"Who would we be without museums?" asks Russian writer-director Aleksandr Sokurov in voice-over during the opening minutes of this avant-garde historical drama, but the film fails to answer his question. A meditation on the meaning of art, cocooned in the story of the Louvre, it vacillates from straight documentary style to fourth-wall breaking reenactments to stagy glimpses into Sokurov's filmmaking process. He follows the Louvre from its creation during the French Revolution to its emptying during World War II, interspersing impressive present-day tracking shots. But compared to his masterpiece Russian Ark (2002), which distilled three centuries of Russian history into one spectacular, uninterrupted take of the Russian State Hermitage Museum, this is disjointed and dreary, its power diluted by Sokurov's constant, self-important narration. In one scene Napoleon (Vincent Nemeth) glowers at the Mona Lisa and declares "It's me!" Unfortunately, Sokurov's point—that ego is the enemy of art and society—is diminished by the film's own pretentiousness. In Russian, French, and German with subtitles.
By Leah Pickett