Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 29, 1998 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Life of Jesus

Current Status
In Season
David Douche
Drama, Foreign Language

We gave it an A

Young men living dead-end lives in the provinces are in vogue these days, but in this remarkable, novelistic social drama from French first-timer Bruno Dumont, the forces buffeting Freddy (David Douche) and those around him are not nearly so simplistically sorted out. Freddy — unemployed, epileptic, haphazardly cosseted by his mother — passes time in his hardly postcard-pretty northern French town having sex with his girlfriend, Marie (Marjorie Cottreel), or zooming around recklessly on his motorbike, courting death. But even within a village of the economically damned, ignorance and racism subdivide poverty: Freddy gets enraged by a young Arab immigrant (Kader Chaatouf) who shows an interest in Marie. Dumont cast Life of Jesus with local, nonprofessional actors, and he builds his slow-moving, organically structured film quietly: long takes of Freddy racing down a dirt road, scenes of nothing happening, yet again, in town. It’s only when you’re in the grip of the climax that you realize how richly the filmmaker has painted a landscape that to other eyes might appear so parched. A

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