Pater

Movies, Drama
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Pater
Alain Cavalier has made some fine films in his time: ‘Therese’, the only one to get UK distribution, back in 1986; ‘Libera Me’, which played in the London Film Festival; and more recently a series of very personal video films shot largely from a subjective point of view, somewhere between diary and essay. The last of these, ‘Irène’, screened out of the main competition  in Cannes a couple of years ago, and was a rumination on family, friends, life and cinema, mostly rewarding in a modest, meandering, pleasingly lyrical way.

His latest, ‘Pater’, a politically-inclined two-hander in which he also acts, plays in the official competition, and one can only presume that’s because the Festival organisers were keen to attract to the Croisette the actor Vincent Lindon, who is of course a major star in France. One can see the appeal: as Cavalier says of his friend in his movie, ‘He’s warm, a touch impulsive… He’s tough. Frighteningly sympathetic.’ Well, yes and no. As the film progresses, the appeal of Cavalier’s co-star does begin to wear a little thin, but that’s only because the movie itself outstays its welcome. At first, all looks promising as the pair share a lunch in Cavalier’s apartment, passing the time of day and explaining that Cavalier has had the idea to do some informal improvisations in which he will play the French President and Lindon will play a politician he’s planning to appoint as his Prime Minister.

Thus commences, scattered among a lot of other less structured material that may or not be ‘reality’, a series of scenes charting the development of the two politicians’ relationship. Initially the manifesto seems radical, with a genuine intention to narrow the increasingly appalling gap between rich and poor. With his fine capacity for ranting, Lindon has the makings of a populist demagogue – or so he himself appears, at one point, to believe. But gradually it becomes clear that the gap of most dramatic interest is not between incomes but between the two politicians…

There are a few astute observations along the route to the film’s wholly underwhelming conclusion, but after about half an hour or so it all turns a little smug and inconsequential, rather like an in-joke. Perhaps it will mean more to French audiences, but even Lindon’s presence is unlikely to make Cavalier’s movie a hit.

By: Geoff Andrew

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Cast and crew

Director: Alain Cavalier
Cast: Vincent Lindon
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