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I did not choose to see this film in the first place but due to a scheduling mistake at the movie theater, I chose this one as a replacement and did not regret it.
All I knew about "La Sainte Victoire" was that it starred Clovis Cornillac and Christian Clavier, who had both played Astérix the Gaul. So was this going to be still another double act? I also vaguely knew that Clavier played a politician or something. So would it be an ode to his friend Nicolas Sarkozy? Would he mimic the French president's attitudes and mannerisms?
Nothing of the sort fortunately!
First things first, when the writer-director's name appeared on the screen, I remembered that I had seen his former film "Le role de sa vie" and that I had liked it, which was encouraging. And a few minutes later, after getting past a rather clumsy introductory flashback, I started being interested, thrilled and moved, until the very end.
What is "La Sainte Victoire" actually about?
Let's say the story concerns mainly two men. The first one is Xavier Alvarez (Cornillac), a young architect with ideas whose ambitious projects could benefit Aix-en-Provence, the big town he lives in are never selected by the corrupt mayor. The second man is Vincent Cluzel, an honest but little known politician running for mayor against the incumbent. Xavier then decides to support Cluzel with all his might, with all the money (he does not really own), with all the guile (he is actually full of). And what is only a pipe dream at the beginning gradually takes shape until on D-Day right-minded Cluzel IS elected mayor of Aix-en-Provence. Xavier is persuaded that the new mayor, who owes him everything, will return the favor: he will win the tender. Of course, things do not go according to plan or else there would be no film!
As you can see, nothing to do with Astérix vs. Astérix or Clavier playing a character close to his buddy Nicolas (in fact he looks more like Sarkozy as Jacquouille la Fripouille, Jean Reno's sidekick in "Les Visiteurs", than in the shoes of this thoughtful man!). On the contrary, this serious film addresses several important questions: What is ambition? When does this ambition become ruthless? To what extremities are you ready to go to defend your ideas, however generous they are? "La Sainte Victoire " (both a geographical reference to the mountain where the two main characters meet in a key sequence and an allusion to what motivates the ambitious, "the sacrosanct victory") is actually a thought-provoking work about commitment, its hardships and its limits. Serious, but never boring or moralizing thanks to a captivating plot (if you like political thrillers you will like this one), able direction, fine characterization (the characters are never one-dimensional; they all have their qualities and their dark side), brilliant acting (Clavier wonderfully restrained and believable; Cornillac aptly rendering frailty through his cocky ways; Vimala Pons, delicately sensitive and subtle; Sami Bouajila, displaying his winning male charms; and the rest of the actors who would all deserve to be mentioned).
Furthermore, "La Sainte Victoire", a very good film in itself, is also part of a budding oeuvre. Indeed if you put together François Favrat's three films, "Mon meilleur amour" (2001, short), "Le role de sa vie" (2004) and "La Sainte Victoire" (2009) you will realize they have a common point: the painful pairing of two persons who do not go together well. Interesting!
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