France – Chicago Reader

Léa Seydoux delivers a dazzling performance in this undecipherable treatise on media and celebrity by French writer-director (and unabashed provocateur) Bruno Dumont, whose films generally evade classification easily. Seydoux stars as France de Meurs, a broadcast journalist who is fearless in her craft – and just as fearless in her audacity to appear in and direct even harrowing news stories as if she were staging a dramatic fiction. It is only after hitting a young man on a scooter with her car that she begins to question everything about her life in the public eye. There are many twists and turns in France’s existential crisis, including several accidents at work, an alpine retreat, an ill-advised romantic affair, and more disastrous tragedies. What would have been a straightforward, albeit morbid, satire-cum-melodrama had it been directed by someone else is instead the uneasy mish-mash of discontent and insanity that has tinged Dumont’s more recent endeavors (particularly his last two films, about Jeanne d’Arc), perfected by the generally dry performance and peculiar choice of music (by the French singer-songwriter Christophe, who died in 2020). Completely uneven, but impressive in part thanks to Dumont’s brash sense of humor, though much of it is aimless in its pessimistic portrayal of various facets of contemporary culture. Dumont’s signature inscrutability remains intriguing, but perhaps more frivolous here; Seydoux’s inspired performance helps ground it. In French with subtitles. 133 minutes.

Gene Siskel Film Center

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