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Thursday, April 3, 2014

LA CONQUETTE / THE CONQUEST (2011)

Political junkies who’ve run out (or wearied) of U.S. & U.K. dramas set in government’s hallowed halls can take relief (or at least variété) in this dishy French product. A gossipy, but believable peek behind the public & private curtain of Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to the Presidency, and made mid-term, it’s unexpectedly involving, unexpectedly evenhanded, and, for non-French audiences, unexpectedly easy to follow, no scorecard needed. Set out in three intersecting planks, it counterpoints Overweening Ambition; Imploding Marriage & Jealous Rivals, with platforms & positions taking a backseat to maneuvering. All too true, no doubt. Xavier Durringer, who largely works in French tv, is a whiz at clearly laying this all out, holding to a pace that feels fast but shouldn’t leave a non-French novice behind. And the acting & physical resemblances are spot on. Denis Podalydès (so good in Tavernier’s SAFE CONDUCT/’02) manages to keep Sarkozy from turning into a height-challenged caricature though Florence Pernel as his wife/political partner hasn’t quite got the material needed to flesh out a difficult role. But the film is ultimately stolen by Bernard Le Coq’s plus-perfect assumption of Jacques Chirac. So good, you’d vote him in as your Prez . . . not Chirac, Le Coq. The film stays pretty much on the surface, but entertainingly so.

DOUBLE-BILL: The first two seasons of VEEP/’12-‘13, out on DVD, are near abstract constructs. Devoid of party affiliation or useful political process, they hilariously capture the real smell of power politicking better than anything since YES MINISTER/’80-‘84 and YES PRIME MINISTER/’86-87.

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