By Indiewire | Indiewire May 25, 2006 at 7:50AM
Consider the strange case of Bruno Dumont. In 1997 Cannes showed that French filmmaker's feature debut, "Life of Jesus," outside the main selection in the parallel program, Directors' Fortnight. The film, which follows a group of unemployed young people in a desolate town in Normandy, received a special mention and subsequently hit the festival rounds. Like critics, festival programmers tend to have a proprietary relationship with directors they feel they have had a hand in discovering, so when Mr. Dumont was invited back to Cannes two years later with his second film, "Humanity," it was no surprise that this time he was welcomed into the main competition. During its first press screening "Humanity" suffered a fair share of critical derision, telegraphed with choruses of giggles, but nonetheless picked up three major awards. Now Mr. Dumont is back in competition at Cannes with "Flandres," about a young French farmer named Demester who goes off to fight in some unnamed war in an unspecified Arab country. If nothing else, Mr. Dumont's nearly 10-year Cannes trajectory from triumph to disappointment indicates that the burden of the auteur hangs over European directors as heavily as it does any digital savant hungry for Sundance. NY Times' Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott report.