Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why French philosophers shouldn't make French films

Having just suffered through Twentynine Palms by Bruno Dumont (which, incidentally, took me 4 viewings to get through), I have just one thing to ask: what the fuck is wrong with French people? If the cinema that gets exported from France is any indication of their national mood, no thanks. Or maybe I'm just watching the wrong movies, but my god, it is so unpleasant.

Aside from some 60's new wave stuff, I think I've only ever seen one French film I liked. Ever. And what is their obsession with showing women going to the bathroom?

Twentynine Palms is like some kind of existential trip to hell if hell is other people. Two of the stupidest and most irritating characters ever laid to celluloid drive a giant red Hummer through the desert outside Palm Springs, ostensibly to scout a location for a photo shoot, but not a single photo is ever taken of anything. Furthermore, the "couple," or whatever they are, seem to despise each other. One moment they're laughing, the next she's storming out of the hotel room and running into the street, the next he's raping her mouth and jizzing all over her face and she's crying because she loves him so much. Then they fight again, then they get ice cream, then they fuck in the hotel pool, then they drive through the desert again and fight about something, then he practically rapes her on a rock, then she cries, then they have dinner and laugh, then they fight again, then they fuck in the hotel room and she cries. Ad nauseum.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, I'm not. Then at the end they get attacked by rednecks who smash the dude's face in with a baseball bat while they rape his ass, and strip the woman and beat her up and make her watch, but don't rape her, then the couple goes back to the hotel, where the guy flips out, scalps himself, and stabs the girl repeatedly in the stomach on the bed. And all that last bit of violence literally happens in about the last 4 minutes. The End. Nothing. Null. Void. Delete. Life is hopeless and pointless.

Bruno Dumont believes in nothing and in his desperate and pathetic world, people are nothing but meat and orifices to fuck. He now belongs to that esteemed club of Lars von Trier, Catherine Breillat, Passolini, Gaspar Noe, and perhaps Michael Haneke (though I'm willing to cut that guy some slack, because at least he has a brain): artists who so hate themselves and everybody else that they're willing to sacrifice their own humanity just to make everyone else suffer too. Maybe some day they can all have dinner parties together in hell and torture and rape each other repeatedly for entertainment.


Tom Drew said...

As soon as you mentioned the whole violent bit at the end, I had flashbacks to Fat Girl.

The only Pasolini I've seen is The Canterbury Tales, which is definitely one of the most jaw-droppingly fucked up films I'm aware of. And I've seen it twice!

Have you seen Ma Vie En Rose? If you haven't, that's a French one I think you'd really like.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should stop taking viewing tips from Michael Haneke. Considering Haneke himself called Bruno Dumont "extreme" should have tipped you off. I think the problem might be that you seek out these types of films. I don't think they, in any way, reflect the French aesthetic. This self-abuse obsession reminds me of Mark's need to seek out films like Hostel, knowing full-well he will hate them in advance, then proceeding to become enraged.

Also, the idea of completely writing off a country's output (and possibly their population) because of the output of three or four filmmakers is beneath you. I think you know how ignorant that makes you sound and I know you're a better person than that. If you are ever truly interested in seeing the great French films, I'd be happy to give you a very, very long list of films that include not one frame of mouth raping. The French invented movies and they have consistently been among its greatest producers as well as its greatest champions.

I think it's also worth pointing out that the initial explosion of foreign films in America in the 60s was largely fueled by their open sexuality and likelihood of nudity. Foreign films that promised nudity or sex had an easier time finding distribution, and thus, finding an American audience. Films like Vilgot Sjoman's "I Am Curious" (or pretty much anything starring Charlotte Rampling or Brigitte Bardot) would often find themselves on double bills with a Roger Corman biker movie, or a cheapo horror flick.

My point is that foreign films that find an audience in the US are not necessarily indicative of the film output of that country. If anything, they represent the needs and desires of American audiences. This is the same reason why in the rest of the world, American filmmaking is more associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger than, say, Richard Linklater. Certain aesthetics sell in certain markets. If people like you would stop renting movies that feature mouth raping, the potential for these films to find an American audience would wither and die.


The Fire Next Time said...

In my defense, I will admit that once upon a time I did seek out those films and was intrigued by them. They didn't enrage me at the time (well, except for von Trier), I just thought they were silly. But I have since vowed to never, ever see any more films by any of the people I mentioned (and I've stuck to that, despite admittedly being interested in some of them, but I've resisted). The only reason I sought out Dumont's films was because he was a philosopher professor who quit teaching to make films, and that intrigued me. And maybe I was being naive, but to me, "extreme" doesn't have to translate to completely dehumanizing. I don't mind violence in films (and I certainly don't mind sex), as you well know, it's the tone and the use of both of those things that bugs me. One can make a very violent film and still be humane ("Eastern Promises" being one example), but when people like von Trier and Dumont, or whoever else, make violent and sexual films out of spite, that's when it bugs me. And yes, I know all French people aren't total psychopaths. It just seems that that country's movies are the most "extreme." And they are obssessed with people going to the bathroom.

Fox said...

In my defense: I like to write about movies and movie trends, so I make sure I see the movie before I write about it.

I watch movies all the time that I'm almost positive I won't like b/c it gives me perspective on the genre/director I'm thinking about.

I'm not always out for enjoyment when I watch a film.


bryan h. said...

I really enjoy films by Henri-Georges Clouzot (especially Wages of Fear, which is one of my favorites) and Jean-Pierre Melville. They're both French, non-New Wave dudes who made fun, exciting movies.

Stacy said...

The French people have lovely lives in real time. So, in reel time, they get a bit mopey and overly existential and self indulgent.