Léa Seydoux’s Talents Can’t Save France

When does a close-up lose its power? Is it when the technique is overused, or when an actor, and the scene, lack the context for the close-up to be effective? 

Faces have fascinated audiences and filmmakers for as long as movies have existed, but in the dramatic satire France, Bruno Dumont repeats the shot ad nauseam. Léa Seydoux, best known for her role in recent James Bond movies, is his muse, and her performance is more complex here than in Bond—at least for a little while. Seydoux’s character endures humiliation and tragedy, suggesting an actor’s dream role, except Dumont heightens the artifice until the suspension of disbelief fades away. If he wants to say something about his country’s current political and cultural moment, his points are so dull they barely scratch the surface.

The audacious opening scene fuses fiction with actual events. Seydoux plays France, an apolitical television journalist who has become a star because of how she inserts herself into her stories. When we meet her, she drops into an Emmanuel Macron press conference with a needling, provocative question. Dumont uses clever editing and lighting tricks to suggest Seydoux is actually at Macron’s conference, and she considers her encounter a triumph because the president of France flirts with her. For the rest of the presser, she makes silly hand gestures to her handler Lou (Blanche Gardin) because “victory” is secure.

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