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Francofonia – Oh Those Russians!


Still from FRANCOFONIA. Courtesy of Music Box Films.

Full disclosure:  I couldn’t even make it even halfway through this movie. I tried, hence the delay in publishing my review.

How could a movie that has an impressive 6.7 rating on imdb be so tortuous to endure?

The first thing that struck me as odd was that the end credits were shown at the beginning of the movie, on the left side of a split screen. The right side was showing the movie. ?????

It’s as if the movie could presage that its audience wouldn’t stay until what I imagine is a bitter, unfulfilling end.

The summary below from the movie’s distributor, Music Box Films, confutes the experience of seeing the movie. It is a clearly written narrative paragraph.

FRANCOFONIA is the story of two remarkable men, louvre director Jacques Jaujard and Nazi Occupation officer Count Franziskus Wolff-Metternich – enemies then collaborators – whose alliance would be the driving force behind the preservation of museum treasures. Francofonia explores the relationship between art and power, the Louvre museum as a living example of civilization, and what art tells us about ourselves even in the midst of one of the bloodiest conflicts the world has ever seen.

The movie is not narrative at all; it is a stream of consciousness miasma of discordant images accompanied by re-enactments with old movie effects that fail in their attempt to make the movie cohesive.

In the midst of archival footage, shots of an ocean liner on an angry sea, is a woman dressed as Marianne wandering the museum with that lost-fearful expression favored by modern dancers.

Tellingly, the production notes offer a more truthful, unidealistic synopsis:

Francofilia …does not tackle its subjects head-on, but rather [with] the material to confront ourselves with what is nearly impossible to say or show.

Not that it doesn’t try.

Here are some snippets of said material:

Who needs France without the Louvre?

Museums don’t care what happens around them as long as they’re left in peace.

 Museums can conceal improper behavior of power and people.

A people is surrounded by oceans while a person has an ocean within.


Either I’m a philistine who can’t appreciate this movie –non– or, I’m an über-snob –oui– who finds a movie about the Louvre in Russian discordant. I am the latter; and I also found the asinine The Da Vinci Code equally discordant, not so much for the English, but for its gross geographical inconsistencies and stupid story.

Also, I’ve seen better movies about the Louvre.  The Rape of Europa is a documentary which covers this subject matter far better.

La Ville Louvre (Louvre City) is an obscure 1990 documentary which shows what goes on the great museum on Mondays, the only day of the week during which it is closed.

I advise you to seek out the latter movie.

At least the director admits ” …that whatever I do is flawed.” (production notes)

Fortunately, there is a grain of truth in this “kakafonia.”


This site was borne of my passion for movies, particularly French films. I have spent time in France and am fluent in the language, hence the “le”. The “snob” part, while of French origin, is not meant to intimidate, but rather an effort to reclaim the word from the pretentious, just as the gay community has done with the word “queer.” We’re all snobs; we all like what we like.

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