Alexander Sokurov surely is a versatile director. In this new century alone (he's been making movies for over 40 years), his work has spanned the groundbreaking "one-take" museum piece, Russian Ark, to the breathtakingly strange and beautiful Father and Son to The Sun (narratively documenting the abdication of the Japanese Emperor at the close of WWII) to the nearly unbearably moving Alexandra to his version of Faust and now, another "museum" movie that harks back to that Ark and yet is definitely its own thing: FRANCOFONIA.
Louis-Do de Lencquesaing (above) portrays Jacques Jaujard, the man in charge of the Louvre, while Benjamin Utzerath plays Franz Wolff-Metternich, the German officer charged with overseeing the art treasures the Nazis took ownership of as they conquered and occupied country after country. The two men's story runs in and out and around Sokurov's musings in a way that brings us back again and again to the subjects at hand.
Vincent Nemeth, below, right) and Marianne, that symbol of French womanhood and liberty Johanna Korthals Altes, below, left). And while the filmmaker gets a lot of mileage out of Nappy, I wish he could have brought a little more thought and wit to his Marianne, who seems to exist mostly to flounce and gambol like one of those recent Terrence Malick heroines. This may have more to do with the usual filmmaker patriarchal entitlement to "stick with the guys" than anything else. But it does seem a missed opportunity.
A French Village, about the country's occupation during WWII, At one point the narration mentions that the "same old slow-seller" has once again appeared on the market. "The product may be very expensive or be free. Yet the price of this product is always set by the buyer. What is it? Can you guess? Think it over...."