The source material is also quite different from his usual wheelhouse. Titled "La Creatrice," the film is based on the true account of the sculptor Camille Claudel who was injected into a mental asylum by her family, spending her last thirty years in the nut house without ever touching her art again. There's definitely plenty of meat in that tale, which fellow Frenchmen Bruno Nuytten would agree with -- his debut feature "Camille Claudel" shared the same topic and caught much acclaim, garnering two Oscar noms (Best Actress and Best Foreign) while taking a Silver Bear at Berlin and over seven Cesars (including Best Film) at the 1989 Cesar Awards.
We're not familiar with the earlier movie ourselves, but the two seem different enough to warrant another go around: Nuytten's picture was a three hour epic that seemed to focus more on Claudel's relationship with sculptor Auguste Rodin, the man she frequently collaborated with and eventually became mistress to. There's some pretty ecstatic reviews of the two leads, Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu, but detractors complain of the high melodrama and mammoth running time. Given Dumont's generally cold, minimalistic style (and the lack of Rodin mention in the admittedly bare plot details), we can't see the two pictures sharing too much in common.
As for the director himself, we're pretty split. Personally this writer finds him a bit too chilly and calculating sometimes, often taking generic and predictable directions or weak, obvious metaphors over anything actually human. That said, "The Life of Jesus" was incredibly strong, "Humanite" a decent follow-up and after some misfires ("Twentynine Palms," "Flanders"), "Hadewijch" was a firm, much-needed return to form. Then again, our man at Cannes caught "Outside Satan" and was pretty much bored to tears, so maybe it was a fluke. Even so, his movies always contain a few masterful, unsettling scenes and Binoche might be the extra charge he needs to make something really powerful.