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Alexander Sokurov’s Francofonia

Alexander Sokurov, Francofonia, 2015, digital video, color, sound, 87 minutes.

ALEXANDER SOKUROV’S new movie, Francofonia, is both exhilarating and profoundly ruminative. Although it is ostensibly about the threat that hung over the Louvre under the Nazi occupation, its subtitle, An Elegy for Europe, suggests a broader compass. More ambitious than Moscow Elegy (1986–88), Sokurov’s ode to Andrei Tarkovsky, but more accessible than the sublime Elegy from Russia (1992), the movie is laced with the mordant wit of Moloch (1999) and Taurus (2000), Sokurov’s takes on Hitler and Lenin, respectively, and confirms his zest for formal invention. But unlike Russian Ark (2002), his celebrated feature-length tour of the Hermitage in one uninterrupted tracking shot—“designed,” as critic J. Hoberman aptly remarked, “to reproach the montage theorists of Soviet silent cinema”—Francofonia is a cunningly edited, densely layered reflection on European culture and

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