Je Veux Voir

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Where is Ali G or Borat to do a post-screening interview with Catherine Deneuve about this docu in which she takes a field-trip through the war rubble of Lebanon?

Ali G wants to know: Will a new cutting-edge fragrance emerge from the adventure? Will Middle-East peace talks be spurred by the appearance of an international star amid the ruins? Will her hoop earrings inspire Hillary Clinton to spruce up her pants-suit ensemble? Will the trek inspire reality-show producers to launch Paris Hilton into Darfur?

Actually, you don't have to be Ali G or any other social satirist to think of those questions in reaction to this vanity odyssey. Although one applauds Deneuve for her kind spirits and serious resolve to see first-hand the horrors of the never-ending Arab-Israeli fighting, this trip is not even up to Dan Rather's turban treks.

In this serioso sojourn, Deneuve is trundled into the front seat of a vehicle and given the E-ride tour of Beirut. With a security car in tandem, she's informed of the particulars of the rubble by her young male driver. Aptly, they are traversing to his hometown, which he has not visited since it was, basically, blown to smithereens.

Throughout, Deneuve is very solemn, and says little, other than to grouse about anti-smoking types and inform her driver, Rabih Mroue, to fasten his seat belt (after she is roused by Israeli mock attack-noises). Although it's refreshing not to endure an actress spouting politics, Deneuve's silence sheds no insight into what we've already seen much better on the TV news. In essence, this odyssey never even rises to the level of informative superficiality.

There is a moment of high-drama, prompted by the young male driver's recollection of her performance in "Belle de Jour," which pleases her. He is so inspired by memories of certain scenes that he inadvertently drives off-road into an area of landmines. (Later on, she gets him into her gala, and the shot lingers on her warm smile when she sees him in his tux).

Filmmakers Joana Hudjithomas and Khalil Joreige' aesthetic is in harmony with the scenario itself: It lacks focus, consistency and point-of-view. The film's hodge-podge of music further confounds any editorial impetus that this bad trip might have inspired.

--Duane Byrge

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