By William Wolf


Brace yourself for a hilarious satire on French foreign affairs, courtesy of long-time expert filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, with a screenplay that he co-wrote with Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac based on Lanzac’s graphic novel. The humor plays out delightfully in the Quai d’Orsay, headquarters for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The minister is portrayed by Thierry Lhermitte as a dithering but opinionated official who thinks in clichés and is a hard taskmaster for his staff of speech writers who learn that the more clichés they serve up the happier their boss is. The spotlight is on a young up and coming new writer, hired because of his success as an author. Played by Raphaël Personnaz, he is as bewildered as other staff members as how to best serve his master.

The activity swirling around the ministry deals with the question of invading a mythical country, as well as jabs at the real political powers, with the gags flying furiously and entertainingly. It’s very sophisticated comedy aimed at those who can especially appreciate the satirical thrusts. The pace is hectic, and Lhermitte gives an outstanding performance as he exasperates everyone around him.

Political satire is an art in itself, and Tavernier, with his keen eye for the targets at hand, makes the most of this witty romp fine-tuned to France but offering recognizable follies that audiences in other countries can translate as appropriate to their governments too. Review posted October 22, 2013.


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