The Art of War: Full Battle Rattle and La France

Two films—one a documentary about war games, the other a WWI romance—find fantasy in the fight

Next morning, the freaked-out soldiers expel the mysterious boy who has materialized in their midst; when Camille insists on tagging along, the not unsympathetic commanding officer (Pascal Greggory)—who has already warned her that traveling with them is a journey toward death—fires a warning shot that inexplicably pierces her hand. This wound insures that the soldiers will accept the lad into their ranks. But Camille's stigmata is not the only mystic sign: Without warning, the men break into song, accompanying their four-part harmonies with a range of makeshift fretted instruments.

While Camille seeks news of the front, the platoon resolutely avoids it. They skulk through trenches and are glimpsed, in one shock-cut, perched like monkeys in the trees. The France of La France is provocatively bucolic, although combat isn't completely absent: There are sounds of shelling, and horsemen armed with lances thunder across the horizon. Camille herself is a sort of Jeanne d'Arc: She nurses the wounded men and later boldly scales a watchtower, stabbing a sentry to save the platoon. (This prompts another song.)

Iraqi Khalid Al-Khafaji plays war.
Tony Gerber

Iraqi Khalid Al-Khafaji plays war.


Full Battle Rattle
Directed by Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss
Opens July 9, Film Forum

La France
Directed by Serge Bozon
July 11 through 17, Anthology Film Archives

No less than Camille, the lost platoon she joins is on a personal mission, and, given Camille's journey into the underworld to recover her husband, the two intertwined quests amount to the myth of Orpheus retold from a female perspective. Without ever surrendering its deadpan naturalism, La France becomes increasingly poetic: The seasons change, the landscape grows barren, and the stars in the sky take their names from the dead men below.

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