Journal de France
Director: Raymond Depardon, Claudine Nougaret
Cert: 12A Running time: 100 mins
Raymond Depardon is one of France’s most esteemed photographers and latterly a filmmaker of note. After starting his career as a photojournalist in the early 1960s, he reported on conflict zones such as Algeria, Vietnam, Central African Republic and Chad before forming the Gamma agency in 1966. This affectionate film, which intercuts footage of him pootling around France in a van taking photos with his huge camera equipment, alongside archive film from the world’s hotspots, psychiatric institutes and political frontline, is narrated by his loving wife, Claudine Nougaret, to great effect.
As much an advert for the power of a positive attitude to humanity in the face of man’s predilection for conflict as it as a homage to the photographer and film maker’s skills, this is a film that will have you instantly reaching for Depardon’s back catalogue. We loved his 2008 study of country life, La Vie Moderne, in which his ‘listening and looking’ style of shooting drew the very best from his humble subjects. He unfussily trains his lens on them, letting them talk as if his camera is invisible.
What shines through his melancholia-tinged, twinkly eye, is the humanity of a man who has seen it all and yet still wants to see more: “I must always be on alert, to look around,’ he says. In juxtaposing the madness of the wars and political conniving that he has committed to film over the years, with poignant, sleepy shots of France à l’ancienne, it’s clear that he believes in seeing the best in people – perhaps especially now in later life. This charming Burgundian also clearly loves his country. ★★★★