Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Guillaume Depardieu
Director: Serge Bozon
Three years after its premiere at the Directors' Fortnight showcase in Cannes, Serge Bozon's feature-length directorial debut - which made an appearance at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2008 - gets an English-subtitled DVD treatment. It's a war romance in which war and love hardly feature, testosterone replaced by remarkably framed and picturesque scenes peppered by bursts of 1960s-style pop songs played live on homemade instruments.
Set at the end of the first world war, La France follows a young woman, Camille (Sylvie Testud), who cuts her hair, dresses up as a boy and leaves home to find her missing soldier husband (the late Guillaume Depardieu). She has barely set foot in the wilderness when she runs into a motley crew of dejected soldiers, led by a stony-faced lieutenant (Pascal Greggory) who, after some initial scepticism, adopts Camille as one of his own.
Together, the pack wanders over fields and travels down rivers with the odd explosion heard off-screen, surviving food poisoning, a potentially fatal fall, and an abrupt episode of violence in a farmhouse.
Such plot points are spread pretty far apart in the proceedings. Certain parts may look whimsical, but La France carries a sense of desolation, of helpless souls traipsing along after life-changing experiences in battle (this squadron could have been survivors from the Somme, for instance). By instilling his picture with slowness, the weight is there for all to see: with the myriad mysteries about the characters (and of course some cracking deadpan banter among them), Bozon has delivered a poetic film without precedent.
Extras: individual song selections, trailer.