I’ve always thought Chocolat by Claire Denis to be a wonderfully complex film (even if the Norwegian pastor is cringe-worthy). Since then it has been all downhill for her unfortunately (Except for Beau Travail which is, well, at least interesting), and I almost never can finish one of her films. A kind of arrogance of the critic/réalisateur I suppose that she refuses to learn or listen. Leslie and I tried to watch Les Salauds the other day (streaming on Netflix) and after about 40 minutes we had no trouble turning it off and since then I have no trouble not returning to it, and reading the Wikipedia summary I am very glad I did not waste another hour watching it.
I agree that this is a long way from Claire Denis’s best, and like you I think she’s one of the greats. It’s almost as if Denis decided to make a kind of anti- 35 rhums, rejecting all the warmth of that film and going flat out to portray the most awful set of family relationships conceivable (based in part on Faulkner’s Sanctuary, it seems). The result, unfortunately, is a film almost any director could have made by piling on the menace and horror right up to the end.
comment from the comments section of Bastards (Les Salauds) – review | Peter Bradshaw | Film | The Guardian.