France, 2006, 91 minutes
Sun, May 6 / 05:15 / PFA / FLAN06P
Tue, May 8 / 09:00 / Kabuki / FLAN08K
Wed, May 9 / 09:30 / Kabuki / FLAN09K
Following his foray into the California wild for the controversial shocker Twentynine Palms, French provocateur Bruno Dumont returns to more familiar, fertile ground in his fourth feature, a typically austere and audacious drama that traverses similar geographic and thematic terrain as his celebrated debut The Life of Jesus and masterful follow-up Humanité. Once again subjecting the landscape and denizens of his birthplace in northern France to intense psychological scrutiny, Dumont has made a war film far more concerned with human behavior than topical politics. Andre, a characteristically lugubrious Dumont antihero, runs a small farm with lackluster success, communicates almost entirely in expressive grunts and shares wordless, animalistic afternoon trysts with childhood friend Barbe, an unapologetically promiscuous, emotionally unstable farmer’s daughter. Amid vague talk of war among the farmers, Andre is drafted along with Blondel, a charismatic soldier who also responds to Barbe’s sexual advances before the men are shipped off to an unnamed locale to fight an unspecified enemy. Lost in the desert (clearly somewhere in the Middle East, though no references are made to Iraq), Andre and Blondel gaze with incomprehension at, and eventually participate in, wartime atrocities while an increasingly unhinged Barbe waits back home. Brilliantly utilizing long takes, ambiguous conflicts and silences that speak volumes, Dumont portends doom in exacting images of brutally overcast skies, a tangle of frost-covered branches and bleached-out battlefields. Once again eliciting fearless performances from nonprofessional actors, Dumont continues to forge a fiercely moral, meticulously observed cinematic oeuvre that at its best recalls the somber greatness of Bresson.
Sponsored by TV5MONDE, Alliance Française of San Francisco, Consulate General of France and Air France. Presented in association with the French Cultural Services, Consulate General of France and the French-American Cultural Foundation in San Francisco.