Alexandre Taillard de Vorms is tall and impressive, a man with style, attractive to women. He also happens to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the land of enlightenment: France. With ...
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Alexandre Taillard de Vorms is tall and impressive, a man with style, attractive to women. He also happens to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the land of enlightenment: France. With his silver mane and tanned, athletic body, he stalks the world stage, from the floor of the United Nations in New York to the powder keg of Oubanga. There, he calls on the powerful and invokes the mighty to bring peace, to calm the trigger-happy, and to cement his aura of Nobel Peace Prize winner-in-waiting. Alexandre Taillard de Vorms is a force to be reckoned with, waging his own war backed up by the holy trinity of diplomatic concepts: legitimacy, lucidity and efficacy. He takes on American neo-cons, corrupt Russians and money-grabbing Chinese. Perhaps the world doesn't deserve France's magnanimousness, but his art would be wasted if just restricted to home turf. Enter the young Arthur Vlaminck, graduate of the elite National School of Administration, who is hired as head of "language" at the ...Written by
It is odd how the French talent for satire can sometimes give rise to no actual laughter. This film is one of those strange examples. The original French title is QUAI D'ORSAY, and for those who are unfamiliar with the meaning of that, it does not refer to the Musée d'Orsay so dear to all art lovers (which is inside a converted former railway station on the Quai d'Orsay beside the Seine) but to the French Foreign Ministry. Because of its address, the Foreign Ministry has throughout the whole of modern times been referred to by the French as well as all foreign diplomats simply as the 'Quai d'Orsay'. This film is a wildly satirical spoof on the lunacy that the French imagine (and who can say they are wrong?) takes place inside their Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Minister is played with rampant satirical flair and panache by Thierry Lhermitte. He portrays the Foreign Minister as a charming lunatic who constantly contradicts himself, and never, never, never stops talking. He is constantly quoting the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus (whose work survives only in fragments, many of which make great quotes), but rarely with relevance. The comedy is enhanced by the film containing many inserted full screen cards giving spoof quotations from Heraclitus which are, of course, nonsensical. If only this film showed the subtlety of satire at which the British excel, but it is too 'in your face' and slapstick. They are just trying too hard to be funny, and although they certainly succeed at being most amusing, I did not laugh once, whereas at a British film of that type I would undoubtedly have laughed often. (As for the Americans, they have never heard of subtlety in satire, and true satire is largely unknown to Hollywood, and is better found in a performance by the Second City group, who have never made it to the screen and remain firmly onstage as satirists.) The finest performance in this film is certainly by the wonderful Niels Arestrup, who despite his Danish name (his father was from Denmark) is as French as they come. He calmly runs the Foreign Ministry and deals with the continually recurring international emergencies amidst all the chaos around him, while his incompetent minister and the other hopeless staff run around in circles like mad dogs. No one ever notices that he is doing this. Let us hope that there is at least one Niels Arestrup in every French Government ministry, for otherwise the country could collapse under the weight of its collective political idiocy. And speaking of idiots, lest we forget the current President Hollande, his girl friend Julie Gayet appears in this film as one of the Foreign Ministry staff, though she makes no big impression. But then perhaps that is because I do not have a motor bike and have never learned her finer points. (Now that is subtle satire for you!) The omnipresent Jane Birkin has a good cameo in this film as a Nobel Prize-winning authoress whom the Minister wishes to meet and takes to lunch but talks so much himself that she does not get a word in. And for Jane not to get a word in is something! Hardly likely in real life. The director of this confection is the distinguished and well known Bertrand Tavernier. I wonder whether the French themselves laughed out loud at this film, and that my own laughless and wholly silent appreciation of it was merely a cultural artefact. Do I lack a Gallic organ? Such thoughts haunt me at nights.
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