Art is life in Aleksandr Sokurov’s hard-to-pin-down Francofonia. The subject of the movie is the Louvre during the Nazi occupation. The way in which Sokurov, who narrates the movie, tackles this subject is varied: he looks to medieval times to tautologically suggest that the Louvre’s location is hallowed ground; he uses archival footage, occasionally dubbing it for laughs; he recreates, in sepia-hue, historical meetings between ministers and officials; he conjures a Marianne and a Napoleon, who traverse the museum, the former repeating Liberty Fraternity Equality, the latter repeating it’s me, it’s me as he passes every piece of art. Of course we gaze at Winged Victory and the Mona Lisa, noticing all the cracks. Sokurov comments on Europe’s unique fascination with portraiture, curious why other cultures are not as interested. He posits the centrality of art in culture (What is France without the Louvre, he asks.) But he also returns to his native Russia, showing the plight of Russians as Germans overran towns and villages, stating that Hitler disregarded the Hermitage. Being so disparate, Francofonia is unfortunately not greater than the sum of its fragmented parts, some of which, like the dialogue Sokurov has with a seaman aboard a ship transporting art, are not engaging but confusing. Francofonia feels like a the combined musings of an art lover, combed together into a digressive essay that is more of a starting off point than a finished, polished product.

In Russian & French & German & English.

By Alec Julian & Carrie White


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