It's not easy 'Being Jacques Chirac': spoof movie

26th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 26, 2006 (AFP) - Rocked by political scandal, derided by critics as the embodiment of French decline, President Jacques Chirac is now the hero of a spoof documentary that shines a merciless light on his 40-year career.

PARIS, May 26, 2006 (AFP) - Rocked by political scandal, derided by critics as the embodiment of French decline, President Jacques Chirac is now the hero of a spoof documentary that shines a merciless light on his 40-year career.

'Dans la peau de Jacques Chirac' — which roughly translates as 'Being Jacques Chirac' — is a 90-minute collage of archive clips exposing the 73-year-old president's many political U-turns during his long rise to power.

From his first steps as a politician in 1967, Chirac is portrayed as a smooth operator, tirelessly criss-crossing the country to canvass voters and shake hands with anyone in sight — even once with a dog.

But the film skewers Chirac over the many policy flip-flops — on everything from Spain's entry into the European Union, to tax cuts or road safety — that have earned him the nickname 'the weathervane'.

Shot by two well-known television satirists, Karl Zero and Michel Royer, and produced by the Oscar-winning team that made 'March of the Penguins', the film opens in around 100 French cinemas on Wednesday.

No French television network would touch the movie, the first to ridicule a serving French president, even though it is being released in a political climate dominated by what the left-wing newspaper Libération calls 'Chiracophobia: the new national sport'.

Earlier this year, the best-selling book 'The Tragedy of the President', by political journalist Franz-Olivier Giesbert, blamed Chirac for a national drift into inertia, division and debt.

As a judgment on Chirac's legacy, the movie contrasts starkly with the elegant big-screen tribute paid to the late president François Mitterrand in last year's 'The walker in the Champ-de-Mars'.

Dubbed an "unauthorised biography", it is narrated as a fake confession, co-written by Zero and a journalist from the right-wing Le Figaro newspaper and with a voice-over by a highly-convincing Chirac impersonator.

With its mix of archival material and total irreverence, it invites a clear parallel with US filmmaker Michael Moore's award-winning 'Fahrenheit 9/11' — a fierce broadside against President George W. Bush's administration.

But Karl Zero denies having a political agenda, pointing out that Chirac is not planning to stand for a third term in next year's election.

According to the director, "It's just the story of a guy who's out to make it... living out a high-flying destiny, thanks to a kind of insolent good luck that turns each of his mistakes into a success".

"Underneath it all, he is very human, it's really quite touching at times.

For Chirac, the movie argues, politics has been neither a passion nor a vocation but a job, carried out with a kind of dogged determination.

The narrator admits to being driven by a blind thirst for power, despite having no real vision for France.

"The tragedy is that I have no political ideas — except perhaps, like (former president General Charles) de Gaulle, a certain idea of France that doesn't relate to anything in today's world," he comments.

But Chirac's rivals past and present — from his predecessor Mitterrand to his former protege-turned-rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy — are not spared by the film's biting commentary.

Zero told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival that he was "waiting for a phone call from the president's office to screen it to the president."

"I hope (his wife) Bernadette won't be there. But I am sure that Jacques Chirac will acknowledge that I have made an honest film."

He also said the DVD version of the film would be updated to include a reference to the Clearstream dirty tricks scandal — a complex affair which has exposed the bitter enmity between Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, and their common rival Sarkozy.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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