Review: The French Minister

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 14:44 17/07/2014
 The French Minister
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RAZOR-SHARP COMEDY: The French Minister

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THE FRENCH MINISTER (M) 
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier

 
Fans of Yes, Minister and The Thick of It will lap up this hilarious, razor sharp French political satire set in France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the film is better known in France by the Foreign Ministry's location - Quai D'Orsay).

The Zac Braff-esque Raphael Personnaz plays young speech writer Arthur Vlaminck, thrown into the deep end at the aforesaid ministry.

That's because the motor-mouth Minister Alexandre Taillard de Vorms (Thierry Lhermitte) is a Heraclitus-quoting maverick, more interested in "groundbreaking thrust" than traditional speeches.

As well as office politics, Arthur has to pen responses to a runaway bear, an African coup, and trouble in the middle east, while also preparing for the Minister's address to the UN, something likened to "Frankenstein talking to Snow White's seven dwarves".

Inspired by the antics of former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, veteran director Bertrand Tavernier's (Life and Nothing But, Round Midnight) tale certainly makes the most of both Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac's witty script and Lhermitte's (The Closet, TV's Doc Martin) free-wheeling centre performance.

A human version of Warner Bros's Tazmanian Devil prone to Cantona-esque pronouncements ("Water that boils - never forgets"), you can't take your eyes off him - whether he's whining about highlighters with mushy tips or singing bawdy songs. Personnaz (Anna Karenina) is a likeable everyman but he's more Yes, Minister's Bernard than Sir Humphrey, whose role is ably filled by Niels Arestrup (A Prophet, War Horse).

While some of the subplots, mainly involving Vlaminck's homelife, feel a bit tacked on, Tavernier's cinema verite style means you can't wait to be a fly on the wall when the next Ministerial meeting goes down just to see what madness de Vroms will get up to now.

In French with English subtitles.

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