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If you're a fan of films about politics and politicians (The Candidate, 1972; Il Divo, 2008; The Ides of March, 2011) – and if you're also a devout francophile – then this is the perfect film for you. Others, though, might find it a bit of a slog.
The Minister is a behind-the-scenes look at a second-level French politician (Olivier Gourmet playing the fictional Bertrand Saint-Jean, the minister of transportation) who appears to be a principled man battling ambituous and unscrupulous colleagues, mired in an octopus-like bureaucracy as he attempts to advance a worthy cause. Early in the film he is called upon to be the compassionate face of government, facing TV cameras at the scene of a tragic bus accident in the Ardennes, expressing official sorrow and extending comfort to the bereaved. He always has an efficient press secretary at his side (at the scene of the accident she orders an underling to swap ties with the minister because his tie will present better on TV); a speech-writer is always close at hand, rewriting speeches and revising every word the minister will speak as he attempts to keep up with the government's shifting positions; and a loyal personal assistant who tries to keep him informed on all the back-room battles as fellow ministers attempt to advance their own agendas, gliding through the corridors of the Élysée Palace like sharks.
The Minister manages to avoid the most common failings of the genre: it doesn't preach, and it doesn't take the easy road of satire. This is a fast-paced film, very nicely done: well-edited, well written, with a couple of terrific performances (Michel Blanc is particularly good as Gilles, the minister's personal assistant).
There's a French-language trailer (without subtitles) here, and one VIFF screening remaining: on Tuesday October 9th at 11:40 am at the Empire Granville 3