Film review: THE FRENCH MINISTER, from Built For Speed

It may be clever, politically aware and intellectually dense but comedy/ drama The French Minister is one of the most annoying films of the year.

Like a quirky, manic French take on The West Wing, this journey into the hyper-stressed world of French politics mostly consists of obnoxious, arrogant buffoons spouting grandiose and mostly incomprehensible waffle.  The main offender is French Foreign Minister Alexandre Taillard de Worms (Thierry Lhermitte) a maniacal silver-haired tyrant who flies about the ministry offices endlessly berating his staff and who seems to regard himself as some sort of European messiah. Stepping into this whirlwind is hopeful and innocent young speech writer, Arthur Vlaminck (Raphaël Personnaz) who seems to have little idea of the what he’s in for.  As international crises in Africa and on the high seas spiral out of control, Arthur desperately tries to produce speeches that will satisfy the crazy and contemptuous minister.

This is supposed to be a comedy but it’s just not funny. The attempt to mix intense political and personal drama with quirky comedy just doesn’t work and winds making the film annoyingly uneven.  The film does provide insights into the mechanics, pressures and personalities of French politics but these insights do not necessarily translate into entertaining or tolerable cinema.   In The Loop featured vile, posturing politicians but unlike this film, it did so with wit and inventively offensive language. 

Veteran director Bertrand Tavernier infuses the film with a kind of manic energy as characters race around the rabbit warren like ministerial offices but as the film flails about in so many directions it has little momentum and just ends up being exhausting.

Occasionally Taillard and the other characters make some poignant observations about political and international diplomacy and their underlying philosophies but the characters are such unlikeable people that it’s a travesty to see them succeed on the world stage. 

Better to spend your hard earned on a DVD of Danish TV series Borgen which is more politically aware and contains characters who we don’t immediately despise.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Political drama/ comedy.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Bertrand Tavernier.

Release date: 17th July 2014

Running time: 113 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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