Cannes Film Review – The Hollywood Reporter
French director Bruno Dumont is nothing but an iconoclast, so it’s no surprise that he’s trying something new. Not one but two rock musicals inspired by the life of Joan of Arc? Sure. Crazy comedy? Dour drama? Or both at the same time if it’s for TV? Check, verify and verify. Explosive violence? Explicit sex? Raw realism? If you want it, at least one of Dumont’s films has it. Perhaps the common thread of her work is that it is always uncompromising and intense.
His latest feature film, simply titled France, looks like something really unexpected. The film is a brilliant but relatively cold review of a famous TV presenter in crisis with ominous hints of what may be satire. More often than not, the staging seems conventional rather than intransigent. The tone is rarely intense. On the contrary, it is difficult to understand what Dumont’s vision really was for this work.
The bottom line
The ‘glory day’ has definitely not arrived for this feature.
Because it features Bond girl and international star Léa Seydoux, some distributors will want to take a look. But for such a powerful author / leading woman collaboration, France feels decidedly unspectacular.
Seydoux is France de Meurs – the first name refers to the country of course, her last name sounds like “abode”, which means “remain” – an extremely popular news journalist and television host. We don’t know where she stands politically and suggests to herself, when asked directly, that it might not matter. But it’s always she who asks the (supposedly) difficult questions, as in the opening, in which the current French president, Emmanuel Macron, makes cameos (already existing images have been used) when he has to address a question from France, seated in the first row.
Indeed, France often likes to fit into her reporting on her own TV show as a way to get people to identify with the material, at least that’s what she thinks. In reality, she looks more like a shallow millennial trying to take as much selfie time as possible with her subjects in the throes. There is not a maritime refugee, fleeing inhabitant of a war-torn nation or leader of an anti-Daesh militia who does not suit France’s biased questions and emotional aside. Why is she doing all this? Because, without a doubt, it must be great to be recognized everywhere and asked by people to feature in their selfies.
But lately France is depressed and things get worse when she hits a poor man (Jawad Zemmar) on a scooter with his car and people immediately recognize her and start filming them with their phones. It’s a turning point for the incredibly wealthy celebrity, as she plunges into some sort of existential crisis when she herself becomes the subject of the news, suffering from what other terrible journalists write about her.
What’s odd is that Dumont, who also wrote the screenplay, keeps a certain distance from his subject throughout the film and Seydoux rarely manages to bridge that distance. Some elements are clearly exaggerated or at least unrealistic, such as the fact that France not only prepares and presents its daily newscast, but also seems to direct and produce and act itself in all of its content, as it only has one only assistant in studio. , the yes-woman Lou (the actress Blanche Gardin, who seems to play a more comical role on the material). Her portrayal of the French media landscape also seems at least a little archaic, focusing as she does on broadcast television and gossip-printed magazines, with the internet and social media – and how they’ve propelled so many changes into the world. media landscape – only occasionally hinted at.
But if the portrayal of the media and how they work doesn’t seem accurate, France’s family life with her boring novelist husband (Benjamin Biolay at its most austere) and their son, for example, plays out as a fairly straightforward (if not all of that involving ) drama. But then their apartment on the very exclusive Place des Vosges looks less like a celebrity house and more like the Yves Saint Laurent-designed lobby of the Louvre, in terms of the number of priceless works of art and designer flourishes it has. contains. What is Dumont trying to say here? That France has no taste but knows that art is what the rich buy? That there is a dissonance between the boring everyday details of his life and the eternal beauty of the works of art that surround him? That she earns more money than she needs or deserves? France never even comments on its own house, so the message here is muddled at best.
This lack of readability of what Dumont means extends to the tone of the film. He is certainly interested in suggesting that the media is not necessarily accurately reporting the truth. But like the suggestion that it doesn’t matter which side France leans politically – but Dumont always wants to suggest that she is inclined to ask biased questions – it’s hard to have it both ways. On top of that, more often than not, it’s impossible to tell the difference between what is intentional satire and what might in fact be an accurate portrayal of how warped the media and the world in general seem to operate. today.
There is an impressive car crash sequence that should have an emotionally devastating impact on the protagonist, but which is shot with the familiar visual language and editing tricks of auto ads and the car. Fast Furious franchise. Is Dumont making a statement about the ability of the media (and cinema) to commodify every tragedy for money? Or is he just filming a car accident in 2021? It’s impossible to say.
It may be precisely Dumont’s point of view that satire and the real world have long converged, but that alone is not enough to support a film over two hours long and containing a protagonist few will like. . France is ultimately a superficial creature in what Dumont seems to suggest as a superficial matter. And it’s not nice to spend two hours with someone who has no other quality than looking good in red lipstick and designer outfits. France is fully dressed, but where is she going?