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France (Les Habitants)

A film by Raymond Depardon

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film still"I am going to drive through France, from the north to the south. I plan to stop in front of homes, places of business, municipal buildings.

I am going to meet the people of France, to listen to what they have to say. I won’t ask questions. I’ll let them take their time, gather their thoughts and talk as they will. I will invite people I have only just met into a mobile studio to talk, without constraints, with absolute freedom."Raymond Depardon

The vintage camping trailer making its way along France’s secondary highways looks utterly unremarkable. But once Raymond Depardon parks it—in front of stores, businesses, and town squares across the country—it become the location for dozens of remarkable conversations.

Through his documentary films and photography, Depardon is known as one of the great chroniclers of contemporary France. In FRANCE, he takes a new approach: he mics his trailer, installs cameras pointed at a small table by the window, then invites strangers to come in and have a conversation with each other. (Depardon himself is never on-camera.) The participants range in age from their teens to their 80s: couples, friends, parents, children.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the unusual setting, many of the conversations are strikingly intimate. A young man talks to his girlfriend about how he struggles with her jealousy. A single mother working as a stripper vents all her frustrations to a near-silent friend. Two high school seniors reminisce about their school days in a scene straight out of a coming-of-age film. A mother tries to make her son understand how his destructive behaviour affects the whole family and causes endless worry.

Some of the conversations feel like near-perfect one-act plays, like the one with a middle-aged couple (he’s a fortune-teller, she’s a self-described rationalist) who start off talking about holiday plans and end up wondering why they are together. 

FRANCE does not set out to offer a definitive overview of French life. But certain themes do emerge, including women who find themselves in difficult relationships or chasing after exes for child support; parents worrying about their adult children and feeling left out of their lives; young men with appallingly retrograde attitudes towards women; and young couples who face challenges with trepidation but also who clearly delight in each other’s company.

FRANCE is an immensely compelling documentary, plunging us unfiltered into the lives of a wide range of people we would not otherwise encounter.

“An affectionately realistic portrait of a France we seldom see.” The Hollywood Reporter

“A response to after-Charlie France… What is France today and who are its inhabitants?”
A Voir à Lire

"A portrait not far from a sociological exercise... Alternately rejoicing and serious."Mondociné

Official Selection, 2015 Cannes Film Festival

84 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2018
Copyright: 2015

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Anthropology, Biography, Cinema Studies, Europe, France, Distrib Films, Photography, Sociology, Raymond Depardon

Related Links:

The Films of Raymond Depardon

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