FRIDAY, SEPETMBER 7, 2018 -- French director Xavier Giannoli has a fairly simple story to tell and he doesn't care how long it takes to tell it. That is the feeling you will get at about the !:30 mark of his nearly two and a half hour film about faith and the motivations of the church.


Vincent Lindon plays Jacques, a journalist with a profound sense of delivering the truth who draws the attention of the Vatican. The Holy See is interested in hiring him to conduct a canonical investigation of a sighting in a small French town that is starting to gain popularity and draw thousands of people.


The sighting is by a teen girl named Anna (Galatea Bellugi) who claims to see The Virgin Mary. It's not very clear how often she see Mary, but it's often enough that the town has embraced her as a saint and the towns local priest (Gerard Dessalles) becomes highly protective of her. The Vatican is not really interested in debunking the story if the investigation proves negative, they are more interested in controlling the event in case it's the real deal.


Almost from the very start of his investigation, Jacques feels something isn't right when he learns that Anna's visions didn't begin until after her best friend Meriem went missing. So his investigation becomes two-fold - ascertaining the legitimacy of the apparition and discovering the whereabouts of Meriem. In his way is not only Anna, but also the local priest whose religious profits has been boosted by the story of the visions.


Anna's apparition becomes complicit with a blood stained cloth that may or may not be authentic. Naturally, both the priest and Anna don't want the cloth inspected by the Vatican which raises Jacques' suspicions even more. Then there is Anna's ongoing relationship with a black kid whom she is obviously attracted to but it's not clear if she is enjoying earthly pleasures with him or just visiting him for the heck of it.


The story begins with intrigue and then drags on and on. Giannoli attempts to give the investigation the same feel as Ron Howard's "Da Vinci Code" and William Freidkin's "The Exorcist", but never, ever creates the intrigue or even excitement. Most of the scenes are shot in the dark and over the course of the film fatigues the viewers eyes.


Egad, you would expect some sort of bump in the night or flash of excitement, but instead Giannoli sticks with what he deems as engaging dialogue. Dialogue without a real payoff.


"The Apparition" (L'Apparition) is an overly long exercise of tedium that could have been an hour shorter and come to the same anti-climatic end. [In French with English subtitles.]   -- GRADE C+ --   GEOFF BURTON