The Life of Jesus

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Bruno Dumont

REVIEWED: 06-14-99

There is one moment of Christ-like beauty in French director Bruno Dumont's first feature: an old barmaid gazes at a TV image of disaster victims with a face that calls to mind the Virgin of Michelangelo's Pietà. Except for that and a shot of a brass band marching to a tuneless dirge through an empty field, The Life of Jesus looks on its hapless Flanders denizens with the dull-witted exploitativeness of a TV news camera. The mostly unemployed young people of the drab town of Bailleul don't even do drugs to pass the time -- they drive aimlessly on their motor scooters, pull down the pants of fat girls, or stare into space and complain about the heat (things are so bad they long to go to Lille, the nightmare burg of The Dreamlife of Angels). The lucky ones have sex, like Freddy (David Douche, who looks at times like a sensitive, criminal child, at others like a bewildered, criminal old man) and Marie (Marjorie Cottreel, who deserves a better movie). But that sex is perfunctory, graphic, and gratuitous, as is most of this movie, which mistakes long takes, anticlimactic cutting, and alienating long shots for arty cinema. The plot revolves around Freddy's rage against a young Arab who takes a shine to Marie. Jesus is conspicuous by his absence, as are any signs of life.

--Peter Keough

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