Sarkozy bio pulls Cannes into French political fray

Wed May 18, 2011 12:11pm EDT
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By Nick Vinocur

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A French movie about Nicolas Sarkozy's rise to power in 2007 pulled the Cannes film festival on to political terrain on Wednesday as a crowd of mostly French critics gave the film a lukewarm response.

Much hyped before its unveiling, "La Conquete" by director Xavier Durringer brings spectators behind the scenes and into Sarkozy's inner circle as he campaigns for French president amid a failing marriage, scandals and bitter rivalries.

Briskly paced and unsparing in its portrayal of France's political elite, from former president Jacques Chirac to Interior Minister Claude Gueant, the film drew many laughs at an out-of-competition showing attended mostly by French reporters.

But the round of applause at the end was weak and brief, as critics appeared to focus more on what they said was the film's uncritical nature than its quality as a work of cinema.

"What did I think of it? Nothing." said one French film journalist who declined to be named. "It's a ... portrait that takes absolutely no risks in portraying the president."

Landing amid political uproar in France, where the arrest in New York last week of Socialist frontrunner Dominique Strauss-Kahn on rape charges has upset odds ahead of a 2012 election, "La Conquete" appeared likely to divide the French with its non-polemical, at times sympathetic portrayal of an unpopular president.

Mired in weak poll ratings a year from the election, Sarkozy's chances at being re-elected appear to have changed overnight as his main rival and IMF chief Strauss-Kahn falls out of favor amid the news that the president and his glamorous current wife Carla Bruni may be expecting a child.

Asked about its political impact director Durringer said the film would not sway voters but could serve as a "sort of memento of the promises and the energy that were around in 2007."   Continued...