Radio France is the Gallic equivalent of the BBC: a public service broadcaster covering everything from news and current affiars to drama, music and spoken word across eight channels. ‘Etre et Avoir’ director Nicolas Philibert’s 2013 documentary covers 24 hours at Radio France’s headquarters, with assorted bulletins from a roving reporter doggedly following the Tour de France.
It’s a charming, deceptively simple film, presented without voiceover or talking heads, just scattered snippets of conversation and studio footage. The highlights are many: an interview with a geeky, elderly lightning enthusiast; a brief, delicious flirtation between a phone-in receptionist and an unseen caller; a wonderfully French meditation on the act of peeling potatoes.
But best to cover your ears at the first sight of an instrument: from the world’s whitest rap group via a crackpot inventor showcasing his home-made Meccano noisemaker to what can only be described as an unholy blend of jazz, opera and beat poetry, the music in the film is, perhaps inevitably, pretty unbearable. Still, for Francophile radio enthusiasts this is a warm, fitting tribute.