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The Last Mitterrand
Time Out says
Robert Guédiguian is known for left-leaning Renoir-esque comedies and dramas set in and around the Marseille area and starring his wife and friends. So anyone familiar with ‘Marius et Jeanette’ or ‘A la Place du Coeur’ might initially feel disoriented by this lightly fictionalised account of the last days of François Mitterand, French President for over a decade, as viewed from the perspective of Moreau (Jalil Lespert), a young journalist invited – like Georges-Marc Benamou, whose book inspired the film – to work on Mitterand’s memoirs. Given Guédiguian’s evident desire to remind us again of the ethical and other advantages of socialism, any such confusion will be short-lived; likewise, prejudices that virtual two-handers dealing with French political history are boring will also probably go the way of all flesh. Nominally, the ‘story’ hinges on what Mitterand had been up to in 1942 – was he with Vichy or already with the Resistance? – but the film, which wholly ignores certain sensational and/or non-political aspects of his character and career, transcends factual investigation to provide a moving meditation on the troubling parallel relationship between Mitterand’s ailing body (when it begins, he’s already in great pain from prostrate cancer) and the body politic. It offers an elegiac tribute to a kind of morally aware socialism now too often replaced by considerations of finance and spin. As such it’s an ambivalent but deeply affecting work; the marvellous Michel Bouquet’s performance as the erudite, witty, stubborn, sometimes seemingly indomitable protagonist is as brave as it is brilliant.