The much-awaited biopic on French President Sarkozy, “La Conquête” or “the Conquest,” presented outside the competition, fizzled out on Wednesday. The audience expected an intelligent story with revelations and analysis of the French political class. What it got instead it was a made-for-TV wooden narrative with nothing new or original and actors who are exact copies of the actual people they represent. The story is that of Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to power from 2002 when he becomes Interior Minister under Jacques Chirac to 2007 when he wins the presidential elections. The two threads followed are one, the fierce in-fighting with another member of government who absolutely hates his guts, Dominique de Villepin, and two, the breaking apart of his marriage to Cecilia Sarkozy, uninterested in the trappings of power and in love with another man whom she will go away with just as Sarkozy wins the elections. We cannot be remotely interested in these people as there is no larger perspective, no analysis of politics or of the strange motivations of the men and women who pursue success in the fraught and ultimately unrewarding corridors of power. No Nanni Moretti’s “Il Caimano” (about Berlusconi) here, nor “W,” Oliver Stone’s study of Bush.
“The Conquest” generally fails except in illustrating what is well known: the tight ranks of the “legitimate” political class in France, tall graduates of the famous ENA school, well-bred and moneyed, for whom a short, ordinary man born to a Hungarian Jewish family, even when elected president, will always remain a figure of ridicule, certainly unfit to lead the French Republic.
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