House Logo
Explore categories +

Bruno Dumont (#110 of 10)

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Bruno Dumont’s Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

Memento Films

Cannes Film Review: Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

Bruno Dumont follows his oddball 2016 Cannes competition entry Slack Bay with the bold and more divisive rock opera Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc. And as with Slack Bay and 2014’s Li’l Quinquin, Jeannette’s provocations—sacred subject matter paired with pounding death-metal bass drums—add to its sense of humor. A sample scene: a sheep bleating off screen while a hymnal is sung into the camera. Even the frequently out-of-tune singing and chintzy synthesizer soundtrack add to a sense of levity and play, a tone Dumont’s never pulled off as comfortably as he does here.

Cannes Film Review: Slack Bay

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Review: Slack Bay

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: Slack Bay

Bruno Dumont’s filmography has found unity through a prevailing belief in the existence of opposing good and evil forces—and in the transcendence that a genuinely provocative conflation of the two can bring. His mode of expression is usually noncommittal with regard to any particular moral stance, only superficially based in matters of faith, and yet entirely humanist.

The run of films from Dumont’s 1997 debut, The Life of Jesus, to the minimalist two-hander Hors Satan, from 2013, represents a kind of closed circuit: Each film adjusted its social and philosophical points of focus to probe the polarizing natures that shape human behavior, all conducted in a style of austere, distinctly European arthouse filmmaking. Dumont’s 2014 murder-mystery miniseries Li’l Quinquin largely exhausted that form (with it, he expanded his tonal vocabulary with broad comedic strokes), but the end game turned out to be much the same, as the unforced rhythms and pastoral visions of the French countryside and its cattle lulled us into a false sense of serenity to conceal an undertow of primal, unaccountable human darkness.

São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: Outside Satan and Breathing

Comments Comments (...)

São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: <em>Outside Satan</em> and <em>Breathing</em>
São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: <em>Outside Satan</em> and <em>Breathing</em>

I saw Bruno Dumont’s 1997 film The Life of Jesus and liked it, but shortly afterward grew tired of Western European filmmakers showing me how awful the world was, and how awful I was for living in it. (I also grew tired of them citing Bresson.) Years later, Dumont’s Outside Satan didn’t change things. In one scene, a woman tells a man he can have her, then strips naked in full view and lies down, vagina facing the camera. It’s sex, folks, and he goes for it, which means we do too. Then he strangles her. What does that say about us?

Yet what’s so irritating about Dumont’s film is the way that it wastes not just time, but also space. Over and over we see people walking through vast, empty fields, their bodies either filling the frames like giants or lost as tiny pale specks among a sweep of bright green. But the grass, trees, rocks, and lakes are ultimately parts of the background here, impassive, indifferent observers to the monstrous human drama. The film isn’t alive to nature’s movement, and by shooting in the 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, Dumont has given himself a lot of space to do nothing with. Life may suck, but it’s never empty. The best widescreen films and filmmakers know how to fill their frames with detail.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: Le Havre, Hors Satan, & Pater

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Festival 2011: <em>Le Havre</em>, <em>Hors Satan</em>, & <em>Pater</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2011: <em>Le Havre</em>, <em>Hors Satan</em>, & <em>Pater</em>

I recently watched Aki Kaurismäki’s excellent “Proletariat Trilogy” in preparation for Cannes, and the director’s incredible feel for narrative gaps, emotional POV’s, and decisive pacing made me realize there was a whole other dimension to his work than the deadpan surface. With this in mind, Kaurismäki’s newest film, Le Havre, seems a dim reflection of more substantial earlier work, another slow swing at an already exploded piñata. Set in the port district of Le Havre in Normandy, France, Kaurismäki’s film examines the daily routine of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), an elderly ex-writer who now shines shoes to get by. His wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen), exists in a suspended state, keeling over from intense stomach pain only after cooking Marcel dinner. The banality of Kaurismäki’s comedy is readily apparent as Arletty watches from afar as Marcel eat alone.

Immigration politics are at the forefront of Le Havre: a Vietnamese immigrant (Quoc Dung Nguyen) also shines shoes, television and radio broadcasts flood the frame with the sound and fury of angry protests, and a young boy named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) smuggled into France from Africa becomes the central symbol. While Kaurismäki retains the sense of color, shadow, and tone that infuses his previous work, there seems to be a turn toward overt sentimentality in Le Havre. The relationship between Marcel and Idrissa develops from mutual compassion, but the emotional connection unfolds in familiarly broad strokes. Idrissa discovers an American rock record, Marcel travels out of town to locate the boy’s grandfather, and every character partakes in a final ruse alluding to the unification of many cultures. Everything is so on the nose, except when Kaurismäki spends lengthy amounts of time on strangely tangential moments in the story. The multiple-minute sequence of a charity rock concert is indicative of Kaurismäki’s meandering attention span.

Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run
Cannes Film Festival 2011: The Long Run

If the Cannes Film Festival is the cinephile’s version of the Olympics, the media critics covering the event are its long-distance runners. Traversing two weeks of nonstop screenings, panels, conferences, and other festivities can be intimidating by any standard, and don’t forget there’s writing to be done. This is my first year on the Croisette, so I made sure to speak with a few veterans who’ve already survived the madness. One golden rule emerged from their collective wisdom: pace yourself. Easier said than done, I’d imagine. Even though my preplanned screening schedule includes 53 features, interviews, and a red carpet or two, this dude plans to abide. Or at least try not to go crazy with excitement and stress.

As I sit here on a cramped plane to Nice by way of Zurich by way of Philadelphia by way of Los Angles (don’t ask), the mere thought of attending Cannes, much less covering the spectacle for a respected media outlet, makes my head spin. Twelve months ago, I was teaching film studies and screenwriting and fruitlessly screaming into the vast film blogosphere trying to be heard, anticipating Cannes reports by writers I admired from the cold vantage point of a computer screen. Well, what a difference a year makes. Thanks to the endless support of Slant’s co-founder and film editor, Ed Gonzalez, I’m one of the lucky few who get to battle first-world problems like “pace yourself” and “make sure to sleep.” Consider me humbled.