February 7, 2010By Tom RidgwayArchive

Vote Non!

Président isn’t a bad film – it’s a monumentally terrible film.

You’re watching a film about a fictional president of France with the surprising title of, well, Président, and you’re thinking, Now, any country can make a mistake with its president (although doing it twice with a Texan might be considered a little more than a mistake), but the more you watch this president on the screen, the more you find yourself asking, Who the hell voted for this man?

As played by Albert Dupontel in a mesmerizingly bad performance, le Président is a humorless, self-satisfied and intensely tedious man. You can’t imagine anyone getting to the voting booth and putting a cross next to his name: the only way he could ever have been elected would have been in a run-off against Jean-Marie Le Pen, like France’s incumbent.

The predictable story of an ambitious young man called Mathieu (Jérémie Renier, looking confused more by why he accepted the role than by the film’s supposed machinations) who is corrupted by power, Président isn’t a bad film – it’s a monumentally terrible film, full of clunky dialogue (not even politicians talk like this) and suspense (such as it is) that’s signposted at every twist and turn. Its take on politics is as simpleminded as a teenager’s rage against his parents (“Everyone hates me, but revenge will be mine!”). You begin to wonder if director Lionel Delplanque (who also co-wrote the screenplay) has ever read a newspaper or listened to a politician speak.

Président is one of those films where everything is off: Every scene goes on a beat (or nine) too long, the dialogue is declaimed rather than spoken, and the cast looks utterly lost.

There’s one fantastic scene, however. A meeting is called to discuss how to publicize the president’s initiative to drop African debt (did I mention that the film aims for topicality, too?), and his staid establishment advisors suggest a summit. Good idea, mumbles the assembly.

Then our young tyro Mathieu hesitantly puts up his hand. Yes, says the president, smiling at his protégé, go on. Well, says Mathieu, to get people interested, we need to stage a concert! Brilliant! Er, you think, he’s running the country and he’s never heard of Bob Geldof? Yep, apparently the France of Président was the only place that didn’t an earful of Sir Bob last year. Which all goes to show that the critics may well be right: politicians today – and this Président in particular – are all terribly out of touch.

Tom Ridgway

© 2006 Paris Update

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