Musée du Louvre, one of the most extraordinary art galleries in the world, is a Mecca for aesthetes and connoisseurs. Alexander Sokurov’s Francofonia is therefore, first and foremost, a peaen to Paris’ most enduring cultural institution; however, alongside that, it’s also a meditation on the oftentimes heroic act of art preservation in the face of war and occupation, and even, contrarily, a sly commentary on how art troves are usually amassed on the back of a country’s colonialist past. Consequently, this stylistically ambitious essay film is structured into multiple things in parallel – a rambling philosophical treatise, a quasi documentary, a political exposition, an offhanded satire on power, and a strangely affecting buddy film too. Two key facets in the history of this celebrated museum formed the key drivers – the hiding away of numerous renowned artworks and sculptures during the Nazi occupation and the war thereafter, by secretly shifting them to chateaus and manor houses in the countryside (in an astounding display of conviction and foresight), and their remaining hidden thanks to the unlikely friendship between two men whose camaraderie went beyond their national affiliations and political predispositions, viz. Jacques Jaujard (Louis-do de Lencquesaing), the wartime Director of Louvre, a civil servant and a clandestine supporter of the Resistance, and Franz Wolff-Metternich (Benjamin Utzerath), an art historian who was appointed by Hitler to oversee France’s art collection; and, in a seriocomic parallel strand, we see Napolean romping through the galleries boasting of the various artworks he’d amassed as war booties and hunting for paintings memorialising him. Glimpses of some of Louvre’s famous artworks aside, the film was wildly digressive and filled with self-conscious metaphors which was flummoxing at times.
Director: Alexander Sokurov
Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Drama/Experimental Film