If you’ve ever visited a radio station, you know that so much more goes on in the studio than ever makes it to the airwaves, from the silently wild gesticulations of producers to the deer-in-headlights expressions of novice talk-show guests. Though veteran French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert’s documentary about Radio France was recorded over six months, his portrait is woven together to approximate a day in the life of this multipronged national-public-radio titan—zigzagging among news, culture and classical-music networks; interviews, political debates, game shows and on-scene reports; the theater of live broadcast and the toil of sound-clip splicing.
Philibert is understandably fascinated by both the organization’s massive scope and the fiddly little quirks of its workaday culture, much of which he entertainingly conveys. But all of that jumping around never accumulates into any kind of organizing idea or thesis; instead, the whole affair comes across as dilettantish sampling, the innocuous doc equivalent of watching someone else control the channel changer. Given only hints of personalities and the thinnest strands of stories, we’re left with a hum of tinny snippets instead of anything that resembles the glorious noise of people putting on show after show after show.
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