Review: La France DVD

STUDIO: Kino/Lorber | DIRECTOR: Serge Bozon | STARS: Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Guillaume Verdier, Guillaume Depardieu
RELEASE DATE: 4/6/2010 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: photo gallery
SPECS: NR | 102 min. | Foreign language musical drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | stereo | French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

La France takes a very familiar premise into uncharted territory with unexpected results. The prospect of a “war musical” might seem to belong to the Sixties (remembering Richard Attenborough’s Oh! What a Lovely War), but actor-turned director Serge Bozon does much with the concept here, fashioning a film that is faithful to both genres.

The plot revolves around a young woman (Sylvie Testud, La Vie en Rose) in WWI-era France who seeks news of her boyfriend, so she disguises herself as a teenage boy and follows an army regiment. The film turns from Shakespeare to Brecht, however, when the soldiers she travels with — who are keeping their own secret — suddenly begin to sing as they relax from their odyssey.

The original songs the troops perform have the air of ye-ye, the catchiest sort of Sixties French pop, but the actors playing the soldiers performed them live on-set using instruments that existed in 1917 (thus making this an “unplugged” musical.) The resulting sequences beautifully punctuate what is otherwise a very quiet, contemplative film about the “war to end all wars.”

La France may not be for those seeking a John Wayne-style gung-ho war movie or a colorful Gene Kelly musical, but it will please film buffs seeking a different kind of cinematic hybrid that rewards attentive viewers.

 

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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”