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Saturday, May 19, 2012

FLANDRES / FLANDERS (2006)

Bruno Dumont got the Grand Jury Prize (Cannes code for Runner-Up) for this bluntly told homefront/warfront story of the post 9/11 ‘war on terrorism,’ NATO-division. And while its unvarnished look at homefront sex & uncompromising battle carnage undoubtedly earned it kudos on the fest circuit, the core story of rural boys leaving home & girlfriends to fight an implacable enemy in an unfathomable conflict is depressingly familiar. Dumont raises the level of graphic realism, but you need only glance at Goya’s war drawings to see their like from centuries past. The filmmaking style is recognizable from the brothers Dardenne and Bresson, non-pro cast, sparse dialogue, simple camerawork, but Dumont’s closes all the exits before we have started, the film is hobbled by predetermination. Only an unexpected shot of soldier boys riding thru the desert (in Tunisia?) on horseback takes us off-course. Who knew the military still had horses. And he makes things even tougher not by the brusque, businesslike savagery of wartime atrocities, or by his clipped jumps in continuity, but by disconnecting us from his cast when they exchange their ‘civies’ for buzz cuts & fatigues. We barely know who’s getting slaughtered. No doubt, his point, but a worn one. And served up with a side of contempt for characters he views as little different than the rutting cattle they lead about.

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