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  • This seems to be a serious film, although it's easy to misunderstand it or to be appalled by it. Scenes of "animalistic" sex with almost no conversation or foreplay, scenes of horrific violence, hardly any plot -- all that might be a total turn-off for many.

    I was lucky to attend a Q&A session with the director, where he answered a lot of questions. The idea for this film was born when Dumont was in California desert, and, as he puts it, "I was afraid". It seems the time and space and the silence and the power of it all influenced him very much. Among other things, he addressed the audience before the film started, with "if you become afraid when you watch this film, just cover your face with hands".

    He also stated later that the film is an experiemnt at expressing his feelings, and has no intent, or narrative, or message. The director is free to express himself, and the spectator is free to see whatever (s)he may in the film and take that away. The characters are stripped of anything that would make them likeable or dislikeable, and generally of anything but the very primitive in order to make the experience pure.

    The characters are not the focus of the film; sound and background are. "Untreated" location sound was used throughout the film and is very important for the director to convey the sense of the place and time. In one scene one could even hear the sound of lighting generator behind the camera, which Dumont refused to edit out during the argument with the sound crew. Camerawork is also original and important in this experience.

    The serenity of transcendent scenes remind me of Zabriskie Point. Using explicit sex and violence remind me of Irreversible and I Stand Alone. Yet, this is certainly not a "following", this is a highly personal expression, which is designed to generate a highly personal experience for any viewer.

    Altogether NOT recommended if one is looking for "normal" filmgoing experience.
  • A three-legged dog, a dead body lying naked in the middle of the desert, a cop on his walkie-talkie calling for backup and a road block miles from the nearest inhabitant. These and other bizarre things show up in Twentynine Palms, the latest film by Bruno Dumont (La Vie de Jesus, L'Humanite). It is essentially a horror film that might easily be called "Scream 4". The opening scenes are beautiful and serene. David (David Wassik), an independent photographer from Los Angeles, and Katia (Katia Golubeva), a young woman without work, travel in a red 4X4 Hummer toward the vast California desert preparing to do a photo shoot for a magazine near the Joshua Tree National Park. The road leads to a motel in the city of 29 Palms, a desert oasis that in the film consists of one gas station, one hotel, and a swimming pool. Dumont says that he filmed in the U.S. rather than his native France because he "… felt the need to change space, ingredients, colors... and it is while filming in California that I had a true shock". The shock extends to the viewer as well.

    There is little dialogue or action in the conventional sense. The communication between the couple is complicated by the absence of a common language: he speaks English, she only speaks French. What conversation exists is trapped in a level of superficial banality. The lovers explore the desert in their 4X4 and are focused entirely upon their own pleasure, seemingly defined by their sexuality. They swim in the motel pool, watch game shows on television, eat, make love in the middle of the desert, eat some more, argue and make up, then make love some more, all shown in explicit detail. Everything is familiar, a slice of typical Americana, yet nothing is as it seems.

    Little by little the milieu becomes oppressive; a quiet and incoherent fear begins to settle in, an abstract fear because as Dumont says, "there is no reason to be afraid." At the end, nothing can fill the emptiness but destruction. The contrast between the poetry of nature and the constricted range of the human experience is clear. In this world without a spiritual core, the screams of pain and screams of delight are indistinguishable and anguish has the same meaning as pleasure. According to Dumont, "There is at the same time the bliss of pure happiness and absolute horror, the capacity to generate the two extremes: the hyper violence and the hyper pleasure. This is a couple that lives for pure pleasure and that will be led into abomination."

    One cannot be neutral about a Bruno Dumont film (many people walked out during the Vancouver showing). His audiences are polarized between those who love and those that detest his films and the director seems disinterested in reconciling the two. I found this film extremely difficult to watch and even harder to be emotionally engaged with the characters. Dumont tests our endurance with scenes of brutal violence, making no concession to our sensibilities. In bringing us face to face with our worst nightmare, however, he forces us out of our state of emotional detachment and compels us to react, not with our minds or even our hearts, but viscerally with the totality of our being. Far removed from the pre-digested package cinema of Hollywood, Dumont has made an important statement about American values. The question must be asked however -- with films like Twentynine Palms that are so off-putting, will there be anyone who notices?
  • i can easily understand why this film has been so hated, but i must say that it is at times one of the most beautiful, and at others, one of the most disturbing films i've ever seen. after seeing humanite, i walked in to the theatre with very low expectations (i'm not a dumont fan in the least), but something in the stark beauty of the photography sucked me in, i found the numb vacant space of the characters, and hook, line and sinker, fell right into dumont's trap. i doubt i would recommend this film to anyone but my closest (and most tolerant) friends, but have to say that i loved it, and thing it may also be found rewarding by other patient and adventurous viewers.
  • Given the talk on this film, I really wasn't expecting much. And after watching it, I can safely say, that I will never trust the opinions of others again. Unlike my opinion, which you should all listen to! The complaints from people who say it's too slow moving, have obviously never treated themselves to some of the better films from Leigh or Jarmusch. I can imagine what they'd think of Stranger than paradise. These types of movie goers should be ignored at all costs. These ADD movie watchers are the reason films like Breakdown have to turn into a Rambo movie somewhere in the middle. Because studios are afraid these cinematic sugar addicts will never follow a film not layered in one liners, cool dialogue, and fast action.

    Directed by Bruno Dumont, Palms moves along not so much in a slow and uneventful manner, as rather in a real life, non Hollywood fashion we all move in. Especially when we find ourselves in a small and hot desert town, as this couple does.

    David (David Wissak) and Katia (Yekaterina Golubeva) are out in the California desert to find a setting for a photo shoot for David, an independent photographer. It's great that there are no distractions from the two main characters. No lights or heavy traffic, or friends stopping by for coffee. These two are as passionate as they are unstable in their relationship. They regularly shift back and forth between controlled arguing and uncontrolled sexual release. All of which is magnified by the heat and isolation of their surroundings.

    What I love about this film is that I can't remember a single line from it. Just as I can't remember most conversations overheard in everyday life. They talk about the same mundane things we all do, while having the same petty arguments most in relationships have as well.

    I know that hardly sounds like great movie viewing, but don't worry, that's not the entire film. Nor is it what makes this film brilliant. What makes it brilliant is how it uses the seemingly uneventful as it's base, while building upwards from that with a constant undertone of tension and dysfunction that shifts back and forth between blunt and subtle.

    This is not a fun movie to watch. But it is one that I will never forget.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Twentynine Palms (2003) The basic plot outline for Twentynine Palms is that David, a photographer from LA and his Russian lover Katia (who speaks only in subtitled French) are out in the California desert scouting out locations for an upcoming photo shoot, at night they sleep in a motel room in the city of Twentynine Palms, and by day they explore the desert in their red Hummer.

    First off, there is very little dialog or action in this film, it just flows naturally, relying mainly on visuals and the bleak, brooding atmosphere of the desert. The characters of David and Katia are basically hollow, there's nothing for you to like or dislike about them, they're nonentities. Their relationship is very intense and volatile, but ultimately empty, based purely on frequent bouts of animalistic f ucking in the desert sand, on the rocks, wherever. Constant long shots distance the viewer from what is happening on screen, which adds to the overall feeling of isolation that the film emits.

    During one of their daily scouting missions in the middle of nowhere they are suddenly rammed from behind by a white pickup truck with blacked out windows, they pull over and 3 men jump from the truck, pull the couple from their Hummer, and start to beat David's head in with a baseball bat. Then while one man holds Katia..s head, forcing her to watch, another of the men brutally rapes David while screaming in orgasmic glee, after he comes, he zips up and the men disappear as quickly as they arrived, leaving the couple in the sand. They go back to their motel room where David sits on the bed completely traumatized. The next morning Katia goes out to get a pizza (?!) and when she comes back David has locked himself in the bathroom, she patiently waits for him to come out. Then suddenly the bathroom door flies open, David bursts out screaming, his head completely shaved and proceeds to viciously stab Katia to death. The final scene of the film is the abandoned Hummer in the middle of the desert, David's dead body beside it and a highway patrol officer on his police radio calling for an ambulance.

    Twentynine Palms starts off as a cinema verite-style road movie with stunning imagery, stylish camera-work and a slow meditative pace, but after the shocking ''climax'' you are left with one startlingly bleak and nihilistic film. Director Bruno Dumont has said his film has no intent, narrative or message. He as a director is free to express himself on celluloid, and we as spectators are free to take whatever we may from it. The characters are deliberately stripped free of any discernible traits, therefore we cannot identify with them. Instead the focus is on pure sound and image. A fantastic piece of cinematic art. 10/10 Highly recommended.
  • I thought this film was excellent! (maybe not as good as La vie de Jesus or L'Humanite=same director) But you have to look at it differently than when you watch an entertaining Hollywood-film. This film is not entertaining at all, but that doesn't mean it's bad. The film doesn't really tell a story. It does something else: it "captures" an atmosphere, a strange kind of tension, a weird feeling, it captures the flux of life without dramatization... something which, for me at least, is much more interesting than just telling a story. There are other great directors doing it (in different ways of course): Hungarion Directot Béla Tarr, Austrian Director Michael Haneke, Gus van Sant (in his best films), or look at the films of Japanese director Ozu: his films have a lot in common with bruno dumont's in the sense that they don't rely on the script when making a film. they rely on the film when making the film!... The film is what touches me, not the story. A masterpiece!
  • I just came back from a second viewing of this movie. I saw it for the first time a few months ago and it has stayed with me as few films do. When I first saw it I went to see it "cold" -- I hadn't read anything at all about it, I only knew that it was the new film by Bruno Dumont. I recommend all potential viewers do the same. Even the barest bone "plot descriptions" of this movie will spoil it. It needs to be experienced fresh and with an open mind and hopefully with an audience willing to go along with the film's flow and not laugh at it just because it makes them uncomfortable. The first time I saw the movie Bruno Dumont was in the audience and answered questions afterward. Perhaps because of his presence even the dissenters were relatively well-behaved. But tonight's "sophisticated" New York City audience behaved idiotically. I for one will look forward to seeing the film again when it is on DVD and with an audience in my home that I know will meet the film honestly and give it the chance it deserves. It is a remarkable achievement.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film reminded me of "Irreversible" by Gaspar Noe. Both movies are French, both contain scenes of sex and violence, both explore the nature of man and woman in their extreme manifestations. Many reviewers say that nothing happens for almost whole film except that in the ending. In fact, many things happen if you are dare to see them. The two characters and their relationship are described perfectly in short episodes and scraps of conversation. Inbetween there are still hypnotizing scenes like that of driving, sights of the desert and other things reminding a bit of "Gerry" by Gus Van Sent. I think the most convincing episode is that of the quarrel, where the directing is just stunning.

    While the most part of the film is very realistic, the ending is a bit superficial, but contains a great metaphor: David was raped in a manner he used to have sex with Katia - wild and rude. For some time, they changed the roles: she took care of him. He get closed in the bathroom just like she did. But he couldn't bare this state of things for long. He reestablished his masculine nature by letting out his hate for her and killing her (note that he actually told her that he hate her earlier during the quarrel). Here we have many things to think about. What was wrong and what was right in the relationships of David and Katia? Could they understand each other better? Can human overcome his animalistic nature?
  • rudymovie10 June 2004
    Warning: Spoilers
    Cette flic me plaisait beaucoup! Quel prestation du realisateur Dumont, mais le grand public ne comprendra, je pense...I mean, I liked it.

    Although of course shocked by the brutal murder in the end, even if it was more suggested than real (Like Psycho "shower scene" original) I left in a good mood. At last a really good movie again, one that made you think... Very comparable to that recent masterpiece , also of 2 protagonists, and much written about, Lost In Translation. But much less reassuring about, what is called, "La Condition Humaine". Explanating and philosophising would seem useless. Others have done it enough. The long shots of empty landscapes where very useful to me, I have seen them myself, but also as a context for the "relation" between him and her. The same goes for the "great" village, they stay in. It is as empty as what is between them. What we see happening during the trip, between the two, is what happens in a lot of relationships, and marriages. But in a less extreme form.

    Drifting apart, healing , coming together again, occasional quarrel, a fight, making love to make good, nothing new. The only new , is the breaking with conventional Hollywood film language. Fortunately the viewer is kept away from cliché's. Even the brute attack-and-rape scene by the 3 trash men, is not really new in movie history. It reminded me much of the ending of the famous "sixties "film Easy Rider (dir.Dennis Hopper) . Where the two heroes are literally blown off their motorcycles by shotgun fire from "local" Okies. Who represent the traditional American values, the "longhairs" tried to fight. In search for a new, and better we all did then... That event was shocking in 1969 when I saw Easy Rider, as a young man, in the swinging city of Amsterdam. Now, in 2004 we are not shocked by this anymore. Also in my lovely Holland people are beaten in the streets by passers by for just one too long look.("You Lookin At Me??" Robert de Niro Taxi driver quote). "Useless violence" it is called here. Violence is neither useless nor useful. The idiot who raped the man looked just as worn down and un-triumphant as the man himself , after doing it to his old lady. They were all victims. Of what, is to the reader to decide.
  • Twenty-nine palms. Directed by Bruno Dumont. ****

    Film-making is about images NOT stories.

    I just can't believe the amount of awful reviews this great film has been receiving in the site. It is a shame that people actually don't get it, when it fact it works in two levels perfectly.

    The first level is intellectual. You can dissect it in its metaphors, symbols, etc. but I don't like that because we will not ever know what was happening in Dumont's head (conscious and unconscious) when he filmed it.

    The second level is plain emotional. You can take the film as an atypical horror film. And it truly scared the hell out of me. It shocked me in a way no other film did before. Ever.

    The acting sucks? I don't think so. They are just acting natural. It's not like: "Look at me, uh! Look at me, Give me my freaking Oscar!". They are just portraying common people. And if you don't like how common people talk, well... beat it!

    That's another issue that annoyed me. A lot of people have stated here: "Writing on it sucks" Well, What were you expecting? Retro-linguistics, artsy-historic wannabe type, on the track of major turkeys like "Troy", "King Arthur" or "The Village"? Give me now a major break and let me tell you this is how people talk. Go out more often, if you please.

    The great trick on the film, is that Dumont made it so hiper realistic. So, when the shocker ending comes, it hits you like a van running at 110 mph in the middle of the Joshua Tree Desert. And yes, ready to scare you off to death.

  • cultfilmdistribution17 September 2006
    This is the first time I've ever posted a comment on IMDb. I felt so angry after watching this film that I couldn't help myself.

    I should qualify my comments by first saying that I watch a lot of films - cult films, horror films, art house, American, Japanese, I watch lots of everything and I also programme films for film festivals. So this isn't a "I don't understand art cinema and only like Hollywood" kind of response. In fact, I generally like art-house cinema and older films much more than mainstream cinema.

    29 Palms, however, is utter drivel. Halfway through the film I was starting to wonder whether Dumont was making a satirical comment on these flaky, pretentious and pointless characters. How else to explain that he could have felt that there could be any point in watching these incredibly boring characters. The film is nigh on unwatchable because the characters are such total dullards and nothing happens. There are times when inaction can be fascinating - Monte Hellman has a pretty good stab at a film about nothing happening in Two Lane Black Top. But I finally got the sense that Dumont felt that he was communicating some kind of grand human struggle with his characters. He isn't. He's just simply filming two stupid people playing stupid characters who act like children.

    When the action does kick in, after an hour and half of utter boredom, it is totally unsatisfactory. You get the sense that Dumont has no respect for horror films. The first hour and a half is perhaps supposed to elevate the horror elements into something sublime. But this isn't a subversion of horror clichés, it's an obliterative film that takes all of the satisfaction out of the horror elements. There is a vast problem at the moment in that directors don't see the potential in genre films. Horror films these days are generally dumb or incredibly pretentious deconstructions of the genre.

    The problem with 29 Palms lies in the fact that without the action of the last half hour there would be no film. But because the first three quarters of the film is so unengaging the last quarter seems utterly pointless anyway. There is no build-up of tension towards the climax, no atmosphere, just bad performances. And the climax is so obtuse that it is mostly amusing. Many great films have covered the themes of 29 Palms. Dumont's film keeps its themes out of focus in an attempt to make grand statements. Ultimately it is says absolutely nothing about anything.

    After watching the extras on the disc it does indeed turn out that Dumont thinks that these characters are somehow fascinating. The main actor talks about his performance as if he invented acting. Dumont speaks as if actors have no understanding of the process that they go through. The 'Making Of' Documentary plays like Spinal Tap.

    This is a grossly misguided film by a pretentious and misguided director. People will read deep meanings into it but really this is dreadful film-making of the highest order. Absolute drivel, there's no doubt about it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    POSSIBLE SPOILER (If further spoilage is possible) It should take longer for directors to go into decline. A great disappointment after Pola X. He got much more out of Golubova in that film --- maybe her characterization, such as it is, and ultimate fate, in 29 Palms reflects a deterioration in their relationship.

    Contrary to many comments, the dissatisfaction is not about the slow pace – we still love L'Avventura, Bergman, etc., but when there is nothing to look at in the frame, things become very boring. Narcissists are boring, and neither the director nor the actors (nor the Hummer) show us any complications of interest. It may be news to this French director that the California desert is harsh, the roadside strip malls soulless, but it shouldn't be news that sex can be soulless. No, I don't expect the director to make it erotic, but he shows nothing new about sex or violence to those of us over 10 years old.

    Some have called this a horror film. Is it the horror of kitsch, of Disneyland, of TV,celebrity culture, of corporate America, of present day politics? Seen it all before. The horror of nothingness?: Been done much better before. This film telegraphs the upcoming horror leadenly --- 15 minutes into it I thought "Deliverance."
  • Well this one definitely isn't for everyone, as you can tell by the comments. For awhile, I liked this movie. I kind of liked these two driving around in the desert. The movie had that sort of dreamlike Zabriskie Point thing going on. In fact, along those lines, I'd mention that the film did feel like something from the 1960s (in a good way).

    Katia Golubeva is a pretty enough girl, and we see a lot of her.

    I know from regular trips to Death Valley that Europeans have a special respect for American deserts. At Badwater Junction in Death Valley, you can walk out onto the salty flats and despite the fact that you're in a giant valley, they know enough to whisper, or remain silent altogether. It's a pensive respect for the desert I wish more Americans had.

    Here, you get a lot of California desert; always a good thing (to me). I liked these two characters when they were getting along - there was a weird and charming sort of innocence in their sex life and affection for each other.

    Didn't fully get why they were constantly sniping at one another or why they kept having falling outs with each other. And that seems to be important to the overall point of the film, and I'm still thinking about it. I wanted to slap them - especially David - when he was being a jerk.

    Because you should *never* take a sexually liberated French girl naked in the desert for granted that way (Am I right?).

    The end is jarring, and a metaphor for something but I'm not sure what, exactly. Something, I suspect, about the fact that the two characters should have been a little more tender and appreciated each other more (especially on the dude's part), what with all the meanness and cruelty in the world (and so on).

    This is not for everyone. It is slow moving, beautiful to look at, with characters who occasionally charm and occasionally irritate. The end sequence is disturbing and unpleasant.

    If you're a fan of mainstream Hollywood, you might find this excruciatingly boring. The pervasive quiet of the movie makes the end all the more startling.

    This film was not an unqualified success, but there's a fair amount to like here, I think. For certain people, anyway.
  • Twentynine Palms. Directed by Bruno Dumont. (Unrated). ****

    The victory of brutality over civilization.

    At a first look "Twentynine palms" is just another trivial film. You might be tempted to think that is "Gerry" going porn and you may say "Come on, Frenchies. Grow up!". You may think is only sex, sex, sex, and sex with some violence. But analyzing the film more in depth, I found it rather disturbing and fascinating in its sociological and moral context.

    Be aware. It is not a film easy to seat through. The first half shows walking around in the desert a la "Gerry", mixed with some hardcore sex scenes at the pool and at the motel. When the second half starts the film turns into a "lynchean" nightmare. We get to see mean white trash and three-legged dogs. And then the brutal ending, that every likes to talk about, which it seems it was extracted from somebody's worst nightmare.

    Bruno Dumont has created a shocking metaphor with this film, shocking in deed. At the beginning of the film we see David getting ready to leave L.A. And then the whole film takes place in the barrel Joshua Tree desert, where the first trivial, then tragic events take place. The desert as a metaphor of the world after 9/11, with all the moral devastation, its raw madness and its social chaos. The world has become a lonely place, where "there's nothing to understand" and "where we are not alone" according to Katia's wise words. Nobody in the desert is subjected to anything. Forget morals, ethics and law, and give a new meaning to your life: to satisfy instincts, passions and impulses, doesn't matter if they are erotic, warring or psychotic.

    Dumont brings to debate the contrast between civilization and barbarousness. And the thing that is so hopeless, is that barbarousness has triumphed and overcome humanity. It is the victory of brutality over civilization.

  • chicagojim_x9 November 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    An admittedly EXPERIMENTAL work, Dumont triumphs with this weird, minimalist shocker that dares you to pay attention as it's first half floats in front of you languidly...a man and woman, more cyphers than characters, reduced to primitive f*** and fight dynamics, wander about a desert landscape 'location scouting', getting naked, crying, yelling, humping, eating - hetero-love reduced to the bare essentials. Under a microscope, the subtle shifts in behavior between the two actors is quite amazing to behold - raw, stripped down, unadorned performances. This film will make fans of glossy Euro-tripe like "Amilee" want to pull their hair out, but those in tune to a simpler, bare-bones approach (think Claire Denis, Bella Tarr, Sukarov) will be intrigued - and one must never forget that Dumnt is not interested in ENTERTAINMENT. This is a big mistake that people make when approaching his films, especially this one.

    While the two characters represent male/female dynamics in an overtly simplistic way (they hardly 'speak each other's language', she wants to know 'what he's thinking', cries at the drop of a hat, she is the paragon of forgiveness - while he is the Hummer-driving emotionally stunted sub-Everyman with a perpetual boner (her: I love you, is answered with his: I want you).

    POSSIBLE SPOILER********* He fully deserves what happens to him in the end (no pun intended), not just as the proud owner of A HUMMER (which he tries to get her to drive on occasion, trying to create sympathy within their relationship through a role-reversal that he can not ever fully embrace), but she is also made to watch it, as if to say to her (and to the audience) - THIS IS WHAT YOU LOVE? as well as, "LOOK UPON YOURSELF"
  • I've seen many slow movies in my days. Some of them are among my favorites (Stalker, I You He She, etc.). However, this movie is so boring it has to be seen to be believed. Actually, ignore that--don't waste your time. This movie was so ridiculously boring that I fast forwarded through the sex scenes. Terrible, terrible stuff.

    There is zero plot, nothing interesting happens, the acting is, well, uninteresting (how can one comment on the acting it takes for characters to sit in a car or have sex). It truly has nothing to recommend it except for some nice scenery--and any movie that's not a nature documentary that has me commenting on the scenery (especially a movie where the main couple is naked for 40% of the film (no, that's not the scenery I meant)) doesn't have anything going for it.

    Do yourself a favor and avoid this one.
  • mail-40173 April 2012
    Twentynine palms captures the atmosphere of the high desert, I am English and I have been to the area, I found it to be very powerful and raw, the desert isn't something that exists in England and the sense of overwhelming space with no consequence is captured brilliantly in this film.

    I would describe this as a photographer's film as there is very little camera movement, lots of action takes place in a mundane way in what is essentially a still image, these 'stills' are not especially beautifully composed or crafted but just real, the lack of camera movement and long lingering still shots add a sense of space and the mundane to the film.

    The plot is inconsequential to the atmosphere and essentially it is the place and setting with the sense of isolation that brings out the primal urges from our main characters weather they be sexual or violent.

    This is not classical entertainment but a brilliant art house movie, the only improvements for me would have been aesthetic, the movie could have been more crafted and still kept the atmosphere.
  • A photograph David goes looking for locations in the Joshua Tree area in the Californian desert with his girlfriend Katia. They don't speak the same language and the most palatable means of communication between them are gestures and looks. As soon as they arrive in this desert landscape, they bicker then reconcile each other, have sex, wander in the surroundings. And an impending, unshakable threat is just around the corner. One can feel it but one can't see it during almost all the film...

    I stand in awe for the French filmmaker Bruno Dumont who could be Robert Bresson's heir, would it be only by his minimalist approach about the writing of a film and his way of filming. His two unique works, "la Vie De Jésus" (1997) and "l'Humanité" (1999) which had a strong connection with "le Journal D'Un Curé De Campagne" (1951) revealed a new, fresh auteur who delivered a thoroughly novel vision of the cinematographic genres the two quoted films belong to. This third offering as unsettling as its two precedent partners is very close to a mix of road-movie and horror film. One thinks of the horrendous "the Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974). But like his precedent efforts, Dumont won't follow the rules and will rather relinquish the codes of the genre.

    His experimental piece of work holds his own mark. First, there's still this palpable sense of space which he has perhaps never tapped so well here. Anyway the scenery and the landscapes of this Californian desert were ideal for him to set out his stalls. This barren place has something both startling and eerie for it could be in the first place an equivalent of the garden of Eden. The sequence in which David and Katia are all naked on the rocks make inevitably think of Adam and Eve. This is a divine vision of a world which seems forever gone. These landscapes are also repulsive because dangerous. Nothing happens in them and danger could come out at any moment.

    There's no real storytelling in "Twentynine Palms" like in Dumont's debut "la Vie De Jésus". It isn't really a handicap because the filmmaker knows how to grab the audience's attention with an unconventional, courageous approach of cinematographic writing. The film includes quite numerous static shots with a painstaking work on the sound which often sounds dirty Basically, the film showcases a love between two very different characters but this love and so this fusion between them is impossible. The scratch on the 4X4 is a concrete sign of this doomed love. Then, what fascinates Dumont in this failed loving relationship is the animal side which sleeps in them. It's the filmmaker's duty to awake it and it better explodes during their wild sexual intercourse which inconveniences the audience like the scenes in the swimming pool and the motel bedroom.

    "Twentynine Palms" is also a typical work from Dumont because he wants the viewer to take part in his experiment. It means he wants him to arouse questions about what he can watch on the screen and especially about the main characters' thoughts. But also, to bridge the different steps of the evolution of the film (it would seem irrelevant to use the term "story" as there is virtually none here). Very simply, Dumont wants to put this crucial premise of the cinema to the forefront: a film is a link between its director and the audience and for Dumont it's up to the viewer to express his standpoint about the contents and form. "Twentynine Palms" is the antithesis of Dumont's second film, "l'Humanité". In this whodunit, the main protagonist Pharaon De Winter was deeply affected by the woes and sorrow in which this "humanity" was steeped in but it didn't stop him from sharing their grieves. In the Dumont 2003 film, humanity is virtually absent and even constitutes a danger (perhaps the main one) because it breaks the fleeting harmony of the couple. Consequences could be disastrous even gruesome.

    It is impossible to leave this film indifferent which leaves none glimmer of hope. It could occupy a prominent place in the category of the "either you like either you hate" films and if you're tired of watching films made in a trite manner, this one is waiting for you...

    But beware! It's better to have nerves of steel to watch this work.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's not even enough to blame this on warped French sensibilities. There is no movie here - no plot, no story, no theme, no characters, no cinematography, no soundtrack - just boring shots of the desert inter cut with boring shots of awkward sex - until you finally and mercifully get an ending that is apparently from a different movie entirely. I think it must be a perverse joke by the director - some kind of statement on the absolute banality of our lives if we are willing to sit through something like this - and the fact that the best we can hope for is a violent end to our empty existence. The director should never be allowed to touch a camera again in his life.
  • Not shocked. Not surprised. Not unable to get it. This is genuinely a mediocre cinematic work. A hopeless film empty of any respect for the dignity of the human being. Many shots of the beautiful So. Cal. desert as contrast to a meaninglessly horrific/pathetic humanity. A base (I would use the word puerile if the content weren't so explicit) view of humanity. The pacing of the film is rather art-school generic. The framing of the shots is unexceptional, their beauty lying in the landscape not the direction nor the cinematography. A poorly made film despite my opinion of the content. Comparisons to horror films are appropriate as a reference to quality. All 'shock', no content (well, not quite, Joshua Tree National Park is beautiful). Watch as you will. Peace.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Waste of film and time. This is an obscene exercise in the director's misplaced vanity. I have alerted readers to spoilers, but the truth is there is so little action, story line, character development or writing, there isn't much to spoil. A selfish, arrogant jerk goes on a trip with his super needy girlfriend from Russia. They drive the arrogant jerks Hummer through the desert and have sex in various places with the guy having some impossible, skull exploding orgasm every time. This happens continuously for the first 96 minutes of this 113 minute movie. In the last ten minutes they are pulled over by desert-driving thugs, who force them to stop, rape and brutalize the man, while forcing the woman to watch. In the last minute they are both killed and the movie ends. Just awful. I suppose the artsy pseudo-intellectuals will talk about these things I thought the director had included. The stark contrast of the Hummer in the desert. The less than perfect communications between the man and the woman represent the inherent differences of the sexes. And finally, it was not lost on me (no more than getting hit with a sledgehammer), was the male rape by the guy who had the bigger truck and as some king of insane plot thread, the rapist has a similar very vocal orgasm during the male rape. Look, I don't want to intellectualize over some anti-Hummer tirade by the director, but this movie sucked and the panoramic vistas (which some people think is the saving grace of this movie, kind of in the wide open style of Kubrick in 2001,but it simply did not work for me. For example, some of the shots are so wide, you have to scan to find the actors. Anyway, pass on this film, you have an hour fifty two minutes to do better stuff in your life.
  • This is truly a great film. With long shots that will bore those with short attention spans, and mesmerize those with the patience to watch and stay with the film. Too often in Hollywood, directors use flash and trendy music to divert the watcher from the sometimes horrid scripts and acting going on in movies nowadays.

    Not in this film. You get the sense that you are really watching something that is happening, rather than feeling like you are at the MTV movie awards. The ending is excellent, made more-so by the extravagant-less build up that more reflects something the viewer can relate to; which makes the ending, like I said, excellent and truly horrific.

    This is a true horror film, that gets you without cheap thrills and predictably timed jolts and spooky faces.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A couple are on a road trip in the deserts of Southern California scouting locations, presumably for a movie. Essentially nothing happens until the last five minutes when all hell breaks loose.

    They're both volatile in their own way, and when I say "nothing happens" I mean there's no plot. It's just a study of their relationship. It's not referred to, but from the way they interact they probably haven't been together more than three months. We see them fumble around with their own insecurities and idiosyncrasies (an apology follows every foul-up and faux-pas) and it's clear they're still learning about each other. They're neither likable nor unpleasant, they're just an average couple.

    Identical to director Bruno Dumont's L'humanite in that there's an irresistible, hypnotic quality to the endless shots of people driving and walking, the film also follows the same cyclical rhythm as L'humanite - except it has a much faster pace. It's beautifully shot, with Dumont taking full advantage of the landscape. Often the subject (whether it be a car or a person) is just a speck in the midst of mountainous desert.

    The acting is not spectacular but it's very good, and most importantly the couple have great chemistry that's not exactly dynamic but it's very believable. When it erupts into violence in the final minutes it's all the more painful because we know them so well. It's like one of those slasher films that make a point of letting us get to know the characters before the killing starts, except in this case it's entirely successful.

    A masterpiece. An absolutely stunning, mesmeric piece of cinema.
  • alexx66815 January 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    "Twentynine Palms'" elliptical storyline features a young couple leaving Los Angeles and moving to the Southern Californian desert. That's pretty much it, it's as sparse as they come. Thereafter we only watch fragments from the couple's everyday life, which mostly includes driving around the desert and having sex. They don't talk much, and when they do it's in a half-incomprehensible and meaningless manner.

    This part of the film is an exercise in existential abstraction, a distant relative of Antionioni's "the Passenger", or even Gus Van Sant's "Gerry". The most notable thing about it is the unnerving & disquieting atmosphere seeping out of the landscape, and the shadow-play of the storyline. But generally it's so-so.

    Near the end, the couple gets attacked by a group of thugs (a sequence reminiscent of Gaspar Noe's shock cinema), the man is beaten up and raped while the woman watches. In the end the man murders the woman.

    This completes the film's allegorical meaning: the couple as a loose metaphor for the United States, and the attack symbolising the 11/9 attacks. This allegorical level enhances the film's significance. It's not a masterpiece, but it's a worthwhile watch that makes for a refreshing change from all the Harry Potters and Lords of the Rings out there.
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