Twentynine Palms (France/Germany/USA; 119 min.)

directed by: Bruno Dumont
starring: Yekaterina Golubeva; David Wissak
Twentynine Palms

Bob says: "David is an American photographer from LA. Katia is his girlfriend, and possibly his model. She speaks mostly French, but I get the feeling from her name and her accent that she may be Russian. The two of them load into David’s monstrously big Hummer and head off into the desert, toward Twenty-Nine Palms, to scout locations for a shoot.

"What we get from French director Bruno Dumont (whose previous films L'HUMANITÉ and LA VIE DE JÉSUS, I haven’t seen) may be a French perspective on America, or possibly an urban perspective on rural areas. In any case, it isn’t very pleasant. David and Katia argue a lot, have a lot of sex, some of it when Katia’s really not in the mood, and experience quite a few breakdowns in communication (his French is not so great and he has some trouble understanding her, especially when she gets angry and starts ranting at him). We also see a few moments that foreshadow some potential danger: the passenger in a pickup truck screams bloody murder about “our streets” when they try to cross in front of him, a car passes Katia as she stands alone outside at night, then turns around a few times, ostensibly looking for her. She at least thinks so, as she hides each time. Finally, we get some extreme nastiness – nasty enough to cause a decent percentage of the audience at the Brattle to gasp.

"If there’s a message here, I’m not sure of what it is. Maybe it’s about machismo and control – who has to suffer in order for a man to be a man, or at least to think of himself as a man. Maybe it’s just that America is a big, empty, ugly (culturally) place – a desert full of big powerful vehicles, being driven by people who want to make sure everyone knows they’re big and powerful too. What I found telling was the sound David makes when he has an orgasm. You’ll hear that sound under a few different circumstances.

"I don’t think I can recommend this film. The cinematography is probably the best thing about it – widescreen shots of rocks, sand and Joshua trees that are quite lovely in their utter desolation – but… no. It’s just not enough to make this worthwhile. 2 cats"