Serge Bozon’s singular, extraordinary La France, co written with Axelle Ropert, is a drama about the horrors, loneliness, and camaraderie of World War I that intermittently (four times, to be specific) blooms into a delirious musical. Liberty, equality, fraternity: Gaul’s motto is dissected throughout Bozon’s movie, which laments the folly of nationalism. Joining the simple, straightforward title of the film are the songs themselves: “England,” “Italy,” “Germany” and “Poland,” all of which begin with the line “I, the blind girl…,” sung by weary soldiers who come to life with their handcrafted string instruments, made from cans and other everyday detritus. Sylvie Testud plays Camille, a soldier’s wife who goes in search of her husband, posing as a man to join ten combatants led by Pascal Greggory. Testud has repeatedly proven herself to be one of the greatest actresses working today; in La France, that skill is evident in the look of pure enchantment on Camille’s face the first time her comrades break into anachronistic song—creamy, harmonious nuggets that sound like Beach Boys’ singles or other pop hits from the mid-1960s. Fittingly, Bozon ends his one-of-a-kind war story with a scene that takes us to another world.
Prix Jean Vigo (2007)