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In Her Own Words: 10 Notes on Claire Denis’ Bastards

Earlier in the month, the TIFF Bell Lightbox was the lieu where a sold out crowd (including enthralled TIFF programmers Jesse Wente, Andrea Picard, and Steve Gravestock) gathered to see Claire Denis’ divisive new film Bastards, and hear her introduce the film as well as give an extended Q&A following the film. The monumental event, spearheaded by TIFF programmer Brad Deane, marked the first time in over a decade that TIFF Cinematheque has celebrated and highlighted Denis and her work in a retrospective. Her films are notably somber, but Denis charmed the audience with her laid-back sense of humor and respectful, contemplative reception to each audience question. The following are a few choice kernels from her Q&A.

    • She started off by describing the film as “sort of noir, very dark, not a very charming film” (eliciting laughs from the audience) and sweetly told audience members that if they wanted to leave before the Q&A following the film she would understand
    • She openly said that the film has sparked a lot of misinterpretation (perhaps alluding to her Q&A following the screening during TIFF wherein she was asked if one of the characters was a Lolita)…
    • It’s not my most sunny film.. although I’m happy that instead of introducing another film in this retrospective, to go back and introduce Bastards gives me a light on the project that I didn’t have when I started,” said Denis when remarking on how she had been informed of the retrospective when she was first shooting the film over a year prior….
    • She kept referring to the film as “The Bastard“, which could perhaps be a lost in translation issue but many audience members wanted to read more into it….
    • When asked about the difficult subject matter of the film Denis surprised the crowd by saying, “Every time I open a newspaper or listen to tv, I think most of the stories originate in violence in families, family secrets and I thought it was almost banal.“…
    • One of the members of her longtime musical collaborator, UK band Tindersticks, came to her during the production of the film and told her that he found the film’s subject matter quite dark, a response she was surprised at….
    • When first approaching the script with her longtime screenwriter, Jean-Pol Farbeau, Denis mentioned to him that “because it is like film noir, let’s build its structure that will victimize Marco, the main character. He will look strong at the beginning but in the end he will be one of the victims in a sense.” “If we build it block by block so that the script or the audience knows no more than him, then it will be interesting.”…
    • SPOILER: She said that the death of Marco in the film was not how it was originally written in the script because they had issues with the location….
    • She openly stated that it was a conscious decision to reference Faulkner’s ‘Sanctuary‘ and can see how there have been astute comparisons to his ‘Absalom, Absalom!‘ as well….
    • She let her sense of humor shine through several times during the event, notably when mentioning “as you call it in English, Carte Blanche” selection A Thousand Suns, and then referencing TIFF sponsor L’Oreal by flipping her wavy blonde locks and mentioning the use of their products….

Objects of Desire: The Cinema of Claire Denis retrospective runs now until November 10 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Leora Heilbronn is a Toronto-based writer. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (Volver), Coen Bros. (Burn After Reading), Dardennes (Lorna's Silence), Haneke (The Piano Teacher), Hsiao-Hsien (Three Times), Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love), Kiarostami (Certified Copy), Lynch (Mulholland Drive), Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds), Van Sant (Good Will Hunting), von Trier (Melancholia)

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