"The Conquest" continues the trend of political thrillers this fall
(CBS) Having already made a splash across the Atlantic at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, the French political drama "The Conquest," which revolves around the rise of Nicolas Sarkozy to the French presidency in 2007 and his subsequent divorce from his second wife, Cecilia, is set to hit U.S. shores this November.
The film (and its subject - a staple talking point at all levels in French society) had a significant amount of thunder stolen from its debut by another notorious French politician, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was swirling in scandal over his alleged rape of a hotel maid at a swanky New York hotel. Happily, for distributors in the U.S. the film's release here happens to have coincided with the recent birth of Sarkozy's first child with his third wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
Director Xavier Duringer presents a competent, convincing perspective of one of France's most colorful politicians, taking care to infuse just the right amount of satire. Seemingly taking his queue from the likes of works by Peter Morgan, who penned "The Queen," writer Patrick Rotman came up with a script that seamlessly combines fact, culled from official documents and first person accounts, with perceived ideas about what was said and done behind closed doors in Sarkozy's circle.
Denis Podalydes, charged with playing the diffident French leader, remarks in character at one point, while chiding his staff: "I'm a Ferrari. You open the bonnet with white gloves on." Whether or not Sarkozy ever said it, given his at-times arrogant airs, it is certainly something plausible. Florence Pernel is Cecilia Sarkozy and Bernard Le Coq plays Jacques Chirac. The story begins in the run-up to the presidential election. Sarkozy finds out he is the country's new president from his home, where he has locked himself away, despondent. His efforts to get in touch with his wife are unsuccessful.
We are then swept back in time in a flashback that recounts the last five years of Sarkozy's political ascent, marked by riots, media manipulation, political conflict and extra-marital affairs. It is then we come back to the present and learn that Cecilia chose the day of the election to walk out on her husband, a man she had supported relentlessly for 20 years. Pernel turns in a strong performance, by all accounts, as the long-suffering wife.
The latest in the breed of political satires debuting this fall, together with George Clooney's "The Ides of March" and Meryl Streep's "The Iron Lady," look for "The Conquest" to try and make an impact with Francophiles and political junkies on this side of the pond.
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