculous but everybody else is leaving.
The truck is stopped by an armed gang and that's when Maria pays the hefty bribe.
Maria buys medicines at a pharmacy, and has to pay in dollars instead of the
The pharmacist whispers to her that she should leave.
She tries to speak with the mayor, Cherif, but he refuses to see her.
As she leaves, we see that the mayor is having a meeting with Andre, who is
is trying to sell him the coffee plantation. Andre tells the
mayor that he is doing it to protect Maria from herself:
the plantation is worthless and she could be killed.
The mayor, who is not willing to pay anything for the plantation,
offers Andre an escort to take him to the border.
Maria finds more workers, desperate men who need money. She loads them on
her truck and starts driving back towards the plantation. On the way back
she stops to pick up the son of her maid Elizabeth, Jose, at the local
school. Andre, who is also Jose's father, had the same idea and they meet there.
She tells the workers that she's not the owner, just the manager, but
in her mind she remembers the owner, the old white man, telling her that the plantation is de facto hers.
Elizabeth is happy to see Jose safely back and tells Maria that
Manuel is a lazy useless young man.
In fact, Manuel is still asleep. Maria wakes him up and scolds him.
Manuel walks to the river.
Two kids armed with machete and spear are about to kill him while he is swimming and Andre saves him.
A long-haired dj broadcasts reggae music and talks about the Boxer being alive
Andre tries to talk Maria into returning to France but she gets angry:
she is determined to harvest the coffee.
The two kids with machete and spear enter the house and steal objects.
Manuel sees them and chases them barefoot, but he cut his foot and they
capture him. They cut a flock of his hair and
strip him naked (and presumably rape him). Andre finds him.
Maria gives him a ride on a tractor but Manuel jumps off and disappears.
We see him entering a room, taking a rifle, loading it, and
shaving his head. Then he stuffs his hair into the black maid's mouth
and rides away on Maria's motorcycle.
Meanwhile, Maria is working hard in the field
and finds the head of a goat.
She buries it before anyone can see it.
Andre finds it and accuses her of being insane: it's a deadly threat.
The rebels raid the school where Jose was studying.
Meanwhile Jose's mother Elizabeth leaves on a motorcycle.
Jose climbs to the roof and cuts the electrical wires.
Maria activates the generator and continues to work.
In the evening the workers listen to the radio broadcast about the rebel army.
Andre finds out about Manuel's humiliation of Elizabeth but Maria refuses to believe that Manuel did something so mean.
Manuel is missing.
Andre wants the signature of the old white man to sell the plantation for free
to mayor Cherif. We don't see if the old man accepts to sign.
The workers hear on the radio that she is hiding the Boxer.
They demand to be paid and want to leave.
She opens the safe to pay them but someone has stolen all the money (it is not
clear whether it was Manuel or Elizabeth or Andre).
They force her at gunpoint to drive them home,
but they are stopped by the rebels at the school.
They take the truck and kill an old worker who argues.
Maria walks into the pharmacy and finds the dead bodies of the pharmacists.
Manuel chases them riding a motorcycle and shouting that he knows where the Boxer is.
He leads them to his family's building and helps them steal everything.
The rebels eat the stolen medicines as if they were candies.
Maria asks the bus driver to stop at the plantation but the driver refuses.
And a convoy of soldiers passes by: that is now a war zone.
The convoy is headed for her plantation.
The old white man sees the soldiers enter the property but does not react.
Andre lies dead with their passports in his hands.
The soldiers find the rebels asleep inside and kill them
silently with knives, one by one. Then they set fire to the building
and we see Manuel suffocating inside (the scene of the beginning).
Meanwhile, Maria's bus reaches the terminal. Everybody gets off and Maria
immediately starts looking for a ride to get back to her plantation.
The mayor shows up and gives her a ride.
The building is on fire. The
old white man walks into a room and finds the charred body of Manuel.
Maria is behind him and beats him ferociously with a machete
(presumably to death) either because she has gone mad over the death of
her son or because Cherif just told her that the old man signed the sale
of the plantation and betrayed her promise to her.
One rebel escaped wounded...
Les Salauds/ Bastards (2013) is a psychological thriller that indulges a bit too much in stories about sex but is nonetheless a powerful journey into
the dark recesses of the bourgeoisie, like a cross between Bunuel and Hitchcock.
It feels poorly edited because some of the scenes remain unnecessarily obscure.
We see images of a man alone in a house while it's raining, of a girl
walking naked into the street, and of a
police car and an ambulance around a dead body.
Sandra is summoned at the police station and told that her husband Jacques
committed suicide and left behind a letter.
Sandra is angry with the police because they never investigated her husband's
business partner Eduard. Her brother Marco is the captain of a ship. When she
phones him, he quits his job to travel back to her city.
One month later Marco checks news about Edouard, who is a rich old man with
a young beautiful wife.
(Marco sleeps with a woman and asks her to masturbate him, but it is not clear
who the woman is).
Marco rents an apartment above Edouard's and waits for a chance to meet his
wife Raphaelle. One day he finds her downstairs, and helps her fix the
bicycle of her little boy Joseph.
A flashback shows Sandra desperate as people wearing military uniforms search
in the night for her underage daughter Justine who has disappeared (
resumably it's a flashback, but not very clear).
Marco sees scars on Raphaelle's wrist but she tells him that
she loves "him" (presumably him is her husband).
Marco visits Justine, who is kept in a hospital in some serious physical
and mental situation. The doctor explains that the girl has damaged her
body and mind with alcohol and drugs, and she must have engaged in some
kind of sadomasochistic sex which will require surgery on her vagina.
A flashback shows Justine walking naked in the street.
We learn that Marco has two daughters who live with his ex-wife.
Marco briefly sees his daughter Audrey (an unnecessary scene since she'll
never appear again).
Sandra's lawyer explains to her and Marco that she has 45 days to file
bankruptcy before her husband's creditors will go after her and all her
Jacques was running the shoe factory that Marco and Sandra
inherited from their father.
Marco is angry at Sandra who never told him that business was bad.
Sandra explains that Edouard turned Justine into his sex object.
Marco continues his affair with Edouard's wife Raphaelle.
After a lengthy and pointless sex scene, Marco
withdraws the money of his life insurance.
Then he sells his car to his friend Guy, a former sasilor,
and takes the train to the shoe factory:
nobody works there anymore and
there are shoes everywhere on the floors.
He gives all the money to Sandra.
Sandra gives him a gun and tells him that he will need it.
He and Sandra visit the woman and the man who run the house for private parties
where Justine was taken by Edouard for their private orgies.
Sandra sees that Marco has pawned his watch too.
Raphaelle keeps letting Marco into her bed but also keeps telling him
good things about her old husband.
Two men attack him but he is stronger and survives (thugs sent by Edouard?)
One day Marco takes the elevator with Edouard and Edouard invites him home
to thank him for fixing his son Joseph's bicycle. When Marco leaves,
Edouard tells Raphaelle that he knows that Marco rented a big empty apartment
above theirs. Eduard takes his private jet and Marco sleeps with his wife.
This time in the morning Joseph sees them together.
Justine escapes from the hospital. She has no money and no place to go.
Again, a flashback shows Justine walking naked in the street.
She is bleeding from her vagina.
She is taken into custody by the police.
Marco takes a taxi to the isolate farmhouse of the orgies,
thinking that Justine could be hiding there.
Justine is indeed there but the man and the woman who run the place manage
to leave with her hiding in the back.
Marco tells Guy that he is broke and needs a car, and Guy
gives him back his car.
The man of the farmhouse invites him at a cybercafe and sells him pictures and videos of Justine walking into the farmhouse with Edouard and her father Jacques.
Meanwhile, Edouard takes Joseph and disappears with him.
receives a letter from him: he knows about her affair and he knows
who Marco is and why he came back.
Marco, who has seen that her own father gave Justine to Edouard, confronts
Sandra: she breaks down in tears, a sign that she knew. From what she says
it sounds like they allowed this to happen in return for money to keep the
Then Marco has to face a hysterical Raphaelle who blames him for losing Joseph.
Justine is in the car with the man and woman of the sex house.
She takes over the driving while they nap and then turns the steering wheel so the car crashes, killing herself. (Someone walks through the wreckage but it is
not clear who that is).
Edouard brings Joseph to the apartment so he can pick up his bicycle.
Raphaelle is in Maro's apartment.
Edouard tells Raphaelle that they are moving to another city.
Marco gets into a fight with Edouard.
Raphaelle picks up the gun and shoots Marco deliberately
(presumably a way to choose her husband and son over the lover).
Sandra receives a video from the doctor that show Justine,
her father Jacques, Edouard and another woman. The woman strips Jacques
naked while Jacques
stares at ther naked daughter. Then Jacques hugs his daughter and and picks up
the tool that devastated her vagina.
Edouard is actualy only watching the trio.
Un Beau Soleil Interieur/ Let the Sunshine In (2017) is a tedious if
adaptation of Roland Barthes' text "A Lover's Discourse: Fragments" (1977),
a chamber piece that delves into the psyche of the protagonist but never achieved the kind of depth and power of a Bergman drama.
The middle-aged Isabella is having sex with middle-aged her lover Vincent and she is not enjoying it at all. He's a married banker and he ignores her the whole weekend. When she confronts him, he tells her clearly that he doesn't love her,
he loves his wife, and he only wants sex. He also tells her that her new
business partner, the gallerist Maxime, slept with her ex-husband.
Isabella is divorced with a ten-year-old daughter.
Vincent is arrogant towards a bartender, revealing his obnoxious personality.
Isabella confronts Maxime about Vincent's story and Maxime denies it and laughs it away.
Isabella then falls in love with an actor who is about to leave his wife.
She seduces him even though he is not excited at all. After sex, he regrets it,
tells her that there was no love, and she is left to cry alone again.
Vincent, just back from a business trip, shows up with a bouquet of flowers but
Isabella kicks him out.
There's a neighbor, Mathieu, who keeps inviting Isabella to have dinner with him and spend some days with him in his countryside cabin.
Isabella is instead obsessed with the actor, but he rejects her again, and she
returns home alone, to cry in bed.
Isabella tells a friend that she was turned on by Vincent's sex life, by the
fact that he's a bastard. Now she regrets that she left Francois.
Francois come over and they sleep together but she is offended when she realizes
that he is practicing on her things he has learned from other women.
During a vist to the countryside with colleagues organizing an art festival
Isabella breaks down and insults them.
She spends the evening in a bar where her friend Fabrice, another gallerist, is curious
about her sex life. She dances with a stranger, Sylvain (the song is "At Last"),
and falls in love with him.
She has another argument with Francois: their daughter tells him that Isabella
cries every night.
She has lunch with Fabrice who is still curious about her sex life and criticizes her choice of Sylvain as a lover: Sylvain is poor and uneducated and doesn't belong to her "milieu". Fabrice predicts that they will break up. Isabella talks to Sylvain about Fabrice's opinion and Fabrice feels insulted and walks away.
Her next date is with a 50-year-old black museum expert, Marc. She almost begs him to
sleep with her but he calmly refuses, preferring not to be rushed into a
relationship. She is disappointed and visits a psychic. The psychic tell her
a lot of silly things but also that Marc is not the love of her life, just a mirage, and encourages her to remain open to other relationships.
High Life (2018), her English-language debut, is a sci-fi movie that tries in vain to imitate
the existential suspense of a Tarkovsky film. The acting looks a bit
amateurish, the plot is scientifically implausible (and laughably so),
the timeline is unnecessarily shuffled, the characters (too many)
are not fully developed, and much remains unexplained.
It feels like an old Hollywood B-movie made on a small budget.
For a director who is so obsessed with showing us the details of sperm and
breast milk, and who spends a lot of time showing a grotesque female
masturbation, there is precious little attention to the psychology of the
Several tricks are borrowed from classic Hollywood: the spaceship is immaculate
like in Kubrick's 2001 and many sci-fi films that followed, and there
is a "fuck box" that evokes the "orgasmatron" of Woody Allen's Sleeper.
There could have been an interesting parable on social life, since this is
basically William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" set in a spaceship instead of an island and among criminals instead of children, but there are only a few
glimpses of how the "society" of the spaceship works or doesn't work.
In an indeterminate distant future an astronaut, Monte, is alone on a spaceship with a baby. Monte is fixing a problem of the shell of the spaceship when the
baby starts crying and Monte drops a wrench into a hole, an action that
reminds him of dropping a stone in a pond. A flashback shows him walking with
a female friend and a god in a marsh.
Then Monte walks into a room full of dead people who are
cryogenically preserved and, one by one, throws them out of the spaceship.
We learn that the spaceship has been traveling for years outside the Solar
System and doesn't receive any messages from Earth anymore.
A flashback shows the dog dead in the creek and then Monte's female friend
dead on the grass, and we can infer that Monte killed her with a stone that
he then dropped in the water.
Then the action moves to a train where an old professor talks to a young
woman about the experiment that they are carrying out: a bunch of inmates
have been sent out of the Solar System with no hope of ever returning.
Another flashback shows the spaceship when they were all alive.
A female doctor, Dibs, takes care of the crew that consists of criminals
who have been offered freedom in return for volunteering for this experiment:
travel to a black hole and try to harness its energy.
Because the journey will take longer than a human lifespan, they are also
supposed to make children, and Dibs is in charge of collecting sperm from
the men and implanting it into the women. Unfortunately, all the foetuses
so far have died. The spaceship is moving at 99% of the speed of light
(which presumably is an excuse for them being still alive despite the
decades that must have been elapsed since they left the Earth).
Every day they have to file a report otherwise the spacestation will
Dibs, alone in her lab, masturbates using a complex machine.
Then they begin to die: a pregnant woman dies (and so does her foetus),
Dibs kills a man who has a stroke, a girl kills the man who tries to rape her
We learn that Dibs killed her own children and her husband (but we are not
told the reason).
Dibs sedates them at will and, while they are asleep, she rapes Monte,
who keeps rejecting her sexual advances. She then collects Monte's sperm
from her vagina and injects it into the girl who was almost raped.
This time the experiment works because in a matter of seconds there is
a baby, and the mother is desperate. One of them is in charge of taking
a shuttle to the center of the black hole, a suicidal mission, but
the newly mother kills her and takes her place, gladly diving into the
black hole until her head explodes.
Dibs is attacked by this girl's friend and Monte has to kill her.
Dibs, wounded, tells Monte that he is the father of the baby and then jumps
out of the spacestation, killing herself. Now we know why Monte is alone with
the baby in the spaceship. The film suddenly fast-forwards to the time when
the baby is a teenager, still alone with her father Monte (who doesn't seem
to age). They watch as an identical spaceship approaches theirs but on board
there are only dogs (no explanation about how the dogs survived for decades).
The girl convinces her father Monte (for unknown reasons) to board a shuttle
and dive into the black hole.
Stars At Noon (2022), based on the 1986 novel by Denis Johnson,