This week I took the rare step for me of actually watching some films. These were ‘Les Intouchables’ and ‘Journal de France’. You’re probably familiar with ‘Les Intouchables’, a buddy movie about an young, unemployed, black migrant who winds up caring for a paraplegic French aristocrat, but I want to talk about the latter.
I stumbled across it completely by chance when I was looking for French films on Netflix and thought I’d give it a go. It was fantastic. In short, it is a film about the life and work of Pulitzer prize winning photographer, Raymond Depardon. On the face of it, it is chronicling his journey across rural France as he photographs enchanting scenery, hamlets and a way of life which he feels is dying out in the face of an increasingly monochrome western capitalist culture.
However, what makes the film is that it is interspersed with clips he shot from his career. Depardon largely shot in conflict zones and was intent on capturing life in the moment. There is footage from the Venezuelan civil war, the Soviet occupation of Prague, Raymond himself interviewing French mercenaries fighting in Biafra etc. The filming is visceral and revealing, as well as being brilliantly shot.
What made the film most interesting for me though is the effect of having thirty years of film of different conflicts and peoples across the world condensed into about 90 minutes. Maybe I’m getting carried away having studied Sociology and Anthropology for one term, but I feel it gives a real sense of relativism and how small our ‘global village’ has become when we can see these tales of human struggle and life that seemed so important and consuming at the time but are now largely forgotten but for some reels of film in a Frenchman’s basement.
Verdict: Enlightening, thoughtful and reflective. 8/10