David, an independent photographer, and Katia, an unemployed woman, leave Los Angeles, en route to the southern California desert, where they search a natural set to use as a backdrop for a...
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Bruno Dumont follows up the controversial Twentynine Palms with this tale of a group of young soldiers who go off to war and experience some life-changing events. Flandres won the Grand Prix Prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
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David, an independent photographer, and Katia, an unemployed woman, leave Los Angeles, en route to the southern California desert, where they search a natural set to use as a backdrop for a magazine photo shoot. They find a motel in the town of Twentynine Palms and spend their days in their sport-utility vehicle, discovering the Joshua Tree Desert, and losing themselves on nameless roads and trails. Frantically making love all the time and almost everywhere, they regularly fight, then kiss and make up, with little else going on in their empty relationship and quite ordinary daily life--until something horrible and hideous brutally puts an end to their trip. Written by
Nr.38 on Slant Magazine's 'The 100 Best Films of the Aughts' list: "This minimalist horror film from French auteur 'Bruno Dumont' pares all aspects of narrative storytelling back, reducing plot, character, action, and image to the bare essential as a pair of bickering lovers venture out into the California desert on a photojournalism assignment, using the opportunity to screw and fight their way through a remote landscape. There is an unaccountable feeling of dread in the images, perhaps suggested by a threateningly arid soundscape, and one has the feeling that predators are lurking just beyond the edge of the frame waiting to pounce. The climax is as harrowing as I Spit on Your Grave (1978), only told through the eye of an art-house provocateur." See more »
This is the first time I've ever posted a comment on IMDb. I felt so angry after watching this film that I couldn't help myself.
I should qualify my comments by first saying that I watch a lot of films - cult films, horror films, art house, American, Japanese, I watch lots of everything and I also programme films for film festivals. So this isn't a "I don't understand art cinema and only like Hollywood" kind of response. In fact, I generally like art-house cinema and older films much more than mainstream cinema.
29 Palms, however, is utter drivel. Halfway through the film I was starting to wonder whether Dumont was making a satirical comment on these flaky, pretentious and pointless characters. How else to explain that he could have felt that there could be any point in watching these incredibly boring characters. The film is nigh on unwatchable because the characters are such total dullards and nothing happens. There are times when inaction can be fascinating - Monte Hellman has a pretty good stab at a film about nothing happening in Two Lane Black Top. But I finally got the sense that Dumont felt that he was communicating some kind of grand human struggle with his characters. He isn't. He's just simply filming two stupid people playing stupid characters who act like children.
When the action does kick in, after an hour and half of utter boredom, it is totally unsatisfactory. You get the sense that Dumont has no respect for horror films. The first hour and a half is perhaps supposed to elevate the horror elements into something sublime. But this isn't a subversion of horror clichés, it's an obliterative film that takes all of the satisfaction out of the horror elements. There is a vast problem at the moment in that directors don't see the potential in genre films. Horror films these days are generally dumb or incredibly pretentious deconstructions of the genre.
The problem with 29 Palms lies in the fact that without the action of the last half hour there would be no film. But because the first three quarters of the film is so unengaging the last quarter seems utterly pointless anyway. There is no build-up of tension towards the climax, no atmosphere, just bad performances. And the climax is so obtuse that it is mostly amusing. Many great films have covered the themes of 29 Palms. Dumont's film keeps its themes out of focus in an attempt to make grand statements. Ultimately it is says absolutely nothing about anything.
After watching the extras on the disc it does indeed turn out that Dumont thinks that these characters are somehow fascinating. The main actor talks about his performance as if he invented acting. Dumont speaks as if actors have no understanding of the process that they go through. The 'Making Of' Documentary plays like Spinal Tap.
This is a grossly misguided film by a pretentious and misguided director. People will read deep meanings into it but really this is dreadful film-making of the highest order. Absolute drivel, there's no doubt about it.
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