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  • A leading politician for almost 50 years, from the dark days of the Vichy, through the De Gaulle era into the 1990s, Mitterand finally grasped the crown of the French presidency only to find that he had prostrate cancer with a short time to live. His father had succumbed in 2 years to the same disease.

    Mitterand struggled on for the whole fourteen years of his two terms as President but in the twilight months of office he makes a strange invitation to young journalist Georges-Marc Benamou, a Jew, to write his memoirs. Benamou is fascinated by the contrasts. Mitterand came from the right, in the 1930s he was a member of a fascist group that protested about immigrants. Benamou wants to find out about Mitterand's murky war years when the President worked for Petain's collaborationist Vichy regime. He finds out that no-one in France, least of all the President, wants to look at this time too closely.

    Mitterand still holds a fascination for France. The man who betrayed the right to become a committed socialist, made the left wing electable and then presided over France almost like Louis the XIVth. His first couple of years were marked by radical reform, crisis, retrenchment then a long period of stagnation under cohabitation with a right wing government. But his period in office reminds people of a "temps perdu" of certainty before globalization and it maybe this reason why the cinema was nearly full on a cold Tuesday afternoon.

    The film tells us less than we know, certain controversial parts of Benamou's book, such as the last New Year supper where Mitterand gobbles down Ortolan, are left out although the President's half brother, the actor Roger Hanin, recently confirmed the veracity of these events. Michel Bouquet portrayal of the declining days of Mitterand is excellent. It is almost painful to watch and the other characters are superb.
  • This is a fascinating little film about the last few months in the life of Francois Mitterrand (Michel Bouquet), president of France 1981-95, and his relationship with a young man, Antoine Moreau (Jalil Lespert), who has been commissioned to write his life story.

    Bouquet is, quite simply, phenomenal as Mitterrand; his physical resemblance is uncanny and his mannerisms and speech are spot-on. It is a delight to see the way he takes you into the heart and soul of a quite controversial figure in post-War French politics; Bouquet portrays the way that Mitterrand seemed to genuinely retain his socialist beliefs, right up until the 1990s. He visits a closed mine, the scene of a tragedy many years before which cost the lives of forty miners, to make a moving and rousing speech on the plight of French workers and the accomplishments of the socialist party in France (minimum pay, paid holidays, shorter hours, etc.). There is fine language and rhetoric but also genuine feeling, delivered in an awesome performance by Bouquet.

    Mitterrand had a great rivalry with Charles de Gaulle, and this is given a lot of time in the film. Also, Lespert is keen to delve into the murky past of Mitterrand during his service in Vichy under Petain; you get the feeling there's a lot more to find out here, something Lespert discovers in his secret trip to the infamous spa town.

    It seems pointless, the little sideline of Lespert's personal life, time that could be better spent on Mitterrand's personal life, which is totally absent from this film. I'd like to have seen a lot of archive film: Mitterrand and Kohl meeting at Verdun, for instance.

    Mitterrand reflects on modern politics and the great advances made by modern France: for example, the modern transport system (we see Mitterrand travelling by the modern TGV train, the envy of the world).

    This is a fascinating film for any Francophile. It is a grey landscape - particularly Mitterrand's last visit to his home town and the beach nearby - but that is politics. Highly recommended.
  • This is not your usual biopic. It is more of a rumination on those big abstract topics the French love so much: what is a legacy? Where is French glory to be found? Does France even have any resonance or sense any more in the face of globalisation/EU? The meanings of Frenchness are clearly articulated here by Guediguian's camera which lovingly records fields of hay, Chartres cathedral, and the lined faces of the 'travailleurs': it is here that the documentary impulse of the film lies, rather than in its tracing of Mitterrand's past, and here that we can see the links to Guediguian's more usual style and themes of filming with their socio-political investment in "ordinary" people. What seems to fascinate the film is less the issue of whether Mitterrand joined the Resistance in 42 or 43 (we never learn the "true" answer) but what happens to a man when he is in power. Mitterrand is closed in by grey doors in the beautiful Elysee palace which becomes a living prison of coldness (interesting the moment where he praises the colour grey). We never get a sense of the man having a family, even though he talks lovingly of a daughter: we see him constantly surrounded by men in black, with him out of a sense of professional duty rather than because they care for him. Power cuts you off from those you are meant to serve...Mitterrand's closest relationship is to the petrified former rulers of France. A chilling portrait of what happens when a man turns himself into an icon. And a movingly brilliant performance from Bouquet, who perfectly captures the horror of the body that slowly falls apart...The film ends on a note of hope for the future, with the birth of a child and the forming of a new relationship: but it is noticeable that it is in the private sphere that Guediguian places hope for the future: the hope of a committed leftist project has perhaps died along with Mitterrand.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Of course it helps if you are French yourself or have 1) an interest in, 2) a knowledge of or 3) a passion for all things French but even without one, two or all three this is still a very fine film. As I write Michel Bouquet is three months shy of his eightieth birthday and despite being asked to portray a man walking in the shadow of death he turns in a remarkably robust performance, one, surely worthy of an award. Jalil Lespert doesn't have too much to do except pose awkward questions so tentatively that they are almost too easy to ignore and/or brush aside yet he manages somehow to bring some gravitas to the role. I am the least political animal you're ever likely to meet plus I am not French and have never lived in France but I have acquired over a time, mainly via my admiration for French films a perhaps necessarily limited knowledge of French history so that names like Petain, Leon Blum, etc are not as Greek to me as they may be to other non-French viewers. Having said that I think even the complete novice will find lots to admire in the quality of the acting all round especially that of the two principals. Not perhaps for everyone but if it IS for you then you came to the right place.
  • I saw this movie yesterday, with somebody who have neither live in this country during Mitterand's presidency, nor had an interest with our narrow views on our own politics. And I was surprised,thinking I would show her part of the history of one of the most important guy in our recent history (the French one), to see that, actually, it's not about this president at all. Of course, there's some names mentioned, some events, but the main character is called "Mr President" and nothing else, and the movie focuses on "off times" of the president, moments of privacy shared with a journalist who is supposed to write a book about him. This is the story of an old man who, facing his death, tries to find peace and struggle to do what he have to face. The last two month of his presidency, when, literally eaten by his disease, he slowly becomes an impotent. The wish of being in the memory of his country ("Tell them than I'm not the Evil", he says to Antoine, the young idealistic journalist). His childish behavior (when he forces his bodyguards to stays on the beach and talk about poetry while the rain starts to fall, or when he confesses that he'd like to drive a Renault down the fifth avenue with Julia Roberts on his side...). And, most of all, his fight against his own past. About this, the best moment in this movie is when he says that some Jewish group wants "France to bow and begs for pardon like Willy Brandt. But that was not France !" After all, this is a story of a man who has such a past, such a (hi)story, that he becomes his own country, with all its contradictions, dark sides, denial, but also hopes, and definitely a sharp sense of humor... Although we could say that it's about time that this country turns the page and faces its history (what Mitterand never did), we can't say, here in France, that he will be forgotten. Never a president has be his country such as he did.
  • The Last Mitterand sure score points for originality, let me tell you. Eseentially, this story details Mitterand's visit to his potential biographer during the last few months of his tumultuous decade as the French President, and in declining health. The President talks about his years in power and his politics, but sidesteps any questions about his shady past, particularly in World War II. The author tries to go through other sources to get this information, only to realize that he's being watched..

    If I've confused you, I'm sorry, as this, amazingly enough, is a fictional piece! Although it's totally implied that Michel Bouquet is playing Mitterand, the character is only addressed as 'Mr President'. This movie is actually based on a book that was written about Mitterand, and the movie, pay attention now, is based on the author's research on the book and communications with Mitterand. I don't think I've ever seen a movie biography done this way before. (Well, OK, Interview With The Vampire, but that was uhhh total fiction). I have to tip my hat to the filmmakers for this idea! Hats off too to Bouqet, who is simply stunning as Mitt-er I mean "The President". He had that role NAILED down. I don't know what Mitterand's nuances were, but Bouqet was amazingly believable. Finally, although I hardly know a thing about French politics (and it appears that other people in the audience got some of the jokes I didn't), you can just enjoy this movie for what it is, a magnificent portrait of a interesting, yet somewhat guarded individual.
  • No doubts about it, Michel Bouquet as the late French President, Francois Mitterand, had an excellent performance. It reminds me Bruno Ganz's interpretation of A. Hitler in "Der Untergang" (The Downfall). But, what would have been the movie without him? That is what has disturbed me from the beginning. Antoine Moreau was, to my eyes, everything else but convincing in his role. this could be interpreted as a weakness of the film, as everything looks to have been focused on one and only one character, the old dying Mitterand who is preparing his farewell as president. A little bit of french/European history knowledge might be helpful, but nevertheless, this film is to recommend.
  • manuel-pestalozzi4 October 2006
    Mister president is sitting in an empty railway carriage (second class) with his little entourage. The train is cruising leisurely through a soggy, foggy, wintry landscape. „What is the color of France?" he asks. As always, he gives the answer himself: „It's gray. France has many shades of gray. Gray is not so bad after all."

    This movie is gray and slightly spooky throughout, but that really isn't so bad after all. Michel Bouquet delivers a totally stunning performance as an old, dying sly fox who is very lonely and uses – or abuses – a young writer as a companion with the promise to give him material for memoirs. They go crypt- and cemeterywatching together (preparations have to be made), go for walks on the beach and in the park, and at one time the young, self righteous chap comes in handy because the old gentleman can't make it out of the bathtub alone anymore.

    The old man has been surrounded by yes-men too long, he is almost overwhelmed by the sense of his own importance. He is out of touch and he senses that it is difficult to make a clean exit. But, hey, he still wants to have some fun. It consists mainly of manipulating other people, letting them feel his power in a subtle, cultivated way - but, well, that's just too bad. You have to enjoy yourself as long as you can.

    I consider this movie mainly a comedy, I really don't care if there are any similarities with people that once existed. If a former French president looked like Michel Bouquet, who makes any film he is in watchable, then I can't help it. The set design deserves special mention, it is usually luxurious and stylish in a presidential way but a little shopworn. And it always seems to be cold in this movie. The atmosphere reminded me of Hal Ashby's Being There.

    Anybody who likes gray movies should watch this, others had better stay away.
  • paul2001sw-129 December 2008
    A dying president dictates his memoirs to a young journalist: this may not sound like a very exciting recipe for a film. But in fact, 'The Last Mitterand' is an intriguing movie. In part this stems from the fact that the eponymous French leader was an intriguing person in real life - a literate egoist with a heroic but compromised past, who believed himself to be the last great president of France and who completed his term of office while suffering (without any public announcement) from the terminal stages of cancer. But it also comes from the judicious blend of the political and the personal found in this film. In the title role, I'm not sure Michel Bouqet looks much like Mitterand - but one can believe utterly in his portrait. And while Mitterand was certainly a flawed politician, when contrasted to the leaders of our own celebrity driven age (Mitterand has mistresses who never made the press; current French president Sarkozy uses his sexy young wife - and former mistress - as a PR tool), his claim to at least relative greatness no longer seems risible.
  • I'm not a page to be torn easily confessed a frail but smiling Mitterrand (Michel Bouquet) sitting on a bench park with his biographer Antoine (JalilLespert). The man was so close to death he could foresee his legacy. He knows he'll be remembered as the last great French leader... after De Gaulle of course.

    There has always been an inferiority complex with De Gaulle driven by the public perception, because Mitterrand held himself in high esteem. Yet he knew he was dwarfed by De Gaulle whose "June 18's call" could never be equaled. There was an old French sketch explaining why Mitterrand wrote so many books in his life: because he needed to stand on their pile to match De Gaulle's height (ten inches taller). Another famous parody program portrayed him as a Kermit lookalike and his nickname was "God". It says a lot about his reputation, even more that Mitterrand was amused by the caricature.

    And that's the general perception of Mitterrand inherited from his lifetime but maintained beyond the grave: an icy literate man capable of amiability with people he respected... and an eternal enigma. This image is prevalent all through the film and the César-winning performance of Michel Bouquet is a wonderful examination of a spirit resisting while the body's giving up. Mitterrand is a lucid man and he knows very well that the world changed and all the petty little inconveniences of his reign will not tarnish his legacy. People care for the big picture, on that level, he's got De Gaulle's aura. Still, the film doesn't deal with auras, but actions too.

    It doesn't question Mitterrand's affair with women, his secret daughter and all the scandals that will flourish after his death, the film is an intimate portrait of a man who answers the questions of another man. If the questions involve some points that preoccupy the general opinion, they are still asked on a private level. There's no journalist, no footage of his TV apparitions (or a very few) and it all comes down to one question: how close was Mitterrand to some Vichy officials, Bousquet being the most notorious one. And even if his Resistance involvement isn't debatable, did that happen in 42 or 43? That's the main point of friction between Antoine and Mitterrand.

    But that's also the leitmotif of the film, the little pebble (so to speak) in the shoe of Mitterrand's regal self-absorption, the last fuzzy aspects of his life on which Moreau demand clarifications, encouraged by a former Resistant. But this is Mitterrand's matter of discord, he hates talking about the war, which he refers to as a demon following him for fifty years. Maybe it's because he knows that he'd never be De Gaulle's match precisely because of that involvement or because he loves France so much he hates to see it associated with Vichy. We trust that he loves France more than himself, and that's the second reason.

    If you watch a clip of one of his last interviews, when asked by a journalist whether France will make amends for what happened during World War II, Mitterrand dryly retorts that France has no excuses to make because France wasn't Vichy. In the film, he reminds Antoine that he built monuments in commemoration of the Jewish victims and was the first to say "we shall never forget", but people have conveniently forgotten his quote and constantly label him as a former collaborator. Now, why is the film so insistent on that part rather than Algeria or Rwanda?

    Perhaps because Robert Guédiguian's film is driven by the same lucidity, that history is known by historians and people only remember the broad lines: De Gaulle was the man who restored France's honor, put an end to the Algerian War and created the Fifth Republic, Mitterrand was the last iconic President, the one who brought the left to power and who built Europe. His government reforms started in 1983 put a blow on the "socialist" dream, he "killed off" the communist party and the fall of the Berlin Wall opened a breech for liberalism, but Mitterrand knew his reputation wouldn't suffer from it, and that might explain his overall serenity and satisfaction, he's leaving the world "clean".

    Is his conscience as clean? I think it comes to the question whether Deguedjian's film makes Mitterrand sympathetic or not. In fact, any man in his age would be sympathetic, mirroring that "Chinatown" quote about politicians becoming respectable when they last long enough, they have a sort of wisdom that only the passing of year can forge. Mitterrand know he's made mistakes, knows he won't be De Gaulle, but he's always been sincere and he's perhaps the closest man to De Gaulle a President will ever be. It's not megalomania but realism, he knows Europe will never bring patriots in power, only financiers.

    It's strange how prophetically these lines resonate today, the film was made in 2005 but when he talked about finance, I was immediately reminded of Emmanuel Macron, a former banker from Rothschild (of all the banks) and now President of France. About France's involvement in Second World War, Macron firmly established that it was France's responsibility (Chirac nuanced by saying the French government), so you can tell there's more than a generation gap, it's a whole perception of France that has been affected by history. Some said 1989 was the end of history, maybe it was the end of history in its perception like a national journey.

    Maybe that's what makes Mitterrand so close to De Gaulle, both had a certain idea of France. And given how low politics and media sunk, it's true Mitterrand was a class of his own and the film is a character study fitting his personality, it's cold, detached, intelligent, lucid and it has its heart-warming moment. If not objective, it is sincere about its material.
  • Overlong (2 hours), minimal character development, no scenario, no nothings. I have never yet fallen asleep in the cinema, but this time it was a close-run thing, and judging by the lack of animation from my fellow cinema-goers I wasn't alone in this.

    2-dimensional characters, inane dialogue (except in the first half, where Mitterrand's acid tongue is occasionally allowed out for a run).

    Boring, boring, boring. It doesn't even cut it as a rather flat documentary, since the director freely admits taking liberties with what Mitterrand really said and did.

    Avoid this film, unless of course you're an insomniac.