Vive La France by Serge Bozon, a heady experiment full of soul that more than delivers on the allegorical chutzpah of its title. On receiving a troubling letter from her husband, a soldier in the First World War, Camille (Sylvie Testud) sets off to find him incognito, chopping her coif and wrapping her boobs to pass as a lad of 17. Deep in a forest landscape rendered with limpid concentration by cinematographer Céline Bozon, she falls in with a clutch of soldiers mobilized to the front. Or so it seems: Strange things are afoot in La France—like the spontaneous performance of twee, jangling ballads, rendered on scrap-yard acoustic instruments and sung, from an unabashed female perspective, by the harmonizing grunts. Weirder than the arrival of these inexplicable neo-retro-folk jams is how seamlessly they fit into Bozon’s melancholic war fable. Which is to say La France invents a curious and confident hybrid mode to accommodate, even reconcile, disparate modes and strategies: war film and musical, elegiac and avant-garde, cerebral and poignant, rigorous and flexible.
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