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La vie de Jésus

(The Life of Jesus)
France 1997. Dir: Bruno Dumont. 96 min. 35mm

7:00pm - La vie de Jésus | Introduced by Shaun Inouye

“It’s a measure of Dumont’s strong, classical filmmaking that La vie de Jésus can stand with [the films of] Bresson and Buñuel.”

IMPORTED 35mm PRINT | Bruno Dumont’s audacious, uncompromising first feature — ringing in its 20th anniversary this year — is, in retrospect, a career-defining film that roughed out the contours of the director’s forthcoming and fiercely contested body of work. Hardly the religious biopic promised by its title, La vie de Jésus is instead a blunt, dispassionate, austerely beautiful portrait of unemployed, uneducated, and not always sympathetic youth in a small northern French town (a geographical fixture for Dumont). Mixing widescreen vistas with intimate, extreme close-ups, featuring a uniformly excellent cast of non-professionals, and very much bearing the influence of Robert Bresson, the film centres on Freddy, an epileptic 20-year old who lives with his mother, dates supermarket cashier Marie, and rides a motor bike with his pack of ennui-afflicted pals. When a young Algerian immigrant crosses paths with the bored and frustrated lot, events take a decidedly dark turn. Winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes, as well as France’s prestigious Prix Jean Vigo.

Print courtesy Institut Français, thanks to the Cultural services of the French Embassy in New York.

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Opening Night Remarks by Shaun Inouye, Programming Associate, The Cinematheque



★★★★ "An uncompromising, brilliant first feature."

Chicago Tribune | full review

"Extraordinary ... The Life of Jesus may not be about religion, but like the films of Bresson, it is about redemption."

Chicago Reader | full review