Monday, December 13, 2021


What sets France apart from the rest of Bruno Dumont’s work is that it’s his most traditionally “French-looking” film. What I mean by that is instead of his typical countryside/borderline backwood setting with intentionally odd-looking non-professional locals, the story of France is based out of Paris with mostly professional actors. There’s more of a polished feel to France and the actors when compared to stuff like The Life Of Jesus or Flanders. Dumont does sprinkle elements of his unique style throughout the film (some of the story does take us to small European countrysides inhabited by intentionally “weird-looking” people), but instead of nonstop close-ups of “actors” with scars and uncontrollable physical ticks, Dumont gives us endless close-ups and long takes of French darling Lea Seydoux.

In the film Seydoux plays famous television news host; “France De Meurs” who, after an auto accident with a delivery driver, starts to spiral downward both personally & professionally. 
The character of France is both a famous journalist and a celebrity in the vein of folks like Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Laura Ingram, etc. They report the news but can also be found in the tabloids themselves (one subplot of this movie deals with our journalist protagonist having to deal with being on the other side of the tabloids). Seydoux isn’t a journalist but she is very famous. Especially in Europe. In an interview with Screen Slate, Dumont admitted that part of the reason he cast Lea Seydoux in the lead role is because she’s such a major international star. Seydoux is a Bond girl, a former Mission: Impossible villain, a Wes Anderson regular and one of the current faces of Louis Vuitton. Who better to play a fictitious French star than a real French star?
Dumont occasionally works with professional actors but the majority of his movies are led by awkward non-professionals. The role of France had to be played someone with real acting chops and Seydoux does an excellent job.

France is a great companion/unofficial sequel to Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Seydoux's France is essentially a combination of both Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Lou” and Renee Russo’s “Nina” rolled  up in to one person. Its as if the story of France picks up years after Nightcrawler where the driven sociopathic journalist suddenly has an unexpected change of heart and feels a sudden wave of emptiness about life (in reality, Gyllenhaal''s “Lou” from Nigthcrawler would never feel this way but just go with my comparison here).

Nightcrawler / France

Nightcrawler / France

Even though this movie starts to drag towards the final act (it could’ve ended three different time within the last 30 minutes), I did enjoy it. The problem is that unless you're familiar with Bruno Dumont’s odd sense of humor that he often mixes with elements of drama - there’s a good chance you’re going to be a bit lost.
I’m not exactly sure what audience this was made for outside of people like myself (the very small cult of diehard Bruno Dumont fans left out there in the world). There doesn’t seem to be many hardcore Bruno Dumont fans left these days, and the critics that once loved him in the 90s seem to have had enough of his work these last 15 years or so (films like Flanders, Hadewijch & Outside Satan have pushed viewers and critics away).

I guess France is a bit different. It did well at Cannes and is getting a pretty decent international release unlike Dumont’s last handful of films (I'm sure Lea Seydoux's presence had something to do with that). My worry is that this might be an introduction to the world of Bruno Dumont and his incredibly unique style for many people. When I saw France on the big screen I found myself cracking up alone at times in a mostly packed theater full of confused people who didn’t know if they should be laughing or not. France is very much a socio-political satire/commentary on current world events but not in that easy to digest Adam McKay approach that a lot of people are used to. Especially in America.

Blance Gardin as "Lou" in France

Dumont also tries something new this time around by casting an actual experienced comedian (Blanche Gardin) in the role of the comic relief (she plays France’s personal assistant “Lou”). Much like Richard Ayoade in The Souvenir 2, Gardin’s performance as Lou will probably go unnoticed by most but it’s still one of best supporting roles I’ve seen in years.

No matter how much of polished appearance France has, it’s still a pretty odd movie that you don’t just dive in to head first.
Now that we have outlets like the criterion channel I urge folks to seek out Dumont’s earlier work if you haven’t already to get a little familiar with his style.


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