The Machine That Kills Bad People is a bi-monthly film club programmed by Erika Balsom, Beatrice Gibson, Maria Palacios Cruz and Ben Rivers.
Nénette and Boni (1996), the lead characters in Claire Denis’ shimmering fifth feature, are estranged siblings reunited in Marseille. When Nénette pays an unexpected visit to her older brother, lustful 19-year-old pizza chef Boni, she is seven months pregnant with an unwanted child. Moving against her brother’s wishes into the home of their late mother, and pursued by their father, Nénette’s arrival prompts a complicated journey of reconciliation, confronting familial discontent, the consequences of adulthood, and life’s precarity.
Mati Diop’s award winning Big in Vietnam (2012) follows Henriette, a French-Vietnamese director located in the surroundings of Marseille, where she’s filming an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782). The shoot abruptly stalls when the main actor disappears, and Henriette begins to search for him while her son keeps working on the film. After the success of Atlantiques (2009), Big in Vietnam continues Diop’s investigations into the construction of identity and its incongruous relationship to place.
Nénette and Boni, 1996, Dir. Claire Denis, 35 mm, colour, sound, 1 hr 43 min
Big in Vietnam, 2012, Dir. Mati Diop, 16 mm, colour, sound, 28 min
The Machine That Kills Bad People is, of course, the cinema – a medium that is so often and so visibly in service of a crushing status quo but which, in the right hands, is a fatal instrument of beauty, contestation, wonder, politics, poetry, new visions, testimonies, histories, dreams... It is also a film club devoted to showing work – ‘mainstream’ and experimental, known and unknown, historical and contemporary – that takes up this task. The group borrowed their name from the Roberto Rossellini film of the same title, and find inspiration in the eclectic juxtapositions of Amos Vogel's groundbreaking New York film society Cinema 16.