With “L’Empire”, Bruno Dumont signs a “science-friction” on the Opal Coast

After France (2021), a foray into the world of media and its sacred iconography, Bruno Dumont continues his journey into the mass imagination by tackling space opera, from the Star Wars saga to 2001: A Space Odyssey . With the announcement of the birth of Margat, child of Darkness born from the union of a couple of humans, the intergalactic forces of Good and Evil meet in the North, on the Opal Coast, to confront each other. On Earth, two clans face each other: Jane and Rudy, warriors of the forces of Good and disciples of the Queen (Camille Cottin). On the Evil side, Line and Jony, commissioned by Belzébuth (Fabrice Luchini), gesticulating aboard his cathedral ship.

That a filmmaker rushes into a genre that is not his own, nor that of his country, only confirms a rule: he is only being himself, rehashing the same obsessions, picking the same beauties . We will find in The Empire very few traces of the crazy parody that its poster seems to sell: Dumont is Dumont, science fiction is only there to amplify the properties of its cinema, which has always organized the great pile-up of opposing forces – fiction as friction.

Professional actors and non-professional actors replying to each other, sometimes hugging, filming machinery and love of accidents, special effects and naturalism. The Empire would also be the meeting of two schools, as if the film obeyed a rule: one plan for the Lumière brothers (miracle of the recording of reality), another for Méliès (cinema as pure artifice).

Hybrid beauty

It is precisely the clash of this union which gives the film its strange hybrid beauty, mixing profane and sacred: a lightsaber which brushes against the barely made-up face of an actress, a ballet of spaceships in broad daylight, dialogues taken out straight from Star Wars but recited in the middle of pavilions, a face of a young star licking that of a stranger.

The pleasure here is that of a cultural myth thus desecrated and kneaded by a handful of actors reverting to childhood: the unforgettable cops of P’tit Quinquin (2014), Julien Manier, a very sensual “non-pro” actor with false tunes by Patrick Dewaere, Lyna Khoudri as a bimbo of her time, Fabrice Luchini as an imp electrified to play again for Bruno Dumont, Anamaria Vartolomei as Lara Croft from space, grasping the right measure of an impossible role, coming for the war and finding earthly love.

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