Sunday, March 4, 2012

Debunking American Myth

Twentynine Palms (2003) - Dumont
My god.... Zizek would have a field day with this film if he ever saw it.

David (David Wissak) and Katia (Katerina Golubeva) are driving down to Joshua Tree National Park from LA in their red Hummer. Seems David is involved with filmmaking (he's scouting for locations). With slow pacing, we get to witness their mundane routine- driving, trekking, eating, swimming in a motel pool, fucking, fighting and making up. There is a sense that David and Katia are not communicating well (Katia only speaks in French and David always yells at her, "I understand only a half of what you say!") On the outset, Twentynine Palms plays out like another Antonioni-esque film about disconnection and isolation in modern society. But that's not what Dumont is interested in here. As its sudden, grotesque violence that befalls on our protagonists at the end of the film, it is clear that he is after something else.

Given the context of 9/11 and Invasion of Iraq, Dumont is set out to debunk American machismo- Westerns & military power (Hummer) and also throws in sexual politics: David constantly demands sex and Katia accuses him of not having a heart. When he lets her stir(!) his Hummer, to his horror, she scratches the shit out of the car. We spend copious amount of time watching him looking at the dents and them looking for a car wax in following scenes.

Twentynine Palms is a difficult film to like. Dumont's blunt use of symbolism and sudden violence to illustrate the point rub me the wrong way. Yet I prefer this to von Trier's Dancer in the Dark or Haneke's Funny Games remake. His talent is undeniable.