THE CONVULSIVE VIOLENCE OF BRUNO DUMONT’S NEW FILM Twentynine Palms (2003)—a truck ramming and a savage male rape, a descent into madness followed by a frenzied knifing and suicide, all crammed into the movie’s last half hour after a long, somnolent buildup—has dismayed many, particularly those who greeted Dumont’s first two features, Life of Jesus (1997) and L’Humanité (1999), as the work of a true heir to Bresson. Whether Palms’ paroxysm of violation and death signals that Dumont is borrowing the codes of Hollywood horror films to further his exploration of body and landscape or whether it merely marks a natural intensification of the raw, dauntless corporeality of his previous films, it nevertheless elicits an unintentional anxiety: that Dumont, once imperiously impervious to fashion, has succumbed to the growing vogue for shock tactics in French cinema over the past decade.
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