The film "Therese et Leon" describes the life of the Blum family in the year 1936. Leon Blum was a leading French politician of the socialist SFIO. In 1936 the Peoples Front (an alliance of left-wing parties) succeeded in winning the elections. Blum became the prime minister of the new government, who had high ambitions with respect to social reforms (reduction of unemployment, old-age pension etc.). The Bolcheviks, who had been part of the Peoples Front, tolerated the government, but did not participate. The electoral victory was supported by a general strike, coordinated by the trade unions. The Blum government fell after exactly one year in office, but this is already beyond the scope of the story. Also unmentioned is the fact, that between 1918 and 1940 France had no less than forty cabinets, of which many lasted only for a few days! This probably explains the emergence of the strong presidential system, that was introduced after the Second Word War. The narrative of the film focuses on the relation between Leon Blum and his wife Therese. In the final days of the campaign she suffers from a deadly disease, perhaps strokes or cancer (this is not stated). In this period of extremism, when both the Fascist and Bolchevist parties gain in importance, the campaign is of course highly emotional and intense. This becomes apparent in the speeches of Blum, which are stirring and passionate. However, Blum himself turns out to be a quiet and moderate person, with connections both in the Bolchevist party, the trade unions and the employers association. He realizes the limits of the governmental power, who can promulgate laws but not control society. Above all things he is a democrat. A party leader is extremely dependent on the support within his own coteries, Basically there are two types of leaders. The first type is self-confident and tries to impose his will. The second type asks continually for the support of his coteries, and shows a willingness to resign, if necessary. Apparently Blum belonged to the second category. This does not mean, that he is insignificant, for a position such as his can only be conquered by the very strong and after decades of preparation. However, it highlights his character. Personally I am not acquainted with the true historical facts, and I must therefore abstain from a judgment with regard to the accuracy of the script. The film is nice to see and at times moving. Nevertheless, I have the feeling that it would have benefited from an intenser portrayal of the dramatic political circumstances of the period.
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