looks like a massive government building, because it is. The imposing headquarters of Radio France,
known as “La Maison de la Radio” is home to the various networks, programs,
orchestras, and chorale groups administered by the national broadcaster. Documentarian Nicholas Philibert allows
interested viewers the opportunity to roam through its curved halls in La Maison de la Radio (trailer here), which opens
this Wednesday at Film Forum.
is not exactly a day in the life of Radio France. Filmed between January and July of 2011,
Philibert nonetheless presents the constituent programs roughly in their proper
daily order, throwing in some Wiseman-esque observational details for good
measure. Viewers will be a fly on the
fly watching a rookie news brief reader gets his head handed to him by a
veteran editor and listen in on various editorial meetings, one of which
inadvertently gives the game away.
Should they discuss the “Justin Beiber Phenomenon?” Maybe, but only if they can book a “leftwing
sociologist.” Ha ha, everyone laughs,
because its true.
are plenty of snoozy NPR moments in Maison,
but from time to time, they are interrupted
by intriguing cultural soundbites. Partly recorded during the aftermath of the
Japanese tsunami, we hear at least one insightful commentary on the events in
Fukushima. Likewise, Umberto Eco on the
publicity circuit is definitely documentary-worthy.
the best material in Maison involves
music in some way or another. Without
question, the film’s most engaging talking head is the classical music host,
discussing his role as a cultural caretaker, while peeking over his piles of
are also two terrific musical performances from distinctly French but hard to classify
artists. An unusual vibes-marimba-glockenspiel
percussion ensemble (consisting of Cecile Beune, Emmanuel Curt, Francois Deforges,
Jean-Baptiste Leclerc, Catherine Lenert, and Gilles Rancitelli) contributes the
wonderfully textured “Transphère.”
Shortly thereafter, stylistically idiosyncratic vocalist Antonio Placer
performs his striking “Republicana,” accompanied by jazz pianist Jean-Marie
Machado. Reflecting a sense of his good
taste, Philibert also licenses a brief excerpt of the MJQ’s ever elegant “Odds
Frankly, Philibert does not serve his own
interests particularly well as an editor.
Far too often, he cuts away from promising sequences to return to the
same workaday business that started the film.
Quiet yet scattershot, Maison might
charm hardcore Radio France listeners, but it is likely to frustrate everyone
else. At least there is some rewarding
music for diehard Francophiles and fans of Philibert’s previous docs (such as Nénette) when La Maison de la Radio opens this Wednesday (9/4) at New York’s Film
Labels: Documentary, French Cinema, Nicholas Philibert, Radio France