Thirteen years ago Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian ark came out. It was a single-take film, but it was not much of a technical challenge. It is an elongated visit to the Russian Hermitage Museum with historical characters coming in and out of the frame while a narrator (Sokurov) is telling us- we, poor, uneducated souls- what it all means. After seeing it, I observed friends having what I could only describe as artsy-fartsy orgasms. Me? If I want a visit to a museum, I’ll go to a museum. Well, Sokurov is back with another museum film, this time about Le Louvre in Paris. Francofonia is for the most part a documentary, but also uses actors to stand in for historical figures. Napoléon Bonaparte (Vincent Nemeth), who claims that Le Louvre was his creation is there roaming among the paintings, while the symbol of the French republic, Marianne (Johanna Korthals Altes), keeps repeating, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’. But the film is mostly concerned with what happened during the German occupation and the meeting between museum director Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do De Lencquesaing) and Franz Wolff-Metternich (Benjamin Utzerath), the German officer put in charge by the Nazi. Their relationship was agreeable as they seem to have shared a common love for art. Scenes between the two actors are made up to look like old films, and when they walk in Paris, they walk among the modern cars and people dressed in modern clothes. A man narrates in Russian (Sokurov again) while the characters speak French or German. The whole thing had very little interest for me and most of the time, I was bored. Artsy-fartsy? No, not me.
Louis-Do de Lencquesaing
Johanna Korthals Altes
In Russian, French, German and English with English subtitles.