The Work of Bruno Dumont


Through Wednesday, Nov. 2. Harvard Film Archive, Carpenter Center. $8; students $6. Tickets available at Harvard Film Archive.

The exceedingly unconventional French director Bruno Dumont made people notice him seven years ago with his film debut, “La Vie de Jèsus.” Set in the French countryside, the movie starred local non-professional actors Sébastien Bailleul, Samuel Boidin, and Geneviéve Cottreel, to achieve a natural and realistic portrayal of the area. Its depictions of sex, racism, violence, and jealousy won the movie critical acclaim.

Soon after directing the intense, graphic, crowd-shocking film, Dumont rekindled the lights around his name—first, with the equally probing, sexual, violence-infiltrated “L’Humanité” in 1999, then again with his first English-language film, “Twentynine Palms” in 2003.

On October 24-30, Harvard Film Archive will be presenting On Set with French Cinema, its annual program designed for French directors to relate their stories and directorial know-how to an American audience.

This year, the program will spotlight Bruno Dumont, in honor of his award-winning works, which have so adroitly walked the tightrope between entertainment and art. Besides screening his three feature films, the program will also introduce the director himself to audiences. Such a rare occasion with a brilliant mind should not be missed.

Perhaps stemming from his studies in philosophy, Dumont’s films are far from what the average American moviegoer would usually find in Hollywood. “La Vie de Jèsus” explores the very sexual relationship between Freddy, an unemployed good-for-nothing, and his girlfriend, as well as the jealousy that Freddy feels when an Arab boy comes into the picture.

In “L’Humanité,” a shy, unassertive boy-next-door (Emmanuel Schotté) investigates a rape and murder case while struggling with his feelings for his neighbor (Sèverine Caneele).

“Twentynine Palms” traces a couple’s footsteps as they journey through the American Southwest. Heavily laden with both: intriguing storylines and intense portrayals of sex, violence, and tension, Dumont’s films have won top awards at film festivals as well as made their mark on cinematic history.