'Francofonia' Venice film shows art as fragile world treasure

Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:51am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Russian director Alexander Sokurov, who won the top Venice Film Festival prize for "Faust" in 2011, is in the running again with "Francofonia", a tour of the Louvre museum guided in part by Napoleon and Marianne, the symbol of the French republic.

The film, co-produced with the French museum, is Sokurov's second foray into inventive cinematic looks at the inner workings of a great museum.

His "Russian Ark" of 2002 covered the history of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, from tsarist times to the present, with the technical panache of shooting the entire movie, from start to finish, in one take.

Sokurov's latest won generally favorable reviews and as of Friday was the favored film to win the top Golden Lion award on Saturday in a poll of Italian film critics and newspapers published in a daily festival newsletter.

Sokurov told Reuters in an interview that he was drawn to create movies about great museums because they are repositories of the world's culture, and to the Louvre in particular because "it's a theater in itself, it's like Shakespeare...It is a wonderful setting for the film".

Sokurov tells the history of the museum -- which opened to the public in 1793 during the French Revolution -- in part through the eyes of Napoleon played by actor Vincent Nemeth. Napoleon is quoted in the film as saying one of the reasons for his conquests was to gain access to artworks.

Napoleon shows up several times, pointing to himself as he is portrayed in various paintings, while Marianne (Johanna Korthals Altes) urges the camera forward while shouting the slogan of the revolution, "Liberty, equality, fraternity".

Sokurov said that what Napoleon, and the other great patrons of the Louvre, had realized was that world art is a fragile treasure that must be protected for posterity.   Continued...

Cast members (L-R) Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Vincent Nemeth, director Alexander Sokurov, actress Johanna Korthals Altes and actor Benjamin Utzerath pose during a photocall for the movie "Francofonia" at the 72nd Venice Film Festival in northern Italy September 4, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini