At 73, France's ex-president, Emile Beaufort, faces declining health, but he still plays a vigorous role behind the scenes as a philosopher and, potentially, as a power broker. In ...
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"Le Dabe" retired many years ago and now he lives in the Tropics where he owns stables and horses. He is a very rich man. He was the king of all money counterfeiters. He is contacted from ... See full summary »
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At 73, France's ex-president, Emile Beaufort, faces declining health, but he still plays a vigorous role behind the scenes as a philosopher and, potentially, as a power broker. In particular, his relationship with Philippe Chalamont comes into play: Chalamont seems in line to be the next Prime Minister, and Beaufort's history with him is long, deep, and problematic. As Beaufort dictates his memoirs, his narrative take us to occasions, 15 and 20 years before, in which Chalamont and he clashed. Chalamont is not without talent and guile: he comes directly to Beaufort to see if they can sort things out. What will Beaufort, ill health and all, do? Written by
Jean Gabin in extremely strong portrayal of a passionate statesman whose mistress is France
"Le président" (1961) is an excellent black and white movie, featuring strong directing (Henri Verneuil), strong writing (Michel Audiard and Henri Verneuil), and strong acting (Jean Gabin and Bernard Blier). This is powerful political drama, of which there is not that much among the vast cinematic output we have before us. Because of the story, which highlights political betrayal and corruption, its power, its use of flashbacks, and its staging, this can be classified as political noir. I've seen only one source that did so, but upon reflection I would not hesitate to recommend this film to noir aficonados.
Gabin in the present is a retired 73-year old president writing his memoirs; but he keeps a strong interest in current politics. Followed by the press and consulted, he maintains respect and influence. He describes himself as a mixture of anarchist and conservative. His mistress is France, her common good. He's a statesman who has operated in a corrupt political world in which most politicians cater to interest groups, especially industrial and financial interests. In one remarkable sequence that marks Gabin's exit from politics he excoriates the members of parliament on this basis.
Several political decisions focus the story. Two occur fifteen years earlier. The third is in the present. The earlier are a devaluation of the franc, which he brought about, and his support for joining a European customs union, a bill that lost him his position. In the devaluation, he was betrayed by a close associate, Bernard Blier. Blier also opposed him on the customs union. In the present, Blier is angling to become prime minister to which Gabin is opposed.
The politics of these events and the characters of these two men are brought out about as brilliantly as one can within the limitations of film. Rarely does one see such writing. The film is, on this score, talky, and the action of a type that presents intellectual conflict, not physical conflict. But Verneuil's staging is frequently suggestive of the physical.
Political details and nuances are not easily brought out in a film. In this case, we are not given clearly to understand what has forced the devaluation. We have to know beforehand that a previous inflation is the culprit and that the alternative, a severe deflation, would have induced an unpopular recession. The gainers and losers in the monetary complexity are not discussed in the film. The focus is on maintaining secrecy about the move so that speculators do not profit by advance sales. In the case of the customs union, the focus is on advancing "Europe" in the quest for a peace and no more major wars. In this case, the industrialists who lead protected industries and seek overseas colonies are Gabin's main targets. Blier and another speaker bring out that the tariff barriers are also protecting labor and agriculture, who can be expected to suffer and be forced to make competitive adjustments. However, the complexities of the gainers and losers are not addressed by the film, and could not easily be addressed.
The drama becomes more the vast differences in the characters of Gabin and Blier, and there the movie excels in contrasting the statesman versus the shallow, ambitious and conniving politician.
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