"Francofonia" (2015 release from France; 90 min.) is a non-fiction movie loosely about the Louvre museum in Paris. As the movie opens, we hear a certain Alexander (that would be the movie's Russian director Alexander Sokurov) in conversation with a certain Dirk, who is on an ocean liner with art in one of its containers. It's not long before Sokurov directs his attention to June 14, 1940, when German troops overtook Paris, including archive footage of Hitler inspecting the Eiffel Tower and muttering "Where is the Louvre?" Eventually, we are introduced to Jacques Jaujard, the Louvre's museum director at that time, and Count Metternich, entrusted by Hitler to supervise the Louvre's art collection for the Nazis. At this point we're not quite 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience. You'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest oeuvre from writer-director Aleander Sokurov, best know for "Russian Ark" (about the Hermitage in St. Petersburg). In fact it can be said that "Francofonia" is a spiritual sequel to that movie. Going in, I knew that "Francofonia" was about the Louvre, but didn't know more than that. And while it is true that the movie's primary subject matter is the Louvre, it is in equal measure about the WWII occupation of Paris by the Germans, and a bunch of other things as well ("why are portraits so important in European culture, whereas they are non-existent in the Muslim culture?", asks Sokurov). Even while it's not always clear what the ultimate aim or direction of the movie is, that's not a problem for me. The only jarring thing for me was the occasional and unnecessary appearance of actors impersonating Napoleon (whom we see staring at the Mona Lisa, while repeating "C'est moi!") and France. And oh yea, we do get to see a bunch of paintings and other works of art from the Louvre. In the end, I was surprised how quickly the 90 min. had flown by, so while this movie is rather strange, it certainly is intriguing and held my attention.
This movie made quite a splash at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. "Francofonia" opened without any pre-release fanfare or advertising at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati a week ago, and the Thursday early evening screening where I saw this at was one of its last, as the movie was gone the next day. I was frankly surprised how many people there were (about 10), but maybe they had the same thought as I did (better see this before it's gone!). If you are in the mood for a deeply subjective non-fiction film (but don't call it a documentary) about the Louvre, I'd readily suggest you check this out.
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