Master filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (The Princess of Montpensier, Life and Nothing But) directs this gleeful political satire about a dashing, globetrotting French foreign minister whose charm and insouciance mask his utter and complete incompetence.
The antics of the political class have provided much fodder over the years for artists and writers with a satiric bent — just think of television's Yes Minister, its successor Yes, Prime Minister, and the more recent West Wing. One of the great names of French cinema, Bertrand Tavernier, has now joined this illustrious chorus with his withering take on contemporary French politics as played out in the Élysée Palace and the Quai d'Orsay, home of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Little escapes Tavernier's blistering assault — based on the award-winning graphic novel by Abel Lanzac, a former government speechwriter — which revels in all the comedic possibilities yet remains grounded in the prejudices of the moment. Even if a number of "crises" are pure fantasy — our fictional foreign minister is obsessed with events in a country named Ludmenistan, for instance — the knocks on France's allies will resonate with everyone: the Americans, Germans, and British are all chauvinistically (and purely for fun) dismissed by their Gallic counterparts.
This minister, Alexandre Taillard de Vorms (Thierry Lhermitte), is a youthful, good-looking, and ambitious man whose energy is often directed in the most inane and futile directions. His long-suffering staff (especially his tireless and highly competent chief ) has to clean up the messes left in his wake; meanwhile, a new young speechwriter is given a crash course in how to make sense of the meaningless gibberish that comes from his boss's mouth. Trips to Africa, crises in Ludmenistan, speeches at the UN, and meetings in Berlin rub up against anchovy disputes with the Spanish, while quotes from Heraclitus add a timeless element to the modern political folly.
Quai d'Orsay is gleeful enjoyment —
perhaps not fantasy, but certainly entertaining —
and wicked in intent and effect.