(mostly in French with English subtitles)
Directed by Bruno Dumont
Warning! Toxic! Art film gone bad! This stinking carcass of a movie alternates between incredibly boring and shockingly violent. Most of the scenes are so monotonous that they left me wishing something – anything! -- would happen. But when the violence kicks in – realistic, disturbing but seemingly pointless – I wanted to go back to boring.
Twentynine Palms has only three characters: David, an American man; Katia, his French-speaking Russian girlfriend; and a Hummer H2. The Hummer was obviously chosen as a symbol of macho excess rooted in insecurity – the filmmaker seems to be saying that about David – the acting and writing don’t do much to define the character so I guess this bizarre product placement will have to do. Almost all of the two hour running time is consumed by long, tedious scenes of: (a) David and Katia walking in the California desert; (b) David and Katia driving the Hummer in the California desert; or (c) David and Katia having sex (very graphic) or arguing. One of many problems with this film is that there is so little to establish who these people are and why relate to each other the way that they do – their scenes just seem like a series of random events – long, drawn out events at that. David’s relationship with the Hummer told me more about him than his interaction with Katia. When Katia put a scratch on it, he freaked out and obsessed until he buffed it out with some wax. When Katia got it stuck in some rough terrain, he freaked out and obsessed until he got it unstuck. And when the Hummer got dented… I can’t reveal the details that but things get intense.
What writer/director Bruno Dumont was going for, I believe, is some sort of minimalist comment on human nature. This pseudo-art film came across as pretentious and very boring 95% of the time with very disturbing, graphic violence the other 5%. To paraphrase another disappointing movie released this spring: “It’s not art, it’s punishment!”
Images are copyright Wellspring Cinema
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