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Actors playing Napoleon and French national symbol Marianne wander the bowels of the empty museum, as do actors playing Jacques Jaujard and Count Wolff-Metternich highlighting how their uneasy working relationship underscores larger questions of wartime spoils.

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Francofonia
Written by
Aleksandr Sokurov
Directed by
Aleksandr Sokurov
Starring
Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Benjamin Utzerath
Classification
PG
Country
France, Germany, Netherlands
Language
Russian, French, German, English

"Who would we be without museums?" Aleksandr Sokurov wonders as he narrates this challenging philosophical essay, and sifts materials back, forth and around in the Louvre's history. Invoking the Bolsheviks and a grinning Stalin around the similar Hermitage Museum, he uses archival footage and fictional re-enactment as well as metaphoric screen-within-a-screen footage (monitoring a ship loaded with artistic cargo as it navigates a difficult voyage) to explore the complicated nature of wartime plundering, hoarding and the role of art in a nation's heritage. Actors playing Napoleon and French national symbol Marianne wander the bowels of the empty museum, as do actors playing Jacques Jaujard and Count Wolff-Metternich (directors of French museums and of the German Kunstschutz during the Nazi occupation of France, respectively) – highlighting how their uneasy working relationship underscores larger questions of wartime spoils and cultural preservation that are no less uneasy or complicated.

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