Le fort des fous ★★½

Le Fort Des Fous might be rough going for those not prepared for its midfilm, headlong dive into didacticism. Things begin unassumingly with an allegorical abstraction of colonialism’s ridiculous formalism, sourced in actual military records. Playing almost like a male version of last year’s Kékszakállú, with a jazz score replacing the opera from that film, this extended sequence follows a group of soldiers as they engage in military drills and briefings. The key figure in this sequence is a photographer, designated to document in the name of historical authority, yet is also the only one to observe the full extent of the absurdity on display, as the soldiers pose and preen for his lens, often brandishing local artifacts. From here, the allegory deepens and broadens, following a group of nomads in a dense sequence that nods toward the current refugee crisis. Before long, however, the film abandons such methods entirely. With this rejection, the film adopts a straightforward documentary mode, intercutting between two extended interviews on the nature of colonial power and revolutionary politics, with the director on-screen, listening. This sort of blatant lecturing is well with the tradition of “difficult” political filmmaking, yet it can’t help but feel like a squandering of the effective poeticism that had come before. The end result feels intellectually respectable, yet somewhat self-defeating in approach…

46/100