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
Casting Director Elisabeth Jereski originally planned to cast Marine Corporal Joshua James in the lead, but was rebuffed by his local Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. F.J. Usry, as the graphic sex scenes and violence would portray the Marine Corps, with which James was actively serving in 29 Palms, in a "less than positive light in the community." See more »
Somewhere in the Sands of the Desert: Bruno Dumont's "Twentynine Palms"
While working in the California desert, French auteur Bruno Dumont (Flanders, Humanite, The Life Of Jesus) "suddenly became afraid." Thus blossomed Twentynine Palms, a mesmerizing, allegorical, terrifyingly unclassifiable foray into the Mojave and the problematic center of Yeats' The Second Coming.
Ostensibly, Palms is the story of an American photographer, David (David Wissak) and his European girlfriend, Katia (Yekaterina Golubeva of Leos Carax's Pola X) on assignment in the Joshua Tree desert. Hobbled by a Babelish communication barrier, their interaction limited to sex, and a mutual, rapidly disintegrating co-dependence, the couple is moving deeper into no-man's land on some kind of aimless and encroachingly sinister vision quest.
An exquisite road picture interspersed with long pockets of drifting, expansive dreaminess, Palms has moments of serenity and meditative calm. But make no mistake: it's moving closer to something awful in every frame, its sense of what's approaching disarmed rather than exacerbated by the landscape the opposite strategy of pictures like Peter Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock, another brilliant nature film in which the natural world becomes oppressive and claustrophobic despite the freedom of sky and open spaces. The film benefits enormously from the perfect physical appearance of its leads: Wissak has alarming eyes and a face that seems to have disaster imprinted into it...one of the most brilliant achievements of the film is the way the faces of both leads keep fluctuating from dead to alive, without any noticeable outward changes in makeup or lighting.
The concept of Palms as a love story, as some have called it, falls hard. The film is loaded with sex intense, wailing, despairing sex that foreshadows in every way the horror that is to come at movie's end, though exactly what kind of a statement Dumont was trying to make with this remains unclear; one is inevitably moved to question his motives in the same way many questioned Gaspar Noe's in Irreversible (a film to which Palms has been infrequently compared). But Dumont's superb sense of artistry and restraint has noting is common with Noe's adolescent appropriation of philosophies too sophisticated for him and his fascination with cruelty and sadism cloaked in frantic & flashy concept art. Instead, Twentynine Palms presents us with the problem of evil accompanied by a sense of profound and deep sorrow, a mourning for a fate that may or may not be implied as inexorable, playing out under the unchanging beauty of land and sky.
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