Once upon a time, Bruno Dumont was considered the heir apparent to the art-film Olympians who could turn slow and stark into spiritually ecstatic. Then he unleashed Twentyninepalms (2003), and any goodwill he’d acquired evaporated. Having devolved from being the new Bresson to releasing that Brown Bunny--level debacle, Dumont had nowhere to go but up or away for good; thankfully, his latest proves his fans’ original assessment is still justified.
Flanders’ story is simple: Boy (Boidin) meets girl (Leroux). Turned off by said boy’s bovine passivity after brutish bouts of coitus, girl hooks up with new lad (Cretel). Quicker than you can say “Jules and Jim,” a love triangle forms, until both gentlemen go off to war in an unnamed Middle Eastern country.
The Grand Prix winner at Cannes last year, this abstract look at l’horreur, l’horreur contains enough savage violence and sexual ugliness for Dumont to retain his membership in critic James Quandt’s “New French Extremity” coven. But unlike his previous film, a soul also lurks underneath the shocks. When the director turns the most overused three-word phrase into a devastating reinstatement of humanity, you’re quickly reminded of why Dumont was so lauded in the first place. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.) — David Fear