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L'Humanité by Bruno Dumont


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#1 Max Jacoby

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 01:01 PM

I rewatched this film recently and it simply blew me away. It tells the story of a small-town cop in the north of France who investigates the rape and murder of a small girl. Parallel to that he hangs out with his neighbor (whom he fancies) and her busdriver boyfriend.

What is remarkable about the cinema of Burno Dumont is that he doesn't work with actors. He only uses people who have never acted before and he doesn't let them act either, just like Robert Bresson did for his films.

What happens then on the screen is pure magic. These non-actors are incredibly interesting simpy because they don't act. Especially the main character, played by Emmanuel Schotté (who hasn't been in a film since) is simply mind-blowing. On one hand he is incedibly unexpressive, his voice is always the same level and there are hardly any emotions passing through it, but on the other hand there still things coming to the surface of his face from within him and after a while as an audience one starts projecting thoughts and emotions onto his face (aided by the mise-en-scène which uses cuts from his face to his point of view and back to get into his thoughtprocess). It is one of the most stunning performances I have ever seen, it is completely unusal and rightfully got the Best Actor award at the 1999 Cannes film festival (together with the Best Director and Best Actress Prize).

Cinematographically speaking the film is very neutral by design. It all feels very real and the director says himself that he likes his locations to stay as they are. There are no grand color schemes and arcs, just the world as it really looks. Interestingly enough it is shot in scope (on the Hawks) and I think the stock is Fuji from the looks of it.

It is rare that one sees a film where the director has created his own kind of cinema as Bruno Dumont has over the course of 4 films (La Vie de Jesus, Twenty Nine Palms and Flandres are the others). This is obviously a director interested by the nature of what cinema can be and he is asking very interesting questions in the process. It's not an easy film to watch, but once one gets into it, it is really worthwhile.
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#2 Oron Cohen

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 05:54 PM

I also really liked l'humanite very much when I saw it.
I agree with you that Bruno Dumont takes the approach of Bresson and the "cinematograph", I always wonder to my self way not more director's goes through the way of Bresson cinema?
I think I liked "the life of Jesus" even better, I also like very much the anamorphic composition on this two films, the idea to make an intimate film with anamorphic aspect ratio seem to me very attractive, Dumont uses this to "imprison" his characters inside the frame that represent the world (that they are imprison in), interestingly Bresson never used the anamorphic aspect ratio and most of his great film was 1.37:1 or 1.66:1 (my personal favorite aspect ratio), the combination that Dumont created using methods by Bresson and incorporate them with 2.40:1 ratio makes it very interesting visually for me.
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#3 Max Jacoby

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 02:43 AM

Among my 'Positif' collection I found an interview with Bruno Dumont where he says that he likes scope because it anchors the characters in their environment. He shot his 2 first films in the town where he was born and grew up.

This approach to actors is very hard to do, he has to spend an awfully long time on casting to find the right characters. And once he has foudn them, it's not like he just lets them be themselves. He still has to directed them and because they are not used to sustaining their performance, he has to break scenes into different shots, an in the edit take the bits that are good and cut them together to form a coherent film.
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#4 Oron Cohen

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 05:48 AM

Among my 'Positif' collection I found an interview with Bruno Dumont where he says that he likes scope because it anchors the characters in their environment. He shot his 2 first films in the town where he was born and grew up.

"Anchors" and "environment", this are the words I was looking for, luckily enough Dumont describe it for me.
By the way Max, have you notice how much our conversation don?t interest anyone, to tell you the truth: its kind of make me sad , I thought that allot more cinematographers will be interested in Bresson cinema and Dumont cinema, because it is a big challenge to shoot films with those kind of directing methods.
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 05:58 AM

Unfortunately his films are hard to come by. I am still waiting for 'Flandres', which was shown a year ago in Cannes to get a release here in London. But at least I think he is a filmmaker whose body of work will have a lasting influence, unlike most of the crap that gets shown nowadays.
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#6 Mariano Nante

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 08:57 AM

I've been wanting to watch this film for a long time now.

I saw Flandres and liked it, alhough I thought there were a few low blows that weren't needed. If you see the film you'll know what I'm talking about.

When it comes to (non) actors, Dumont surely knows his stuff. But he is infamous for treating them really meanly. I only know about what happend in the set of Flandres. First, he made them all sleep in tents so that they were really uncomfortable. Second, he knew that the main actor was madly in love with his co-star, and made a profit out of this, playing with his emotions. He apparently told the guy that she was really in love with him in order to get a scene, or told him the opposite to get another reaction. Third, he mistreated the actress telling her all kinds of things in order to make her cry (and her weeping is quite convincing I must say ;) ). You can see all of this and more in a documentary called "L'homme de Flandres" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0862938/ He may be a good director, but I think he has no work ethics.

The cinematography in Flandres is quite flat, but I think it suited the story. One thing that left me quite baffled: there were some exterior shots that had so much grain it looked like super8. I don't know what happened there... it certainly looked as a mistake and not as an intentional effect. Maybe somebody has an explanation?
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#7 Max Jacoby

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 12:24 PM

The French part of the film was shot on 35m scope (Arricam LT and Hawk V-Series), while the Tunisian part was shot Super 16mm letterboxed to 2.39 (Arri SR3 and Ultra Prime lenses).

They didn't use highspeed stock though, only 5246 and 5205 for the 35mm part and 7205 and 7212 for the Super 16mm ones. But they were aiming for grain.

The Super 16mm was digitally blown up to 35mm scope. I am not sure though if the whole film went through a DI or just these scenes. Seeing the film in a cinema should clear that up.

On the AFC website is an interview with the film's cinematographer Yves Cape, who also shot L'Humanité:

http://www.afcinema.com/Flandres.html
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#8 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 04:39 PM

"Anchors" and "environment", this are the words I was looking for, luckily enough Dumont describe it for me.
By the way Max, have you notice how much our conversation don?t interest anyone, to tell you the truth: its kind of make me sad , I thought that allot more cinematographers will be interested in Bresson cinema and Dumont cinema, because it is a big challenge to shoot films with those kind of directing methods.


... Thanks guys for putting me onto a movie I know very little about... I've just ordered a copy from Play... There are other like minded people out there!..

Cheers, Rupe.
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#9 Oron Cohen

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 04:50 PM

When it comes to (non) actors, Dumont surely knows his stuff. But he is infamous for treating them really meanly. I only know about what happend in the set of Flandres. First, he made them all sleep in tents so that they were really uncomfortable. Second, he knew that the main actor was madly in love with his co-star, and made a profit out of this, playing with his emotions. He apparently told the guy that she was really in love with him in order to get a scene, or told him the opposite to get another reaction. Third, he mistreated the actress telling her all kinds of things in order to make her cry (and her weeping is quite convincing I must say ;) ). You can see all of this and more in a documentary called "L'homme de Flandres" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0862938/ He may be a good director, but I think he has no work ethics.

Very interesting what you are saying about his (Dumont) work methods, if he did such thinks it is not very nice of him?
From the other end most the directors that I admire didn?t make the life of there actors some kind of heaven but more like some kind of hell. Directors like: Kubrik, Pialat, Lars von Trier and many more.
Every director has his way's to manipulate the actors; this is the work of a good director, where do you put the red line? It is something very individual, I am positive that for Dumont it looked like he is only doing some small tricks.
In the end it is only the film that left?
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#10 Oron Cohen

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 04:56 PM

... Thanks guys for putting me onto a movie I know very little about... I've just ordered a copy from Play... There are other like minded people out there!..

Cheers, Rupe.

hey rupe,

very glad to hear that you order a copy!
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#11 Jason Maeda

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 06:44 PM

"Flanders" is getting savaged by the critics here.

jk :ph34r:
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#12 Oron Cohen

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 03:00 AM

"Flanders" is getting savaged by the critics here.

jk :ph34r:

Didn?t see Flanders yet, but I think in general that the great directors, those who try to contribute something to the art of cinema always took and always will take chances and risk in there film making, occasionally this causes them to make really bad or weird film, but this is what you pay to break trough the boundaries of the main stream cinema.
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#13 Max Jacoby

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 03:54 AM

He did get a 'Grand Jury' prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival for 'Flanders'.

According to imdb the film is getting released on the 7th of July here in England.
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#14 Jason Maeda

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 07:57 AM

and i think there is a much higher standard for some films than there is for others. In one breath the same critics who are ridiculing "flanders" will go on to express their appreciation for "28 weeks later" as a deft political commentary.

i'm just saying i'll bet a flawed "flanders" (if it is) has more to offer than a good zombie movie (and it was very good).

jk :ph34r:
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#15 Jason Maeda

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 08:40 AM

wow

http://www.villagevo...e,76632,20.html
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#16 Max Jacoby

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 12:33 PM

Haha, the poor man obviously does not know what he is talking about.

Anyone interested in reading a intelligent analysis of Bruno Dumont's film should check out the April 2007 edition of Positif.
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#17 Mariano Nante

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 03:58 PM

The French part of the film was shot on 35m scope (Arricam LT and Hawk V-Series), while the Tunisian part was shot Super 16mm letterboxed to 2.39 (Arri SR3 and Ultra Prime lenses).

They didn't use highspeed stock though, only 5246 and 5205 for the 35mm part and 7205 and 7212 for the Super 16mm ones. But they were aiming for grain.

The Super 16mm was digitally blown up to 35mm scope. I am not sure though if the whole film went through a DI or just these scenes. Seeing the film in a cinema should clear that up.

On the AFC website is an interview with the film's cinematographer Yves Cape, who also shot L'Humanité:

http://www.afcinema.com/Flandres.html



Thanks for the info, Max.
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#18 Jason Debus

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 11:52 AM

I saw the L'Humanité DVD recently after reading this thread.

I agree with the Bresson comparison, the approach is very similar. It takes a lot of patience to watch at times though. But the excellent compositions and camera work make it a worthwhile watch I think. Just a couple of observations on the cinematography:

The lens choice was very wide, distorting on the edges at times. Most of the time it wasn't noticeable but it was distracting in a few scenes where there were vertical lines or lateral movement.

A scene with the main character in the kitchen had some annoying anamorphic horizontal flares. Normally I love the blue horizontal flare but in this location & situation it felt like a mistake.

Otherwise the compositions really blew me away. It's pretty amazing how Dumont makes ordinary locations and lighting extraordinary. The scenes outside the characters' apartment come to mind. He blocks them in such a way where you know instantly where the characters stand in relation to one another story-wise. The downside is it feels staged at times.

I liked it enough to put 'Flandres' on my list though!
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