Tag Archives: Bruno Dumont

Face of the Nation


by George Wolf

France is the setting for this movie called France about a woman named France. So, subtle it’s not. But the latest from writer/director Bruno Dumont does manage to deliver some stylish eye candy with a fluffy middle that tastes plenty familiar.

Léa Seydoux is mesmerizing as France de Meurs, a celebrity journalist and host of “A View of the World,” one of the most popular talk shows in all of France. She’s juggling fame, her career, and family life with a blasé attitude about it all.

Her home life seems to bore her, the fame is satisfying only when it feeds her ego, and the integrity of her profession never seems to cross her mind. But a sudden traffic accident delivers the overdue wake-up call, and France begins to question if the person she’s become is the person she wants to be.

In the opening minutes, when some nifty editing has France asking pointed questions during an actual press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Dumont sets the stage for an over-the-top satire that never emerges.

Instead, it settles into a very repetitive, 133-minute groove that questions the increasingly blurry line between news and entertainment. But as France continually stages her pre-recorded reports, you realize the breezy nature of the opening has given way to an overwrought narrative that spends 30 minutes belaboring a point that Broadcast News made in 5.

Dumont is clearly speaking to his homeland first, though the message will be instantly relatable to U.S. audiences. It’s the film’s tone that becomes more curious in translation.

Seydoux is almost enough to forgive it all, with Dumont making sure his lens loves her as much as the TV cameras love France herself. And while that might not seem a difficult task when the luminous Seydoux is involved, it’s a crucial element that goes a long way toward helping the film resonate as much it does.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon!

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

by Cat McAlpine

I do not like the works of Picasso.

I recognize that his paintings changed the course of art forever, and they are done with incredible skill and talent. I just don’t like them. They’re not my jam.

I also did not like Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc. But art isn’t always about whether you like it or not. And, unfortunately, art is almost never about me.

Jeannette is beautiful, absurd, and a true test of endurance. I’ve read that Bruno Dumont does not cast experienced actors. That much is painfully obvious from a litany of bizarre deliveries, missed high notes, and the ultimate theatre sin: I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-hands thigh slaps.

In harsh contrast to the period, pastoral landscape and costuming is the original soundtrack from avant-garde band Igorrr, full of electric guitar riffs that all sounded the same even twenty minutes in. The accompanying choreography, always including stomping and head banging, is as bizarre as it is uncomfortable.

After the third pitchy prayer to god by doe-eyed Lise Leplat Prudhomme, I stopped asking Jeanette to be a musical. I waited for Jeanette to simply be… whatever it wanted to be.

Hark! Deliverance! Director Dumont hits his bizarre and delightful stride when identical twins Elise and Aline Charles play Madame Gervaise simultaneously. They speak quickly and flatly, alternating between speaking in turn and in unison. “I” they chorus. They chastise Prudhomme’s Jeannette for questioning God. They are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of eternal suffering.

Later, the Charles sisters appear as floating visions of saints. I realize that Jeanette is unfolding like a Medieval epic poem. Characters call to God, visions appear from nowhere, and the choreography mimics the exaggerated gestures of much older theatrical performances. The longer scenes drag on the more they make insane sense.

Not much happens in Jeannette. A solid 80% of the film is shot from the same angle in the same field. The characters talk in circles about eternal suffering and God’s plan for France. It gets tedious. Boring.

There’s a glimpse into the true absurdity of Dumont’s vision when we finally see into an older Jeanne’s home (played now by a righteous Jeanne Voisin, much better than her young counterpart). Jeanne’s brothers, with no lines, undulate as her father sings their work order for the day. Her uncle (a green but intriguing Nicolas Leclaire, who raps instead of singing) writhes in the corner, throwing in a few dabs for good measure.

The height of lunacy is where Dumont is most brilliant. If anything, his greatest hindrance was not going big enough. Dream on, my dear Dumont. Surely you’re doing something important for the rest of the film world. It’s just not my jam. And that’s okay.