Do you have that in the box, was I good? When the TV reporter France de Meurs reports from war zones, she constantly asks for the cameraman’s feedback. Everything has to be right, the hairstyle under the safety helmet, the sentence into the microphone, the action. Smoking ruins, exploding grenades, the closer the better.
Journalism is staging: the Arab militias should raise their weapons a little higher, and the refugee boat on the Mediterranean with France in a life jacket should rock nicely between the migrants. And the take again.
France de Meurs is a media star, with her own night talk, “The View of the World”. At the press conference in the Élysée Palace, Emmanuel Macron addresses her personally. She introduces him with a trick question, her producer Lou (the comedienne Blanche Gardin, great, with e-cigarette) cheers her on backstage with obscene gestures. A quick check of the quota and the click rates: France is going viral again. Brilliant, you are brilliant, Lou’s mantra will be heard a lot in this film.
France’s top TV star is portrayed by Léa Seydoux, France’s top cinema star, currently 36 years old. At the Cannes Film Festival 2021, Bruno Dumont’s bitter media satire was just one of four productions with the now 36-year-old actress in the festival program.
In his bitter media farce, Dumont pushes the images inseparably over each other, that of the double “Bond girl” and that of the hyped journalist, who performs her appearances in elegant outfits (Seydoux wears a different one in every scene) and constantly asks her fans for autographs and selfies is asked.
The less caricatured than iconic appearance is promoted by Seydoux’ fascinating impenetrability. Again and again the camera zooms in on her waxy, impregnated face, very slowly, auratically: as the film progresses it becomes increasingly pale. The long zoom: big cinema, and at the same time TV routine. Seydoux maintains the balance between person and persona: are the tears that France sheds when her life is shaken by crises and she gets upset in front of the camera, authentic or just the perfect suggestion of “real” feelings?
There is no reality this side of the media bubble, let alone truth. Dumont’s hyperrealism remains comprehensive, the antimoralist among France’s auteur filmmakers is just as radical as in his early films, his debut “The Life of Jesus” (1997) and “L’humanité” (1999), in which he took social realism to the extreme – with religious connotations. So now the haunting of a TV celebrity.
The supposed slump in reality throws France off course, but only to increase her popularity. In the traffic chaos in Paris, she hits a Moroccan motorcycle supplier: her private visit to his family is followed by paparazzi. She suffers from depression: in the Alpenklinik she gets closer to an alleged Latin teacher, who turns out to be a gossip reporter. France de Meurs in the luxury spa, another high-circulation story. Lou and France’s callous, obscene remarks, which go on the air because a button was accidentally pressed in the broadcasting center: The next hype follows the shitstorm.
“The worst is the best,” Lou comments on the laws of public attention.
Total artificiality also reigns visually in “France”, from the cool studio design to car rides against background projections to the gloomy baroque furnishings of France’s apartment, which she shares with her writer-model husband (Benjamin Biolay) and her spoiled son (Gaetan Amiel). shares than the family actually living together. And the private tragedy that Dumont inflicts on his protagonist in the last third of the film is portrayed in such effective slow motion that the staging once again exaggerates the plot. Even the family drama does not catapult France out of her bubble. Even the most existential uncertainty remains part of that cool calculation with which Dumont irritates his audience. At the charity dinner, France reacted to the bon mot of her neighbor at the table “Giving makes you rich” – capitalism means giving to one’s fellow human beings, according to his explanation – by leaving the event early. Does the sentence actually give you food for thought, or are the horrendous sums with which you consider the family of your victim just a symptom of your lack of reality?
In the end, after the interview with the wife of a child molester (“I lived with a monster”), she is shocked at the scene of the crime. This time she doesn’t give autographs – out of empathy, or because it doesn’t fit the “dismay”?
The provincial dramas that initially caused a sensation for Dumont, born in 1958, are rough films about violence, desolation and a youth without a future, shot in his home village of Bailleul and in the region not far from Lille. Motorcyclists often play a role in it. “L’humanité” is about the sexual murder of an eleven-year-old: motives that reverberate like distant echoes in “France”. France’s collision with the Moroccan can also be seen as a collision with one of the former Dumont heroes, and France also interviewed the wife of the “monster” near Lille.
A godforsaken area where she has a rather worn-out TV team in tow – there was probably a career break after all. But her perception of precarious existence remains as professional (“Now the counter cuts”) as the final sight of an aggressive young man back in Paris overwhelms her. Dumont sticks with it, he refuses any catharsis. No salvation, then as now.