France (2021) ☆☆(2/4): An inane satire on media and journalism

Bruno Dumont’s latest film “France” works best whenever the camera focuses on its leading actress’ undeniably beautiful face. I must point out that the movie itself is limp and hollow as a satire on media and journalism, but its leading actress does try her best to sell whatever her increasingly distant character is going through, and it is a shame that the movie does not support her diligent efforts enough on the whole.

Léa Seydoux, who has been one of the most interesting French actresses since she drew our attention for the first time via her supporting turn in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011), plays France de Meurs, a TV reporter who has been quite famous for years thanks to her popular TV news show. At the beginning, we see her entering a very important press conference along with her close friend/colleague Lou (Blanche Gardin), and the movie gives us a little amusing moment as she boldly throws a supposedly important question to the current president of France, whose archival footage is seamlessly incorporated into this scene.

We subsequently see how France works inside and outside her TV studio. Whenever she is not doing her TV show, she often goes to anywhere to draw the attention of millions of viewers out there, and we observe how she and her crew do some manipulation when they are their work at some remote spot of Northern African region. It seems that all she cares about is how to present her report clip more, uh, entertaining, but that will not probably surprise you much if you are already well aware of how unreliable media has become during last several years.

At her TV studio, France does some discussion with invited figures on TV, but none of them seems to know well what they are talking about. At one point, a certain invited guest tries to make his point with lots of words, and he fails to make his argument more convincing in the end, but then he throws a vicious sexist comment at France after the show is over.

That surely hurt France’s feelings, but there is no one for her to lean on except Lou, who just provides some banal pep talk whenever France feels bad. In her big and expensive apartment which looks like a museum instead of a residence, France does not interact much with her write husband or their young son, and we sense more of the distance between her and her husband when they are having a dinner with a few friends of theirs.

And tgeb another thing happens to cause more turmoil in France’s private life. On one day, her car clashes with a young motorcyclist, and that consequently causes lots of public fuss around her as she and Lou try to get things under control. She subsequently visits that young motorcyclist, and he and his family willingly accept her apology and some compensation from her, but we cannot help but wonder about what she actually thinks and feels. She indeed looks troubled, but, in my humble opinion, she seems to care more about her life and career as wallowing in self-pity.

Anyway, she eventually decides to have a break. Shortly after announcing that on TV, France goes to a sanatorium located in the Alps, and we accordingly get some lovely snowy landscape shots as she tries to bring some calmness to her mind. Although she is still not totally free from her fame and reputation, she comes to befriend some handsome lad, and it does not take much time for them to get closer to each other than before.

The movie subsequently takes a left turn just for bringing its heroine back in action, but it simply meanders as before without enough satiric edge. In case of the sequence involved with a bunch of refugees fleeing from some war zone, it feels shallow without any comic or dramatic effect, and we are only served with a small absurd moment of cheap laugh when France is showing her viewers what she and her crew shot at that time. While there comes a sudden moment of shock later in the story, it is contrived in addition to looking gratuitous for a good reason, and we do not sense any emotional devastation from that because the movie seriously lacks depth in terms of story and characters. As a result, we come to observe its heroine from the distance more than before, and that is one of the main reasons why the finale does not work at all as merely being one more scene to be added to the movie.

Anyway, Seydoux is sometimes engaging to watch as usual. She is particularly good whenever we get the glimpses of her character’s superficial personality, and she certainly looks good whenever her character has to present herself well in front of the camara. In case of several other main cast members surrounding Seydoux, they are unfortunately stuck in bland supporting roles, and Blanche Gardin does not have many things to do besides throwing some banal sarcastic lines drenched in cynicism.

In conclusion, “France” is a dull and blunt misfire which bores us as not having anything new to say about its familiar subject besides failing to work as an edgy satire, and this is a major letdown compared to Dumont’s previous notable works including “Camille Claudel 1915” (2013). That film can be quite dry for some of you, but it is much more interesting in comparison, and I would rather recommend you to watch it instead of this disappointing dud.

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