Dir: Jean-Marc Peyrefitte | Cast: Andre Dusollier, Jacques Gamblin, Anna Mouglalis, Astrid Whettnall, Laura Benson | France, Drama 108′
Jacques Gamblin is the star of this jaunty political drama inspired by on real events surrounding an almost forgotten French president Paul Deschanel (1855-1922).
Paris in the roaring 1920s and a transformational time for French politics in the wake of the Third Republic. President Georges Clemenceau (Dussollier) aka ‘The Tiger’ for his contribution to the Allied Victory, has just been ousted from office by a forward-thinking and sharp-witted successor Paul Deschanel (Gamblin) a radical reformer and inspired orator. Deschanel realises his task is to transform the post world war lives of the French people whose battle cry is: “you won the war, now let us win the peace”. Meanwhile the Treaty of Versailles is being signed, with Germany the last to put ink to paper. On his victory the new president launches into a raft of sweeping reforms including the vote for women – poopoo-ed by Clemenceau – ridding France of the nightshift in factories, along with the death penalty – were amongst his most positive social changes.
In his first feature French director and writer Jean-Marc Peyrefitte freely admits to embellishing the storyline co-written by Marc Syrigas, ramping up the sparring between Clemenceau and Deschanel to give the film its comedy elements and adding a picaresque even whimsical quality to an often poignant drama about a man whose fervent desire was to better his country recovering from the First World War. But this humanist side of his character also gave rise to deep anxiety, and to remedy this his doctor prescribed a controversial barbiturate called Veronal – later withdrawn from use – that led to a famous episode of him sleepwalking off the back of train, during a presidential visit which culminates in a painterly stay in the French countryside with a family of yokels. Anna Mouglalis offers a shoulder to cry on and much valued pillow talk to both men who apparently shared the same ‘Salon’.
Peyreftte cleverly dovetails both presidents into news highlights from the 1920s archives. And these along with stylish Art Deco settings and a score of appropriate musical hits from the era add to the allure of this intelligent and jaunty interwar drama about a man slowly losing his mind. MT
NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE