⭐⭐⭐½ (3½ stars out of 5)
France (2021) Directed by Bruno Dumont
Hysterical, satirical and thought-provoking. This is how one could summarize this international production that has a revisionist genesis and a thematic uproar already exhausted in film and novelistic narratives, however, the moral issues that encompass the perspectives of a contemporary world devoured by hypocrisy are elaborated here with such a confrontational emphasis that the sociological stringency meanders through a multidimensionality of problems that manages to intensively involve society in a reevaluation of the pernicious moral relativism that dominates a busy, disconnected and desensitized 21st century. Journalism can be the bastard brother of the falsehoods of the political class, or vice versa, at least that is what this film manifests, unmasking the world of information and forcing us to specify which should really be the journalistic work within a sphere that is more inclined to the spectacle of reality and a vulgarization of ideas. France is the kind of film that does not have a savvy control on how to represent with acumen its multiplicity of forms in comic, dramatic and emotional tones, but even so, director Bruno Dumont manages to interpret the narrative unevenness with an interesting cohesive game between the visual differences of the medium, the bizarre juxtaposition of television structures with the dynamic design of a journalistic documentary. The collision of ideas, and the formal clashes, viciously mirror the behaviors that allude to a hilarious but infuriating comparison between the persuasive power that exists in political rhetoric and journalistic manipulation. Yet, the plot does not straightforwardly attempt to criticize the work of exposing information to the citizenry, it tries to make a reflection, not so graspable, but urgent, on how much influence the malformed news can have on the points of view given to the public in relation to the geopolitical conflicts.
France de Meurs is a star journalist running between a TV set, a distant war and the hustle and bustle of her intense family life. Her frenetic high-flying life is suddenly disrupted by a traffic accident in which she injures a pedestrian. This unexpected reality will question her whole life. France then considers living a quieter, simpler and more anonymous life, but her fame continues to haunt her, until a disconcerting love story will help her achieve her goal.
The sardonic extravagance of the situations quickly shows where the plot is headed; as a flaw it can be somewhat unwieldy and even unbalanced, but this production has a strong feature that although it takes the draconian treatment of social tartness to a more impulsive gravity by the meditative and empathetic, it aims to reach an open and free consensus of interpretation that does not seek to contextualize with precision, but to internalize everything seen. That solid point is carried with absolute confidence and astuteness by a complex performance by Léa Seydoux, who plays the title character of this film. Seydoux’s viscerally expressive performance as a sanctimonious, frivolous, and persuasive television reporter is a vulnerable portrayal of fame, and at the same time a glamorous embodiment of hypocrisy. Her engaging and mesmerizing performance seismically shakes up the ethical issues that gravitate in an environment that is politically fraught but seemingly peaceful. The complexities that aggressively appear in the protagonist’s life enunciate a parallel, a comparison that intellectually impels us as an audience to reinterpret what is cinematically on display. Contemporary issues such as fairness versus ideological belligerence, how to live in a world where no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on or identify with, you will still be criticized. If there is one thing this film does phenomenally well, it is to philosophize with histrionic potency about the modern problems we face with the barbaric advance of technology, and how it can be as negative as it is positive in the handling of information.
It is the blunderous shift from the propulsive acceleration of the initial storytelling to that of the last acts that prevents me from calling it a great film; the film loosely enters into a tonal discordance with the complexities of its themes to individualize the plot, something that unquestionably detracts from the impact of the content’s rigor. Fortunately, Léa Seydoux in introspective and benevolent close-ups assiduously energizes the images, visual characteristics that certainly reach the end of the drama with worn-out thematic vitality, but she nonetheless succeeds in retaining our incisive interest in the character, and especially manages to convey an empathetic emotionality that generates comprehensive sensations only with her visage that validly sustains the nature of a close-up with purity and human intuition.