LACMA spotlights the mysterious work of a french master

There are few filmmakers today as edgy or enigmatic as Bruno Dumont (Humanité, Twentynine Palms). His films sketch figures — usually young couples, often in French-speaking Flanders — in landscapes that lend metaphysical shadings to stark physical stories of bodies, sex and violence.

Dumont's first feature, The Life of Jesus (1997), screening at LACMA on July 18 along with Outside Satan (2011), makes little reference to Christ but focuses on Freddy, an epileptic young man (David Douche) who spends his days in a village marching band, carousing in a motorcycle gang and banging his girlfriend at every opportunity.

Racial tensions explode when a North African immigrant woos Freddy's girl, and Dumont emphasizes Freddy's mixture of tenderness and savagery, a seesaw of spiritual turbulence.

While the rolling farmland in The Life of Jesus seems drab and oppressively hazy, the same region takes on a windy and haunting character in Outside Satan.

More overtly parable-like, the film follows the relationship between an abused goth girl and a mysterious vagrant (the emaciated David Dewaele) who is part avenging angel and part miracle worker, executing violent justice at will. Dumont skillfully constructs a compressed universe in which sex and salvation, murder and miracle are mystically intertwined, and dares his audience to weigh the results.

SPOTLIGHT ON BRUNO DUMONT | LACMA | Thursday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. |

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