Bruno Dumont’s controversial Cannes Grand Prix winner L’Humanité attempts spiritual inquiry with a rigorousness that’s lacking from its actual police-procedural plot. In a gray, underpopulated northern seaside French town, detective Pharaon (Emmanuel Schotté) runs madly through the countryside and lands face down in the mud, from which director Dumont cuts away to a shot of a dead 11-year-old girl’s mutilated vagina. A heavyhanded jolt attuned to the forthcoming portrait of Pharaon as an empty vessel in search of himself – and, more crucially, some enlightenment on the questions of individual purpose and higher powers – this jarring introduction is the gateway to an almost absurdly prolonged middle section in which Pharaon, apparently a borderline moron, does little investigating but much hanging out with his neighbor Domino (Séverine Caneele) and her crass boyfriend Joseph (Philippe Tullier). Dumont’s Cinemascope imagery is often majestic, situating tiny, lonely people amidst an imposing countryside that seems to mock their ignorance and insignificance. Still, though often pretty to look at, L’Humanité’s aesthetic is so fixated on life’s repugnance that it soon devolves into self-conscious pretentiousness. If its overly manicured compositions seem designed to provoke groans, its narrative takes such provocation a step further, focusing on a blank-slate idiot and indulging in ugliness (unattractive folk doing the bump-and-grind, Pharaon sniffing suspects, another vagina close-up) as a way of illustrating man’s base animalism, all while forgoing so much character depth and basic logic (Pharaon may be the most incompetent police officer of all time) that the entire film soon feels like an overly deliberate meta-Bressonian prank.