The French Minister (Quai D’Orsay) (2013)

BERTRAND TAVERNIER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.  France, 2013.  Little Bear, Pathé, France 2 Cinéma, CN2 Productions, Alvy Développement, Canal+, Ciné+, Site 4 View Productions.  Screenplay by Abel Lanzac, Christophe Blain, Bertrand Tavernier, based on the comic book Quai d’Orsay-Chroniques Diplomatiques by Abel Lanzac, Christophe Blain.  Cinematography by Jerome Almeras.  Produced by Frederic Bourboulon, Jerome Seydoux.  Music by Philippe Sarde.  Production Design by Sibilla Patrizi.  Costume Design by Caroline de Vivaise.  Film Editing by Guy Lecorne.  Toronto International Film Festival 2013.  

Raphael Personnaz graduates from the School of Administration and gets a very important job as the speechwriter for France’s foreign minister (Thierry Lhermitte).  Equal to the task and ready to serve, Personnaz is immediately thrust head first into a world of egos at war, with the big boss spouting a lot of mad drivel and forcing the young man to keep rewriting his speeches over and over again while special advisor Niels Arestrup, in a wonderfully understated performance, is the one who really keeps things rolling along at the office.  Based on the Quai D’Orsay comic strip by Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac (pseudonym for Antonin Baudry, upon whose experiences working for Dominique de Villepin it was based), this comedy focuses on the months leading up to the speech made by the French foreign minister at the United Nations and the madness behind its seemingly impressive polish in the end result.  Bertrand Tavernier directing the sort of thing you usually expect from Armando Iannucci yields a strange result, an amusingly droll but never outright hilarious satire in which a bunch of energetic performances are set within Tavernier’s casual framing and drawn out style of plotting.  Personnaz makes a wonderful hero, particularly his scenes with Anais Demoustier that show their wonderful chemistry (which they would share again in Ozon’s The New Girlfriend), but Lhermitte is a surprising disappointment as the titular character.  What should have been a male Miranda Priestley with a much crazier edge is the kind of performance you get more often in a Funny or Die clip than a movie, his big gestures and shallow delivery of dialogue robbing the film of any deeper rumination on political themes.

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