[Film Review] Francofonia (2015)

Francofonia poster

Title: Francofonia
Year: 2015
Country: France, Germany, Netherlands
Language: Russian, French, German
Genre: Documentary, History
Director/Writer: Aleksandr Sokurov
Music: Murat Kabardokov
Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel
Louis-Do de Lencquesaing
Benjamin Utzerath
Vincent Nemeth
Johanna Korthals Altes
Rating: 6.0/10

Francofonia 2015

Revered Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov’s paean to the Louvre Museum and mankind’s art treasure is an inventive genre-buster but also a bemusing underachiever. Reconstructing the scenarios of Louvre under Nazi occupation during WWII, Sokurov blots out the distinctions between documentary and fiction filmmaking: archival documents and vintage photos, recurring shots of an anonymous apartment at present where video footage of a struggling cargo ship amid the choppy ocean is playing on the computer, interlaced into a lax narrative re-enacting the story between Jacques Jaujard (de Lencquesaing), the director of the French National Museums and a Nazi officer, Count Franz Wolff-Metternich (Utzerath), predominantly, their so-called Kunstschutz (art protection) movement during WWII, which has spawned a feeble Hollywood dramatization, George Clooney’s star-studded THE MONUMENTS MEN (2014).

Yet, the film’s overall effort fails to pass muster as a competent infotainment which dissects the cardinal situation where arts and warfare corralled together, Sokurov’s platitudinous commentaries breathe with a wisp of solipsistic sentiment, although perambulating inside the Louvre is inherently enchanting, and Sokurov’s slick camerawork guides viewer to the ensconced masterpieces with his trademark aplomb and dexterity, not to mention the awesome temporal morphing panorama feat. Personally, the segment where the camera slithers around a mummy exhibit is quaintly numinous. But our tour is often interrupted by a resurrected Napoléon Bonaparte (Nemeth), repugnant and irksome in his boosted egoism, and Marianne (Korthals Altes) repetitively uttering the incantation of “liberty, equality and fraternity”, when you have the entire Louvre at your feet, but we are only allowed to glance at such a limited purview, rank dissatisfaction inevitably materializes. Stripped off the “single take” stunt with which he has stunned the world in RUSSIAN ARK (2002), this belated pendant work haplessly betrays that Sokurov’s ambition and talent has ebbed away significantly, especially when his disaffected grouse can be overtly detected through counterpointing the disparate circumstances between France and his fatherland, a close-minded overtone of editorializing writ large woefully, don’t forget, it is a production chiefly funded by France and Germany,  Sokurov simply puts other people’s money where his mouth is.


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