Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999


by David Sterritt

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Like many others, I laughed at parts of "L'Humanite" when it became so slow, pallid, and pretentious that one couldn't imagine watching it spun out at feature length, much less a whopping 150 minutes. Also like many others, I found myself held by it in a strange sort of way (there were few walkouts at the press screening I attended) and thought a good deal about it afterwards. It is an insufferable film in many ways, like a Robert Bresson soulodrama made by someone with no idea of how to do it right; and then there's Emmanuel Schotte's weirded-out performance, oddly touching at moments yet so maniacally monotonous that it becomes one of the picture's most glaring liabilities. At the same time, the movie has more philosophical ambition and spiritual resonance (especially in the mysterious shots at the very end) than almost anything around these days, and even Schotte's "acting" takes on a peculiar fascination when the film is over and one doesn't have to actually watch him anymore. It's clearer now than after "La Vie de Jesus" that Bruno Dumont is a directorial talent to watch, and perhaps his picture's wildly unexpected Cannes awards will encourage other, more assured filmmakers to take up the challenge posed by Bresson's great legacy.

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