Francofonia (Alexander Sokurov, Russia, 2016)

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A meditation on art and history focussing on two characters credited with saving the Louvre from the Nazis during the occupation, Jacques Jaujard, director of French National Museums and Count Franz Wolff-Metternich, appointed by the Nazis to see to the protection of artworks in the Rhineland and Occupied France during the war. Alexander Sokurov,  isn’t afraid to meander, to be silly, or to be poetic. Historical characters pop up to comment on the Louvre, how it was kept safe during the occupation, and the significance of its survival to European culture whilst all around there was death and destruction. There’s marvellous deployment of historical films and photos intermeshed with areal photographs and dramatised sequences. The soundtrack appears visually on the left hand of the screen and the end credits start at the beginning. An essay in the old fashioned sense of a try, a personal one, akin to whispered thought. You end up feeling a renewed love and fear for  all the skill, wisdom, the powers of expression and the sheer beauty of so much, much of it spoils of war, much of it the results of terror, all under constant threat.  I like it very much. An excellent companion piece to Russian Ark.

 

José Arroyo

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