White Material

Amid the tumult of helicopters urging French nationals to flee for their safety and well-being, a French family struggles to save its coffee plantation. Pulled in competing directions, confused by the pace of events that unfold both within their compound and out on the streets of the neighbouring village, they have been labelled “white material,” and local radio stations warn that their day is over. Surrounded by the violence and chaos of civil war, they find themselves virtually powerless against the forces of history that swirl around them. With this threat of impending disaster as a backdrop, Denis uses her significant skill to tell the story of Maria (Isabelle Huppert), manager of the Café Vial plantation, who fights desperately to keep her life and business together. With her ex-husband at her side and her son violently propelled into the action, Maria must draw on all her resources to survive. At the same time, a legendary black hero, the Boxer (Isaach De Bankolé), also finds that his world has been turned upside down. Inevitably, the two are fated to meet. [Synopsis courtesy of TIFF]

35 Shots of Rum

Claire Denis, long known for her subtle, fluid and intriguing movies (“Beau Travail” is best known to U.S. audiences), sets her story in a Paris suburb: a widowed metro conductor, approaching retirement, lives with his beautiful grown daughter – the object of a neighbor’s romantic interest. The man’s former girlfriend also lives in their building and plays a role in their closely-knit lives. “35 Shots of Rum” considers the mysterious complexities that surround evolving relationships, whether romantic or parental. [Synopsis courtesy of Film Forum]

Bastards

Acclaimed director Claire Denis’s jagged, daringly fragmented and darkest film is a genuinely contemporary film noir inspired by recent French sex ring scandals involving men of wealth and power. Vincent Lindon (Denis’s Friday Night) stars as Marco, a sea captain gone AWOL to avenge his brother-in-law’s suicide and to rescue his estranged sister and his teenaged niece (Lola Créton, Goodbye First Love); Chiara Mastroianni (A Christmas Tale) is Lindon’s married lover, who has sold her soul in exchange for the security of her young son; and the remarkable Michel Subor is her husband – a sleazy financier who is the very embodiment of an evil beyond comprehension.