14 March 2020 | yusufpiskin
Francois Mitterrand was a fascinating political figure. The journalist Antoine Moreau, constantly interviewing the ailing President during the last months of his premiership and life, finds him fascinating and charismatic. The film is fascinated by him - Michel Bouquet's Mitterrand dominates all scenes he is in, controlling the conversation, the centre of attention, revelling in his role as the last great president (his argument is that in the age of globalization greatness will no longer be possible for French presidents - and, looking at his followers, he seems to have a point). The fascination of Mitterrand is that he is full of contradictions: the Left wing president who lives in palatial grandeur; the Left winger (we see him addressing workers, speaking of victories achieved through solidarity; and we see his final New Year's address as he argues that material wealth and growth is not important in itself, but as a means for a more equitable and fairer society - what leader would argue such utopian stuff now, just 20 years on?) who has moved to the Right, but French society has moved quicker than he has so he still seems of the Left; the canny political manoeuvrer who is cultured, loves literature, ideas and life. As well as being a significant political figure, Mitterrand was interesting as a person in a way that Bush or Blair or Sarkozy or Berlusconi are not. Yet, in a way, the film just presumes our interest. If you are not interested in Mitterrand, or have not really heard of him, then I am unsure that the film will gain your attention. I don't think there are any great insights of character or history here, no detailed study of a political operator - we are just asked to wonder at and about the President. Perhaps characteristically, there is a lot of questioning about Mitterrand's role during the War, his role in the collaborationist Vichy government, yet, in the end, no conclusion is reached. The narrative centre of the film is Moreau and he is given a life outside of his fascination with Mitterrand: his relationship with his partner breaks down, he meets another woman - but this is all a bit flat, it only gains significance when it connects with Moreau's relationship with the President. I liked this film, I found it interesting, but I think that was because I find its subject interesting - if you don't share my interest then I am unconvinced that the film will hold your attention. In a way the film is part of a Mitterrand cult rather than an exploration of it.