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Twentynine Palms


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I've been staring at this for five or ten minutes, and I think my head is going to explode.

http://www.movieguide.org/index.cgi?Playin...27/200412.27.20

If no author is mentioned, can I assume that "Dr." Baehr wrote this himself? And, more importantly, is it safe to assume from the following comment that he is disappointed that the sex scenes weren't hot enough?

TWENTYNINE PALMS
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It was probably Baehr. They're really inconsistent in whether or not they credit their reviews. Keep an eye on that site, Darren... they review almost everything that plays in the U.S., foreign, independent or otherwise. Amazing, considering how they tend to misunderstand and condemn nearly everything they see.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Hmmm, I guess I can see why this is in the Film Criticism... forum, but if we're going to discuss the film itself, then I'd suggest moving this to the Films, Directors... forum ...

Darren H wrote:

: Has Twentynine Palms been discussed at all around here?

I think my blurb from last year's film fest is the only thing the search engine turns up:

- - -

Then, Twentynine Palms (France, 109 min.), a typical exercise in French eroto-nihilism which is presumably NOT to be confused with the Chris O'Donnell straight-to-video flick 29 Palms. Why is it that arty foreign films always seem less profound when they hire English-speaking actors? I saw this film because I have seen Bruno Dumont's other two films, La Vie de Jesus and L'Humanit

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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MAJOR SPOILERS

I've been meaning to write about Twentynine Palms on my site, but so far I only have the first sentence:

When all is said and done -- after the endless driving, the explicit sex, the pain-faced orgasms, and the brutal, brutal violence -- Bruno Dumont's Twentynine Palms, I think, is really a film about a red truck.

Specifically, it's a film about a brand new, perfectly polished Hummer -- that most obnoxious of metaphors for suburban American pseudo-uber-masculinity. The key moment in the film for me is a long shot of the Hummer after it's been rear-ended and pushed to a stop by a massive, white pickup truck. The Hummer is absolutely dwarfed by that truck.

Some random thoughts (still in gestation).

Aside from some nice photography, the film is only interesting to me as a comment on America's myths of violence. Twentynine Palms, not coincidentally, is home to a large Marine base. During the ice cream eating scene, David gets really insecure when Katia talks about the muscle-bound soldiers walking around the town. He even asks if he should cut off his hair (which he does, finally, before killing her).

So anyway, as shocking as the ending is -- and I think the brutality of it is Dumont's point -- I don't think it's necessarily imposed. David is something of an American weekend warrior, convinced that by jumping into his fake military truck, driving through the desert, and [insert crude description of sex] his hot French girlfriend, he can prove his manliness. Pain and violence, up to a point (a la their rough sex), is all part of the game.

But then the big white truck sodomizes his small (by comparison) fantasy, and suddenly real violence enters the arena. Dumont shoots it from a distance in a static three or four minute shot, and we're forced to watch what "real" violence looks like. (Americans typically prefer their violence to be cut and edited in quick soundbites, sanitized for our protection.)

I was disappointed by the film mainly because I'm so fond of Dumont's previous work, which, in my opinion at least, always points to the possibility of grace. There's none of that in Twentynine Palms.

Edited by Darren H
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Interesting comments, Darren. Knowing of your earlier work on Dumont, I remember wondering what you might think of this film when I saw it eight months ago, and what you say here matches my memory of it fairly well.

Darren H wrote:

: Specifically, it's a film about a brand new, perfectly polished Hummer -- that most

: obnoxious of metaphors for suburban American pseudo-uber-masculinity.

Just wondering, what is the "obnoxious" part -- the Hummer itself or the use of it as such a metaphor?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Guest Russell Lucas

I'm guessing the former, as both the irony and metaphor potential are way too delicious to be obnoxious. I mean, a vehicle openly adopting a vulgar and widely-used name for a sex act? You can't buy that kind of absurdity.

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Oh, right. "Hummer." Gotcha. Ha ha. (I'm such a virgin.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 8 months later...

I don't get that hummer joke and I've been married and having sex for more than eight years.

Darren, can you flesh out this "myths of violence" idea a little bit? Actually, will you please go ahead and spoil this movie to pieces for me? Just write up the general plot line from beginning to end, almost like a Sight & Sound overview of the film, and be sure to give me details on the ultra-violent ending. I gave up on it in the swimming pool in the first twenty minutes. I thought to myself, "This is slow, this is stupid, and I only rented it because of this ending that everyone always talks about," but I forgot to watch the ending or anything else before sending it back to Netflix. The truth is that I don't really want to watch it, I'm only curious as to exactly what this big shock ending is. I keep reading about it everywhere but no one will say exactly what it is. So please help me.

And if anyone thinks it's worth watching, I'd like to hear why you think so. I know that Darren seems to think it is philosophically interesting, but wouldn't recommend it to anyone, which, in my understanding is a "No" to whether it's actually worth watching or not.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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...I've been married and having sex for more than eight years.

Both??!

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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Off-topic: I attended the Sharpie 500 in Bristol, Tennessee last August and predictably, there were tons of Hummers there being used in promotional campaigns. One was being used in conjunction with a sex drive-increasing pill. It had graphics for the stuff all over the big black beast.

I couldn't begin to have the sort of creativity to make this stuff up.

A promotional selling point-- a selling point!-- was that they had a virile and snugly-clothed young woman who would take your picture in front of the sex-drive Hummer, and then she'd give you a URL and you could visit a unique webpage later and bask upon the image of your visage with the Erectionater. It was a lovely thing!

Would she take a picture of me in front of the vehicle, giving it the salute of ancient derision? No, no she would not.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Wow. Thanks, Darren. I wonder why I didn't think of Senses of Cinema in the first place? They always have the best articles, and this is clearly no exception.

Your essay did make me want to see it on its own terms, yet I remain somewhat uneasy walking in. It's the same feeling I would get if I were to rewatch Irreversible, that masterfully loathsome picture which I'm not sure I'll ever return to regardless of the highly interesting socio-political nature of both it and No

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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You know, Stef, I actually haven't seen a single film by any of the four directors you named. How about that for killing a discussion dead? My tolerance for film violence is incredibly low, so Miike has never been on my "to-see" list, and so many people have warned me off of Breillat that I've always found plenty of other films to rent instead. Which No

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Miike has never been on my "to-see" list...

You've won my respect there. I just had my second experience with Miike, trying to see what all the fuss is about, and I don't get it. I mean, I can sit around in the dark and think of just as many debased ideas and then come up with a film to promote them and a philosophy to excuse them. Miike, in my mind is dismissed. Out of sheer embarrassment (and due to the fact that I used the fast forward button a lot more than one should) I didn't even record my last effort with him in my coveted Film Journal. The point? It's a wise choice on your part, so I'm in your camp, and we're done with Miike.

...and so many people have warned me off of Breillat that I've always found plenty of other films to rent instead.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Link to the thread on Moodysson's A Hole in My Heart.

stef wrote:

: Peter, hope you're listening here. You were asking in a separate thread about

: Breillat thoughts. Here you go.

Indeed. FWIW, I have seen four Breillats, and the two that I like -- Fat Girl and Brief Crossing -- were the less explicit of the four; plus, because they both dealt with the pain and disillusionment of sexually inexperienced people acting out their fantasies, I dunno, I guess it kind of fit with my own moral worldview, so I didn't have as much of a problem with them. Romance was the first of her films that I saw, and it's pretty graphic, but I never really got into it; and there was another film from the '70s that I saw on DVD, which was equally graphic and probably more off-putting.

: Later I sat for half an hour with Anatomy of Hell . . .

This one premieres at the Cinematheque next week, and I'm still debating whether to see it. But there's another one on that double-bill, more of a comedy I think -- it's the film where Breillat supposedly lightens up for once -- that I'm more interested in.

: She has nothing meaningful to say, except to make men squirm in their

: mainstream theater seats.

Hmmm. Like I say, I don't feel that way about the two Breillats I have liked so far.

: I haven't seen A Hole In My Heart, and to be honest, I still haven't made up my

: mind as to whether I will see it this month . . .

As you can see in the thread devoted to this film, I didn't care for this one all.

: I did see Lilja 4-ever on a Region 2 DVD and thought it was an absolutely amazing

: film. I spent probably close to a year in Estonia, so I could be biased, but there was

: a montage -- a sex montage -- that showed hardly any nudity and lasted around a

: minute or two, that scarred me for life in a good way.

That montage was good and potent, yes. But the film as a whole I've always found a bit too chintzy to be "amazing", much less "absolutely" so.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Thanks for the comments, Stef. My interest has definitely been piqued by your description of Moodyson as putting humanitarian interests firsts. Do you mean that he addresses particular humanitarian causes (like, political or social causes), or do you mean that his films are humanist, in the more general and positive sense? (That's an awkward question, I know.) I ask because I'm beginning to realize that the latter is what I'm most attracted to in a filmmaker. I've gotten to the point where I don't really even care about stories anymore; I just like art that offers a frank portrait of recognizably human characters and that allows me the freedom to meet them on their own terms.

I do think that you would find much to like in Dumont's earlier films. Most people prefer L'Humanite, but I really love La Vie de Jesus. The key to the films, I think, is something Dumont said in an interview once:

"What interests me is life, people, the small things. Cinema is for the body, for the emotions. It needs to be restored among the ordinary people, who don't speak a lot, but who experience an incredible intensity of joy, emotion, suffering, sympathy in death. They don't speak, speaking is not important. What's important is the emotions. It is for the spectator to make these things conscious, it is not for me to do it. . . . The power of cinema lies in the return of man to the body, to the heart, to truth. The man of the people has a truth that the man of the city, the intellectual, has lost."

There are a lot of platitudes in that brief comment, but what most stands out in his first films is his refusal to judge the people who most of us (especially those of us who imagine ourselves high-minded cinephiles) judge all of the time.

As for Breillat, I will probably get around to watching one of her films at some point, and for the same reason that you mentioned: I am genuinely curious to see how her work fits under the feminist banner. I'm guessing that it's the type of film that won't be worth my time unless I make the effort to wrestle with it afterwards in an essay or something. Kind of like Twentynine Palms.

I'm not sure about Noe. Hearing you and MLeary talk about him make me curious, but I'm almost positive that I'm not up for that rape scene.

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I don't want to sound to esoteric here, but one really can't talk about Noe as much as one can't talk about something like Mothlight or Wavelength. You just have to sit and watch it. Noe is that keyed into film as an ultimately suggestive medium that he is close to worthless even writing about. Dumont on the other hand has so much going on worth talking about, he seems to be begging us to discuss what on earth is happening in the dreary details of either L'humanite or La vie de Jesus. He is much more French in this regard, desiring us to hash out the details of his work in labored detail. (Which is fine, because Dumont sows his films with the seeds of many worthwhile thoughts. Take "La vie..." for example and compare it to the early silent Jesus films. Many of these films are great examples of interplay between the presence and absence of Jesus in terms of image and history, some pretty heavy theological stuff. So here comes a film in which not only is Jesus completely absent in image, but also completely absent in any ethical or political sense, and it bears his name somehow. There is an absolute absence of Jesus. Odd stuff...)

I will stick with my previous comments on Breillat, I have jumped ship on her. She is no more capable of directing a film worth watching than Ozon. I am a bit hesitant to make many comments on 29 Palms because my understanding of it is quite split. Even though I will stick with my commitment to contemporary French film, I will also stick with my commitment to calling a spade a spade.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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(M)Leary wrote:

: Take "La vie..." for example and compare it to the early silent Jesus films. Many of

: these films are great examples of interplay between the presence and absence of

: Jesus in terms of image and history, some pretty heavy theological stuff.

Eh? Care to flesh this out? (But perhaps in another thread ... I wonder if we already have one devoted to the silents...)

: I will stick with my previous comments on Breillat, I have jumped ship on her.

This much I can understand, even expect ...

: She is no more capable of directing a film worth watching than Ozon.

... but this comment leaps out at me. What is about Ozon that has made him so jump-ship-able?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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A link to the A Hole In My Heart thread, seemingly the Official Moodysson thread, where I just posted a brief interview from his website in which he chats with Amnesty International shortly after the making of Lilja 4-ever.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Well, that makes at least THREE links to the Hole in My Heart thread in this thread, now ... wink.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yes, but only one link that leads to exactly that interview. smile.gif

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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So here comes a film in which not only is Jesus completely absent in image, but also completely absent in any ethical or political sense, and it bears his name somehow. There is an absolute absence of Jesus. Odd stuff.

In my first piece about Dumont, I avoided that issue completely, mostly because I just didn't know what to do with it. M, if you have the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I would probably be willing to argue that Jesus does exist in the film in both an ethical and political sense, but I'm sure I lack the vocabulary to explain how.

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