L'humanité

The most disputed and reviled prizewinner at Cannes in 1999, this brave, ambitious, difficult, and highly memorable second feature by Bruno Dumont (The Life of Jesus) follows the police investigation of a rape-murder, sticking mainly to an oddball detective's assistant who lives with his mother and who often hangs out with a female neighbor he silently loves and her loutish boyfriend. Dumont clearly views this sad sack as a Dostoyevskian hero, and though the stylization of the character is sometimes more than he can handle, I was held and often moved by the mulish persistence of the pacing, the precise and sensuous grasp of the locations, and the brute physiognomy of some of the characters (especially the love interest and the detective). Critics have called this dull and ugly, the hero laughably pathetic, and the plot and style ridiculous—exactly my reaction to most Hollywood product. L'humanit√© is actually enhanced by successive viewings; its conviction, depth of feeling, and singular vision of the world almost equal its pretensions. In French with subtitles. 148 min.

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