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La France 2007
Description: During the First Globe War, Camille (Sylvie Testud), a young girl whose husband is away fighting at the front, receives a short letter of break-up from him. Distraught, she decides to go to join him, but is driven back by the rule of the time which forbids girls to transport around alone. She has no another recourse than to dress herself up as a boy so as to be able to take to the street on foot. As she lives near the Western Fromt she hooks up with a passing group of French troops without too much trouble. But there's something a bit odd about these stragglers, and it's not just their habit of bursting into song at each opportunity.
Released: 11 Jul 2008 Director: Serge Bozon Writers: Serge Bozon, Axelle Ropert Actors: Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Guillaume Verdier, François Négret Genres: Drama, Musical, Romance, War
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La France Reviews:

This peculiar musical fight film about a girl disguised as a boy in find of her soldier husband in Globe Fight I France has the courage of its oddball convictions--or does it? It was disconcerting, at least, to hear from director Bozon that his original intention was a movie about Arabs in the French-Algerian fight of the Sixties. For a French art movie you need public money, he said, and to receive that the dialogue has to be in French--so voila!--no Arabs, and the dial was turned back to WWI.'La France' is the type of thing that truly delights some of the most ardent festival attendees: a movie that's genuinely weird and original, that comes from left field, is quite sure of itself, and is sustained by some of the greatest actors in its country of origin, nice cinematography, and unusual melody used in an unexpected way. To others, this is likely to seem merely remote and inexplicable; a long slog even at only 102 minutes. To me, it evoked memories of Robert Bresson, or the Eric Rohmer of 'Percival,' while still seeming a cluster of missed opportunities. Opening in France last November, it received a respectful critical reception and the occasional rave. It also ran in Lincoln Center's Fresh Directors/New Movies series early this year and was singled out for unique praise by the Village Voice's Nathan Lee.Bozon and his scenarist, Axelle Ropert, deserve credit for following their own path in constructing what French reviewer Christine Haas named "a melancholy ballad and a humanistic fable."Here's the premise: a young girl gets a strange letter from her loving husband at the front: "Stop writing me, you will never see me again." She cuts her hair, binds her breasts and, posing as a seventeen-year-old boy, joins a unit whose members she finds sleeping in a field. Of course they test to receive rid of him/her, but "Camille" (Sylvie Testud)--she can test her true name, because it's a boy's as easy as a girl's--each time does something so dangerous and dramatic (gets shot in the hand, jumps off a bridge) that they have to rescue her and hold her in tow a while longer. Eventually her initiative saves them, and she's accepted, even though the Lieutenant (Pascal Greggory) has declared on her first appearance that he/she has the face of somebody who's "seeking death." The surprise is that the essential unmasking will be not of Camille but of the unit she joins. Guillaume Depardieu comes in for an appropriate cameo at the end looking suitably hopeless, pretty, and shattered.Good test is made here of Testud's androgyny and Greggory's habitual hangdog look. This scrawny, determined "Camille" really resembles a boy, while the Lieutenant's soft, sad visage tips at something very wrong.Every so often--and this is what the movie will be remembered for--the troops take out a bunch of handmade junkyard musical instruments and in unprofessional but harmonized falsettos sing a Sixties-style ballad, which is everytime from a woman's viewpoint--and has, by intention, absolutely nothing to do with the action. Bozon claims that it's a Hollywood tradition and not purely his avantgardism to create fight films with songs that are anachronistic and not plot-related.The resulting effect, anyhow, lacks any sense of the actual, without slipping over into a purely conceptual or wonderful framework that might have given the themes of loss, loneliness, failure of nerve, and sexual identity (or whatever all this is about) really gratis rein. Camille is an interesting hero with rich picaresque chances that are insufficiently explored. Testud seems to give so much, yet receive back so tiny from the film. Greggory's sick-soul hero never develops or changes. The another troops never take on true personalities. The essential mechanism of most fight movies--the sounds and results of battle--is absent. Instead, violence comes from an unexpected quarter. The resolution is bitter-sweet.Seen at the San Francisco International Movie Festival 2008. It won the Prix Jean Vigo in France for independent spirit and originality of style.


I am extremely surprised at most of the reviews submitted here. It is as if the Americans are really as our (stupid) stereotypes paint them: unimaginative, uneducated, dull, practical.Questions spring to mind: would they play "The Tiny Prince" by Saint-Exupery? Would they tell that it's silly? Did they ever read or heard a poem of any kind? Did they ever read Remarque or Dos Passos or saw Deer Hunter or anything good? Did they literally took apart each fictional film or ebook they saw by the criteria of factual consistency, realism and strict adherence to genre? I really, really don't understand folks that criticize a film about fight because there were not enough explosions or bomb craters in it. I refuse to trust that they never had seen a nice film about fight without action heroics (we certainly have, Soviet cinema did a lot of great and gentle (and popular) dramas and humane comedies about war). It's like criticizing a comedy for the lack of nice old-fashioned clowns in it.And most of all it surprises me that even the social context doesn't push them in the right direction. A couple of guys here saw the movie at an art-house festival. I imagine that they would be OK with the most absurd and gory things if someone place a "trash" and "experimental" and "surreal" stickers on the poster. But fight films, they are about strategies and M1s, right? I think the musical numbers in the movie are the most pretty part of it: they set the tone for the lengthy and disjointed dialogue about Atlantis and whatnot. They are obviously efficient at 1) bringing out the sensitive in young troops without heaping macho melodrama; 2) exploring the androgyny of a soldier (an interesting theme); and 3) just evoking the "war is a silly, strange zone to be for all of us, but were are here" Vonnegut type of feeling.I wonder if another reviewers read Vonnegut.


I would not have watched this movie had I known it was a musical. Not my genre. There are only four songs and they are mercifully not too long. They were recorded live while shooting and the compositions have an odd unpolished quality.It's 1917 in northern France. A company of eleven French soldiers, including a lieutenant, are moving through the countryside. A girl impersonating a boy succeeds in joining the company. While the point of the company is not instantly revealed, the girl is on a quest to search her husband, also a soldier at the front, whose whereabouts are unknown. The movie is taken up by the adventure of those twelve characters.The fight is near but wars don't create it to the screen. You may see some smoke, hear the sound of cannons and explosions, and see a several dead bodies. The fight is context but it's depiction is not central. The stress is on the boys of the company and the interloper they have adopted.The musical numbers are surreal interludes. Out of the blue makeshift instruments appear, mostly string, a piano once and a clarinet. Obviously the troops are not carrying them around. It's fanciful and it rubbed me in the wrong way.



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