Self-indulgence is something you just have to accept before sitting down to Journal de France, a tribute to the career of photojournalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker Raymond Depardon. Depardon's ground-breaking footage of the world's trouble spots in the 60s is juxtaposed here with Depardon, old, soft and balding, travelling around forgotten towns of France with his view camera snapping whatever strikes the eye. The former is fascinating but the latter is dull as dishwater.
he narration by Claudine Nougaret, Depardon's longtime sound engineer, producer and who also co-directs here, doesn't allow an insight into Depardon - the documentary makes the assumption that you know him, and his work, well. Even the moments of Depardon on his excursions through the French countryside don't offer up anything of personal note.


are footage of Depardon's first crack at a film camera is unearthed; the scene has the director wander the streets of Paris turning the camera on anything that takes his fancy, mostly girls. Nougaret's voiceover marvels at the revolutionary handheld style but it's a struggle to put this in context: it looks like what it is - a guy wandering around Paris with a camera. But when events move to Chad and Depardon's super footage of French mercenaries hired by oil companies to train local outfits in waging war, Journal de France takes a turn for the interesting. From there it's on to the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and then a behind-the-scenes look at Valerie Giscard d'Estaing's run for president, a film that the politician successfully blocked from release, unhappy at what was recorded. It makes one want to watch those documentaries, not this one.
ostly Journal de France resembles those Greatest Hits compilations that oddly include rarities, B-sides, unreleased tracks and new offerings, making a mockery of the title - there's some great stuff in here but there’s a lot of filler too. During the contemporary footage Nougaret's camera lingers on the old man, waiting - begging - for him to say something profound. 'Some days I'm in a bad mood. Some days I'm in a good mood,' is the best on offer. This self-indulgence eventually plays on patience and patience runs out. As Nougaret says, 'He makes most of the shots to please himself.' Yeah. Got that.
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