Monday, July 1, 2024


Bruno Dumont’s latest film is another example of a bored filmmaker throwing something against the wall and seeing what sticks. Everyone from Harmony Korine (Aggro Dr1ft) to Steven Soderbergh (Bubble) has made their “bored movie” where they don’t feel challenged and still want to do something “different” but you can tell their heart isn’t all the way in it (this is all just my own speculation). L’empire is certainly Bruno Dumont doing something random & unexpected but it (mostly) works because, in my opinion, his heart is in it. At least I think it is…
L’empire is Dumont’s take on Star Wars. Yes - Bruno Dumont’s latest feature is a very loose reimagining of George Lucas’ sci-fi franchise. In the film - two opposing space factions battle it out in a rural French town. And instead of 9 films, 2 side movies and multiple television shows - Dumont manages to tell his space story in under 2 hours with just one movie.

Putting the Star Wars stuff aside, L’empire still fits in with the rest of Bruno’s body of work no matter how out of left field it seems (random dry humor, boats, fishing, seaside towns, unconventional-looking non-professional actors, etc). The film also takes place in the same cinematic universe as the L’il Quinquin series (the detectives from Quinquin & Coincoin et les z'inhumains make an appearance).

Some reviews have described this as a full-on parody of Star Wars but I don’t think it’s that simple. There are certainly plenty scenes of lightsabers, spaceships & holographic messages that we’re supposed to smirk at and not take completely seriously. But there are other aspects of the film that are absolutely genuine and filled with beauty. Normally I hate cheesy taglines to try and describe a movie in an effort to go on the front of the Blu-Ray case, but L’empire is like Robert Bresson doing Empire Strikes back (after almost 30 years of filmmaking it appears Dumont will never shake the Bresson comparisons).

Lancelot Du Lac / The Empire Strikes Back / L'Empire

The strongest connection that L’empire has with the rest of Dumont’s films is the ongoing references to Jean Epstein. When you remove the (intentionally goofy) science fiction aspects, you’ve essentially got a modern day Jean Epstein film with sound.

Finis Terrae / L'Empire

he [Jean Epstein] took himself off one day to Brittany to film exclusively there, with Bretons. Film a region, whichever it is, and the door is opened to filming the whole world - Bruno Dumont, filmmaker magazine
Le Tempestaire / L'Empire

I am simply doing the same thing that Pharaon de Winter did by including in my film people from northeast France, as [Jean] Epstein also did - Bruno Dumont, Cineaction Issue 51, Feb. 2000
 Mor'vran / L'Empire

In L'OR DES MERS there is a non professional actress chosen by Epstein who is truly exceptional. She manages to express infinite emotion - Bruno Dumont,
L'or Des Mers / L'Empire

If you’ve been following my “reviews” of this year’s new releases you may have noticed the common tread of: “I like it but I wouldn’t recommend this to most people”. L’empire is no exception. The difference here is that you don’t just randomly watch a Bruno Dumont movie. This is a movie strictly for his hardcore fans. I’m also still not sure if Dumont was trying to make an unnecessarily mean-spirited cynical commentary on modern cinema or if he was truly being experimental and trying his hand at a new genre (I honestly hope not because making fun of Star Wars in 2024 as an arthouse filmmaker is very lazy & predictable). This excerpt from a recent interview in film comment does indicate that his intentions are genuine. But you never know with a filmmaker like Dumont…


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