By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
Well aware that penetrating the human soul for the dark overtones that have permeated almost all of her filmography is what she does best, Claire Denis comes again with a controversial, anguish-ridden film in Les Salauds, a film that reminds us of one of the best and darkest periods of her filmography, departing somewhat from her concerns over migration and plunging deep what we call the innate call of evil. From the first minutes, when we’re witness of a strange suicide, along with footage of a naked girl walking lost in the night streets, Les Salauds seems labyrinth like, pessimistic and bleak, a film condemned to fatality from the beginning.
If the film language of Claire Denis owes something to someone, it certainly is the team she has assembled throughout the years. By this date, Denis films are far from being a one man operation, they evolve as living organisms beautifully orchestrated by the filmmaker with a fantastic team behind her: from Jean-Pol Fargeau, co-writer, to Agnes Godard in cinematography, to Tindersticks´ fantastic scores, this people has been assigned the task to get involved in the filmmaker’s mind, fantastically executing their tasks to perfection. This time, Denis reunites with Godard, Fargeau and Tindersticks (the same team behind Trouble Every Day) and adds Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni as two new actors behind this realization, a film deeply involved in the task of depicting human evil and alienation.
From L’Intrus and back, Denis films have been able to talk about humanity as an alien being, from the inside of the body (the intruder heart of Michel Subor –wonderfully casted in Les Salauds) and out (tales of migration, orphans, people far away their land, rejected beings). This task that has overtaken all of his works comes to fruition once again here, where Lindon’s character, a boat captain, returns to land to find himself involved in a tricky situation with his nephew (Lola Créton), who is abducted by a couple involved in serious disturbing sexual business.
This puzzle of a movie (a narrative structure which reminds us of L’Intrus, even in its flashbacks and flash forwards into the mind of the characters) evolves into an ugly realization, an impossibility of catharsis. We drown together with the fate of the lead, and the finale (wonderfully shot in digital) overwhelms us with the realization of what we have just seen. Les Salauds is a difficult film, but an ultimately satisfying experience that puts Denis far beyond her contemporaries, a unique view still standing strong.
Director: Claire Denis
Producers: Brahim Chioua, Laurence Clerc, Olivier Théry-Lapiney
Screenwriters: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
Cinematography: Agnès Godard
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Julie Bataille, Michel Subor, Christophe Miossec, Alex Descas, Lola Créton, Grégoire Colin, Florence Loiret-Caille, Hélène Fillières, Sharunas Bartas, Nicole Dogué, Élise Lhomeau, Jeanne Disson, Laurent Grévill
Editor: Annette Dutertre