Bruno Dumont

6.8 The Life of Jesus (1997)
7.0 Humanite / Humanity (1999)
6.4 Twentynine Palms (2003)
6.8 Flandres / Flanders (2006)
7.0 Hadewijch (2009)
7.0 Hors Satan (2011)
6.4 Camille Claudel 1915 (2013)
7.4 Li'l Quinquin (2014)
6.5 Slack Bay (2016)
5.0 Jeannette (2018)
7.1 CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans (2018)

Bruno Dumont (France, 1958), who studied philosophy and started out making TV commercials and industrial documentaries, directed the short Paris (1993) and scripted a TV series, Arthur et les Fusees.

Dumont used nonprofessional actors (non-actors) for his first film, La Vie de Jesus / The Life of Jesus (1997), the portrait of aimless unemployed kids with no ambition and no prospects in a country town where nothing exciting seems to happen, a film that falls in the same category as Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine (1995). The lifestyle is so anemic that sex looks like an epileptic fit. The village is located in a peaceful countryside but Dumont manages to turn it into a claustrophobic experience.

A 20-year-old boy on a motorcycle rides through the countryside and almost falls in front of a bar. His mother Yvette, who runs the bar, is watching gruesome TV news and shakes her head. His girlfriend Marie is waiting for him. They have sex. After sex, the boy, Freddy, has an epileptic fit. Freddy and Marie walk their motorcycles through the snowy landscape. Freddy and four friends visit a boy named Cloclo at the hospital. Cloclo is dying of AIDS. One of them, Michou, is Cloclo's brother. The others are Gege', Robert and Quinquin. Afterwards the quintet ride away on motorcyclks racing through towns and country roads. Later, Freddy is at his mother's bar and shows his finch Leo to a frequent customer, Rene'. Freddy has sex with Marie again. He is inarticulate and semiautistic, and his sexual performance is mechanical. We see him briefly getting a brain scan at a hospital. The five kids play in the marching band of the town. After the performance, they hang out in a bar next to an Arab family (the father yelling at the son) and make fun of them. The Arab family leaves. Later the Arab boy, Kader, visits Marie, who is a cashier at the local supermarket, and introduces himself. While Gege' fixes a car, Freddy and Marie engage in a long kiss. Once the car is fixed, the group drive around town. Another time the five are riding their motorcycles on a narrow country road when a rally car drives towards them at high speed and almost kills them. Freddy and Marie have sex in a field. It is spring now. Again, he shows no emotion, just beastly mechanics. Michou tells Gege's that his brother Cloclo died. Kader follows Marie in the street. Marie tries to discourage him but he insists. Freddy hears of it and gets upset with Marie, even though Marie swears that nothing happened between her and the Arab. Freddy, who doesn't have a driver license, drives Gege's car to the beach and tells Michou that it's a tribute to his dead brother. Freddy physically drives along the beach. Freddy wants his friends to help him to punish Kader. Back home, Freddy's mom asks him when he's going to get a job and he resents the question. Now it's summer and Freddy is mostly seen shirtless. One day the five are hanging out as usual in town on their motorcycles when they see Kader passing by with a friend. They chase him but the Arabs hide in a cemetery. During a rehearsal of the marching band they molest a fat cheerleader and later her father accuses them of having "raped" her in front of their parents. They didn't rape her and feel it's unfair to treat them like criminal. Marie hears about it and gets mad at Freddy. One day Freddy, who is prone to motorcycle accidents, fall from the bike into a field Kader is hanging out with his Arab friends when they see the rally car pass by at high speed and his friends cheer. Kader sees Marie and prefers to follow her. She gets irritated, takes his hand, puts it on her panty and ask him "Is this waht you want?". Kader walks away disappointed. One day Freddy sees Kader following Marie, who doesn't talk to Freddy after the cheerleader incident. Kader hugs Marie and Marie lets him do it. Freddy goes to the hospital for another brain scan. Then he gathers his friends and they drive away in Gege's car until they find Kader who is riding his motorcycle. They kick him out of the bike and then Freddy kicks him in the head until he dies. They then dump the body. The film then fast forwards to Freddy's arrest and interrogation. Freddy escapes and the last scene shows him crying alone in a field.

Humanite / Humanity (1999) is a police thriller of sorts.

Twentynine Palms (2003) is a horror movie set in the Mojave Desert.

Flandres / Flanders (2006)

Hadewijch (2009)

Hors Satan (2011)

Camille Claudel 1915 (2013) is a biopic of the sculptor Camille Claudel, with dialogues taken from letters written and received by her. The cast includes real patients of a madhouse, and the film is partially a documentary about life in a mental asylum. The film is mostly a tour de force of actress Juliette Binoche.

At the beginning the screen informs us that Camille Claudel, older sister of the poet Paul Claudel, was a sculptress, first student and then mistress of Auguste Rodin, who was internet in a mental asylum run by nuns. The story takes place in 1915. Two nuns convince Camille to take a bath. Later a nurse tells a new doctor that Camille is afraid of being poisoned and therefore personally prepares her own meals. We see Camille having dinner with three patients who behave certainly crazy while she is simply indifferent. She actually looks perfectly normal until she breaks down in her room and starts sobbing. Told that her brother will come to visit her, she smiles ecstatic and then thanks God. We hear her whisper to God that she only wants to return to her work. She is constantly approached and followed by mad people, and she mostly takes care of them as if she were a caretaker, not a patient. Camille asks a kind nun to post a letter for her and to provide a reply address. It's a letter to her friend Henriette in which she explains that she was locked into that hospital and how much she suffers. Camille is mostly aloof, sitting by herself on a bench. She looks and sounds like a sane person who pities the mad people of that asylum. Summoned by the head doctor, she cries that she's been abandoned and blames her mother and her sister who wanted her inheritance (note: Camille was locked up right after her father died). She is sure that they will never let her get out of that prison. And she accuses Rodin of manipulating them because he wanted to seize her studio. (Note: in reality, Paul is the one who locked her up). The doctor simply reminds her that her relationship with Rodin ended 20 years earlier. Camille has to walk with the mad people during their country excursions and attend their grotesque theatrical performances. Watching them, and realizing that she is confined with them, she suffers crisis of desperation. The film moves from Camille to Paul. The camera shows us a close-up of a man praying God. It's Paul who is about to set out for the trip to the mental asylum. He stops at an inn and writes a letter to Camille, and then in his own diary he writes that she was a great artist but she suffers from persecution mania. The following morning he meets a friend, a priest, to whom he recounts important it was for him reading Arthur Rimbaud's poems, which somehow led to his spiritual conversion. Paul talks and the priest listens, without saying a single word, as they walk up a hill. Meanwhile, Camille is praying in the chapel of her hospital/prison. She's eagerly waiting for Paul. Finally, Paul arrives. She is warm and excited. He is cold and cruel. She has learned that Paul sent a lot of money to the director of the institute. She begs Paul to let her live with their mother. She first accuses Paul's friend Berthelot of stealing all her statues but then accuses Rodin of poisoning her to take over her studio. Paul listens silently to her monologue and doesn't give her any hope. Paul walks out accompanied by the director and reveals that at the age of 30 Camille went crazy after realizing that Rodin had no intention to marry her. Camille sits again, alone and aloof, on the bench. The final screen informs us that she spent the last 29 years of her life in that asylum.

The television miniseries P'tit Quinquin / Li'l Quinquin (2014), also a 3.5-hour film divided into four chapters , employs mostly first-time actors. It was his most accessible film yet, a sort of black comedy, a murder mystery set in a rural village by the sea that is reminiscent of The Life of Jesus and with a co-protagonist reminiscent of that child's. The real protagonist, however, is the cartoonish, bumbling inspector, reminiscent of Clouseau in Blake Edwards’s The Pink Panther, who comes to believe that the devil is responsible of the mystery. It's another study of evil, but this time almost satirical, almost a variation on Gombrowicz' novel "Kosmos".

A child is staring at the gate of a rich mansion where a girl is playing the trumpet. She stops playing and stares at him. Later, the girl comes to visit the child, Quinquin, at his farm. He tries to impress her showing her firecrackers and a dead mouse. Then he takes her on his bicycle and ride towards town. They join two children and scare the locals with firecrackers. A helicopter appears and hovers over them, and they run away. But they get their bicycles and follow the helicopter to a dilapidated bunker where it lifts a dead cow and deposits it in the grass. The four children hide and listen to the men. They are policemen investigating the puzzling case: there was no way for the cow to enter the bunker, unless it was flying. They find human blood inside (inside) the cow. The chief inspector, Rogier van der Weyden, a man with a noticeable facial tic, sees the children and sends them away. Then he and his subordinate Carpentier drive to the house of the cow's owner, the simple farmer Lebleu. Quinquin parts from his little girlfriend Eve and then returns home, where his father yells at him. We learn that it is his first day of vacation. The police chief sees him and stops to scold him for the way he was biking in the middle of the road. Quinquin is a rebel. He leaves the house again, ignoring both his mom and his dad, and bikes to the food truck of a woman named Rene' who offers him a snack. Quinquin's friends Jordan and Kevin show up and the trio has fun scaring two tourists with firecrackers, but Kevin burns his hand. Meanwhile, the chief and Carpentier hear the result of the autopsy: the entire body of a 45-year-old woman was chopped into pieces and stuffed in the cow's ass, except her head that is missing. As the cops drive away, we see the bloodied head of the woman in the fields. Later the headline of a newspaper informs us that the head belonged to Lebleu's wife Irene. Quinquin is drafted and dressed in white to serve the priest at the funeral. The church service in the village church is a farce: the organist plays what sounds like a cheerful folk song, the microphone of the priest doesn't work, Quinquin is disrespectful of the sacred objects, a teenage girl, Eve's sister Aurelie, sings a pop song in English imitating pop stars, the majority of the crowd consists of girls, majorettes, all dressed in the same sexy dress, the police chief and Carpentier stand in the back of the church, and the priests don't really know the right procedure and start laughing. At the end of the ceremony a child asks the inspector if the body of the woman was put back together in the coffin. The inspector chases him away but then wonders himself.
Just then another dead cow is found in the middle of nowhere. This time it's at the beach. Again, there is human blood coming out of its ass. Another victim has been dismembered and stuffed inside the dead cow. Quinquin has been watching from a cliff. A tag identifies the cow again as one of Lebleu's cow. Back him, Quinquin asks his granpa if he's ever seen a cow on the beach and if a cow could enter the bunker, and granpa replies "no" to both questions. Back with his two friends Jordan and Kevin, Quinquin spots two white girls hanging out with an Arab boy and an African boy. He confronts them, clearly racist against the "foreigners". The trio chases the Arab and the black all the way to their home. They stop because the inspector and Carpentier are there: the cops are there because the black father, Bhiri, has disappeared. The trio then heads to the county fair and use bumper cars to humiliate the church's peaceful and retarded sacristan, Sexton. Meanwhile the cops discover an important clue by interviewing construction workers about Bhiri's disappearance: Lebleu's wife was Bhiri's lover. Now Lebleu is the main suspect. And the autopsy confirms that the chopped corpse is of a black man. Furthermore the second cow also contained a finger that belonged to Lebleu's wife. The cops are now certain that Lebleu killed his wife and her black lover. Quinquin and Eve kiss on the mouth.
Quinquin tells Eve that his mentally handicapped uncle Dany has arrived. Eve's sister Aurelie is still singing the same song she sang in church: she's rehearsing for a TV audition. While Quinquin and Eve bath in the sea, the Arab kid and the black kid steal a grenade that Quinquin found in the bunker. Quinquin demands the grenade back but they ignore him. Eve invites Quinquin to her sister's TV audition. It's a competition among aspiring singers. Aurelie sings again the same song she sang at the funeral. Quinquin, Eve, Jordan and Kevin watch her winning performance but then are distracted by the sight of the black kid. They chase him out. The trio finds the Arab and the black and attacks them but the two escape. The inspector and Carpentier visit the slaughterhouse where Bhiri used to work. The veterinarian, Delaye, makes an important discovery: the cows died of mad-cow disease and the human remains were not inserted in their asses but were swallowed by the cows. Someone dismembered the bodies and left them in a field where those two sick cows "ate" them.
Eve's cousin, a little boy, wears a Spiderman costume and runs around shouting "Speedyman". Eve performs in the marching band of the Bastille Day parade (she's a trumpet player) and we see the (rather clumsy) majorettes again filing behind the band. The lone black majorette is Bhiri's daughter Aicha. The coach of the majorettes, Campin, explains that Leblue's wife was training the majorettes. After the parade, Quinquin rides Eve to the bunker. Someone has laid roses where the dead cow (and the dead wife) was found. Eve plays a funeral song with her trumpet. Quinquin discovers a tunnel that leads inside the bunker and finally explains rationally how the cow got there. He doesn't realize that his retarded uncle Dany is also hanging out there.
Meanwhile, a car is found in the sea. TV journalists descende to the town of the mysterious murders. Lebleu has been found dead in his slurry pit. The inspector assumes that it wasn't accident, i.e. that Lebleu was killed. A TV journalist interviews the inspector. Lebleu's worker Jean-Michel releases the cows to get rid of the TV crew. The inspector is convinced that the coach of the majorettes, Campin, knows something about the murders. She candidly confesses that she was Lebleu's lover before leaving with her handsome husband, leaving the inspector puzzled that the wife of such a husband would fall for a poor farmer. Eve proudly tells the inspector that Quinquin found the back entrance to the bunker. The inspector drives Quinquin back to his farm and discovers that Quinquin's father is also named Lebleu. The inspector assumes that the dead Lebleu was his cousin. Quinquin too is surprised to hear that his father and Lebleu were cousins. Carpentier investigates and finds out that they were not cousins but brothers. Now the inspector suspects Lebleu's lover Campin. The black kid, Mohamed, walks Eve's sister Aurelie to a bus stop and is verbally attacked by another teenage girl, Jennifer, who insults him with racist epithets. Back home, Mohamed is angry at the kids who ostracize him. It is also implied that Mohamed is the son of the dead Bhiri. The prosecutor invites the inspector to a restaurant: he is not happy that there have been no arrests yet: the killer is still on the loose. At a table near theirs a mentally disabled Englishman is throwing dishes on the floor. The prosecutor has just left that the inspector is called to the Bhiri home: the black kid is shooting at the cops and shouting "Allah is great". Quinquin and his friends watch from a distance. The inspector wants to save Mohamed's life and so he ventures into the house alone. Minutes later he comes out carrying a dead Mohamed in his arms: he killed himself. Eve's sister Aurelie is devastated, a sign that she cared for him.
The inspector interrogates Quinquin's father about his dead brother. Quinquin's father says that they stopped talking 30 years earlier after arguing over the inheritance. Dany, the other brother, is too dumb to answer any question about what happened. We see Aurelie walk among the pigs of her farm. Then we see the inspector and Carpentier discussing her death: she's been eaten alive by the pigs. The inspector is convinced that this is another horrific murder, not just an accident. The inspector is devastated by all the deaths and sits alone in the church. When he comes out, he gets more bad news: Lebleu's lover Campin has been found dead at the beach. naked, wrapped in a fisherman's net. The inspector thinks that someone is exterminating sinners: the devil. Carpentier objects that Aurelie had nothing to do with all the extramarital affairs. The inspector shows him something found on Mohamed's computer: she humiliated him and he snapped. Now we know what caused Mohamed's wrath and why Aurelie was devastated: she was feeling responsible.
The inspector visits Quinquin's farm one more time and briefly seems to suspect the mentally retarded Dany, but then he simply leaves. The film ends with no clue about who killed six people: an unfaithful wife, her lover, her husband, the lover's son, the girl who humiliated the lover's son, and the husband's lover; hinting that maybe they were indeed incidents, not murders (three dismembered by pigs, one fallen into a slurry pit, one trapped into a fisherman's net, plus one suicide).

Slack Bay / Ma Loute (2016)

Jeannette - The Childhood of Joan of Arc (2018)

Coincoin et les Z'Inhumains/ CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans (2018) is a farcical sequel to Li'l Quinquin.

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