December 1, 2021
Is this a story about France, the star journalist of television, or is it about France, the country caught in the whirlwind of media frenzy? Because of its particular historical path, the mix between France and our media frenzy has a particular twist to it.
A 2021 French comedy-drama from filmmaker Bruno Dumont, which was met with a mixture of boos and bravos at the recent Cannes Festival.
France is a French star journalist, with her own nightly TV show. She travels all through the planet, producing reports, with ambiguous goals, somewhere between authentic compassion for the suffering planet and the pursuit of her stardom.
As much as her performances shine on the screen, as much her concrete day-to-day relations, with her “loved ones”, seem remote and cold. But the TV audiences only see her shine, until the day she is caught off guard when her mike is still on when she makes disparaging remarks about those she was compassionate about only a few moments ago on the screen. Meanwhile, she accidentally strikes a young immigrant cyclist, and, fearing for further damage to her reputation, proceeds to compensate the victim through money and somewhat awkward and staged visits.
UNDERSTANDING THE FILM
For Peter Debruge, of Variety, “For those willing to take it seriously, there’s a lot here to unpack”.
For several analysts, the film speaks to a malaise that affects both the heroine and France itself, “but the remedy is hard to identify”. It is thus a diagnostic of the French media landscape, for Mark Asch, in Little White Lies, “and even a description of the depression and disillusionment of the whole of French society”. It is a kind of “state-of-the-nation address written in invisible ink”.
A LARGER TAKE ON THE FILM
Our invading media landscape does not penetrate societies that all have the same background and historical experience.
In the case of France, there is a long tradition of disregarding, administratively, the local life and relationships, in favor of centralized relations, emanating from Paris of course. This pattern superseded other, more concrete links between people, person to person, at least from a public institution perspective. What is near is relegated to a secondary role in favor of the far, the hierarchy above and beyond. This pattern is not unrelated to a typically French snobbery, the search for the latest trend, emanating of course from the capital.
We can find this French pattern in authors who have studied French history, like Alexis de Tocqueville, or historians who have compared historical developments in France, and compared it to other European countries, as Norbert Elias has done for Europe.
The lack of sensibility of the heroine vis-à-vis her immediate entourage, in sharp contrast to her hyper-sensitivity to “her public”, far from her immediate surroundings, a typical French pattern, is a reproduction of the French pattern of overlooking the immediate over the distant powers that be, at least in a public policy and governmental dimension, which feeds in, in part, to social life. And in telling of the invasion of the media in France, we are telling the story of France, the star journalist, but also the story of the reactivation of typical French patterns pushed to the forefront and revealed by the dynamics of the evolving media landscape.
New media do not penetrate societies without a past or a history.
France shows us a part of this penetration in the case of France.