by Lisa Dib
It was a foolhardy error to go into Francofonia expecting a typical documentary. Indeed, it is barely a documentary, in the sense that it did not convey very much actual information. It succeeded in providing tidbits - purveyed via re-enactments, archival footage and long stream-of-consciousness monologues - but acts as more of an exercise in ‘style over substance’.
That being said, Francofonia is very pretty; it is shot beautifully and creatively, and the re-enactments look lovely. Otherwise, the film is a ramshackle ride. There are so many varied stories happening at once, and intertwining; ideas are floated and then disappear; people are introduced and not explained; director Alexander Sokurov delivers his thoughts and historically-tinged meanderings over confusing and vague footage. It’s kind of all over the shop. It’s erraticness notwithstanding, the film is a love letter to one of the world’s greatest locations.
Sokurov muses heavily on the importance of museums and other such cultural places, asking whether the Louvre is “worth more than all of France”. It’s difficult to go along with his romantic reveries when you’re aching for concrete facts and concise information; not being an expert on the history of the Louvre, I was left wanting when ideas were put forth, only to be washed away by a whimsical recreation or character.
Francofonia will certainly be a favourite of the Francophiles out there; the Louvre is arguably one of the most prominent French icons and its place is history is both riveting and complex. I only wish we could’ve discovered more about it.
Francofonia opens at the Cinema Nova on October 6, 2016.