Directed by Robert Guediguian, starring Michel Bouquet, Jalil Lespert, Philippe Fretun, Anne Cantineau, Sarah Grappin, Catherine Salviat, Philippe Lemercier, Serge Kribus, Béatrice Bruno, Geneviève Casile and Gisèle Casadesus.
Young journalist Antoine Moreau's (Lespert) marriage may be falling apart, but he has got the dream subject for his new book: France's soon-to-retire President, Francois Mitterand (Bouquet). Antoine is keen to explore the President's views on life, love, art and literature and, above all, the vexed question of Mitterand and Vichy France. But the ailing Mitterand has survived too long in politics to be an open and easy interviewee and so he steers the young man in the direction he himself wants to go in: building a friendship and skilfully avoiding certain question about the past. But Antoine is nothing if not persistent and as their relationship deepens, so too does his determination to extract certainties about Mitterand's life.
Based on screenwriter Georges-Marc Benamou's experiences interviewing the late French president and his controversial 1997 book of the same name,'The Last Mitterand' moves at the pace of a slow sigh as it chronicles Mitterand's last days in office and on earth. And while that pacing is ultimately the film's greatest weakness, there are things here to savour: good verbal jousts, some high brow humour and, above all, a superb performance from Bouquet as the wily veteran. The father-son dynamic in his scenes with Lespert's character is touching and those of us whose knowledge of Mitterand doesn't extend much further than his name, will leave this film feeling they now have something of the man's essence, thanks to Bouquet.
Too ponderous for those who like more verve in their films, but political junkies and French cinema fans should be well pleased.