An unscrupulous star journalist goes into crisis and flees from Africa to a clinic in the Alps: about the surprising new film “France”.
French film director Bruno Dumont is one of the most unpredictable actors in his field: while early in his career he stirred up existential psychodramas with amateur actors, such as “L’Humanité” (1999), he has now taken very different paths, trying Presenting fantastic silly comedy (“Diefine Gesellschaft”, 2016) and liberating musicals about historical figures (“Jeanne d’Arc”, 2019). Concern for the state of his homeland has not changed.
The title of his particularly amazing new movie seems to be “France”. Not just France, but its bitter metaphorical incarnation: the main character, Frans de More (Léa Seydoux), is a longtime star journalist who has left the ideals of her profession behind. With her manager, Lou (Blanche Garden), she’s not looking for the truth, she’s looking for attention. France in her program “Union sur le monde” travels to the crisis regions of the world and searches for the most interesting images, devoid of any political stance. Her relationship with a well-known writer is a front, whose ten-year-old son is mostly ignored. Dumont shows France in action: Live from War, releases report on refugees. Or, at first, at a press conference by Emmanuel Macron (which was seamlessly integrated into the film). It doesn’t matter who France stands in front of its microphone, everyone has to act according to their scenario in the end. Soldiers become extra, and people fighting for their lives become clickbait.
Are influencers also people?
‘France’ shows how close news and fiction are. The director is not interested in cheap laughs. He understands that simple media satire will only be part of the entertainment industry, including France. Instead, he asks: Aren’t influencers like you too? When France – because she was again late to bring her son – bumped into and slightly injured a young African motorcyclist, she suddenly felt a pain of conscience. She visits his poor family and offers them money and falls into a crisis of bitter meanings. After the breakdown, she hides in an exclusive clinic in the Alps. There, too, she finds herself in a world of lies.
Dumont is officially extravagant and works with subtle, high-gloss aesthetics. It’s almost a severe hack that shows the seriously funny and tragic with a sense of comedy. Above all, this creates uncertainty. One asks oneself over and over whether one should laugh now or might one laugh. And if you do, you find yourself sympathetic. Seydoux, who was a star familiar with media superficiality, cries so much in the film that one begins to assign a different meaning to each tear: one seems false, the second is painfully real, the third is absurd. Which perfectly satisfies the set of feelings one knows from daily consumption of media.
The highlight is a commercial-style car crash on the Côte d’Azur, which lasts for minutes. It feels like there is a constant gap between the plot events and the images that accompany them. This is sometimes very annoying. But it’s brilliant as a critique of a society that has never learned how to deal with producing its own image. In the end, when France has a chance to escape her fate, the promise is hard to believe: and perhaps inescapable when she seeks fidelity in the realm of hypocrisy.