La Vie de Jésus (with Bruno Dumont in person!)

Presented by Cinefamily Editions and La Collectionneuse.

With his feature film debut, Bruno Dumont announced himself as a visionary whose keen sense of place is rivaled only by a comprehension of the inherent tensions that run through modern humanity. The film that would cement Dumont as a Gen X Bresson, La Vie de Jésus relies on the raw power of the cinematic image (eschewing a musical score almost entirely) to elegantly and brutally depict the listlessness of young adult ennui. Employing unprofessional actors in the rural Northern France of the filmmaker’s youth, this understated work of stark realism lives and breathes in the quiet expressions on the distinct faces of his working class (but unemployed) characters. Contemplative moments are broken up by bouts of violence and carnal sex acts, including a controversial shot of unsimulated penetration – think La Haine (Kassovitz, 1995) without the bleak nihilism. Winner of the Prix Jean Vigo (an award previously bestowed upon L’Enfance Nue (1969) and its helmer Maurice Pialat, one of Dumont’s heroes), La Vie de Jésus is not concerned with its characters vis-a-vis a traditional Christian narrative – in fact, the filmmaker actively dodged discussions of spirituality with the press. Rather, the film provokes us to look beyond religious metaphors and to confront our own fundamental wickedness. Print courtesy of the Institut Francais.

Dir. Bruno Dumont, 1997, 35mm, 96 min.

Bruno Dumont’s new film, Slack Bay, will open on 4/28 at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 and Laemmle Monica Film Center.