CRITICAL OPINION / FILM: “Présidents”, the new film by Anne Fontaine with Jean Dujardin and François Hollande as former presidents in the midst of an existential crisis, is an excellent film and a very high level comedy, where we laugh frankly and unprecedented almost to the end.
For all that it can be destabilizing, there is nothing fundamentally strange about Anne Fontaine’s cinema. Always surprising, his films twist imposed reality to bring his story and his characters into situations, gestures and words that are often unseen. The prolific Franco-Luxembourgish director, eighteen films on the clock as a director, thus offers direct and intelligible cinema, by setting in a classic framework intrigues and motifs which can be entirely original and surprising. This is the case with his new achievement, Presidents, which is based on a thousand-year-old comic form to tell a very current fiction which has fun gracefully with its pseudo-realism.
Great actors for great characters
Anne Fontaine loves her actresses, her actors, and their characters. This is what emerges first of the often tight framework in which Grégory Gadebois and Jean Dujardin, respectively François H. and Nicolas S., give themselves to their heart’s content to embody two former presidents of the French Republic, very alive and logically. very well known. The goal is not imitation, but the use of what one thinks he knows, of what they, of themselves, want to let appear, to move on to something else. If Nicolas is nervous, if François is soft, then what will happen if they show themselves differently? Like politics, the cinema is also a mischievous playground where we have fun with the truth of speeches and the authenticity of individuals.
We obviously recognize, thanks to these two formidable actors, the features of the presidents they embody. If there is a caricature, it exists in the noble sense, to evoke the character and not the character who carries this character. Accompanied by the no less formidable Pascale Arbillot and Doria Tillier, veterinarian for the first and lyric singer for the second, this quartet builds an elastic relationship to reality, sowing here and there some true references in a comic unfolding of the order of the pure invention.
Almost total entertainment
We laugh often, we laugh frankly. The writing of the dialogues and the interpretation of the whole cast – Pierre Lottin and Jean-Charles Clichet as security officers shine in support – deliver very funny moments, with this pleasant feeling that we know these characters well but that we had never seen them like this. The exercise of fable, of moral tale, is successful, but first of all because Presidents is funny, ironic, smart, it is an entire comic fiction with its beginning, its middle and its end, its universe.
Nicolas thus finds François, and his spirit of revenge will contaminate him by gradually leaving him. Depressed in Paris, Nicolas will enter into a deep questioning in Saint-Bonnet, village of Corrèze where François has elected his retirement home. By bike, on a tennis court, at the table, they set about organizing a common political thought, obviously with friction that is delicious to watch. This situation is thus based on proven and very efficient comic springs, but only to the point where Anne Fontaine abandons pure fabrication to give a concrete and too contemporary meaning (it is at this moment that the banal reality on which the story is nevertheless based is no longer sublimated), by proposing a solution.
High until you burn your wings
The two former presidents got angry and amused, hated and appreciated, and the confrontation of their project of a common political party to potential voters will logically daze them. Indeed Presidents of the old world, individuals stuck in their fate, they must give way to other personalities, to another sex, another intelligence and another way of doing things: a woman naturally appears as the best recourse to their facade ambition ( save France and democracy from fascist peril, but regain power above all). The idea is simple and good, logical, but it hisses the end of the recreation animated until then brilliantly.
It’s always hard to stop, and Presidents chooses to bring down the curtain on an idea already made, consensual, an outcome which has the stability of the known ground. Very nicely absurd and happily crazy on many aspects, Presidents finally weighed down with a pronounced reality – and a form of gravity – when its great quality could offer it a more subtle conclusion.
Presidents, by Anne Fontaine. June 30 at the cinema. The trailer above. Find all our trailers here.