Having watched Republican candidates through this never-ending primary campaign was the perfect preparation for looking at "The Conquest," a tale of Nicolas Sarkozy and his lengthy, vicious campaign to become president of France.
All politicians are nuts!
Watching Sarkozy destroy his rivals, ridicule his predecessors and supposed colleagues, leap from bed to bed and totally act as if power were everything, is an exercise in bad manners and worse taste. As I said, there are horrid overtones of the current primary race and the frightening assurance that these awful excesses will get worse during the run-up to the 2012 general election.
Denis Podalycles is amazing in his portrayal of Sarkozy; he looks and moves and talks exactly as I remember seeing the French politician in action, and Samuel Labarthe has the identical approach as the dapper, distinguished-looking Dominique de Villepin. Director Xavier Durringer, who collaborated on the screenplay with Patrick Rotman, has muddied the line between fiction and non-fiction, showing how political infighting in France, as in the U.S., is among the dirtiest of businesses.
Wives are involved, too, and Durringer shows the close-to-the-throne position taken by Bernadette Chirac (Michele Noretti). More peculiar, almost Gingrichy in its approach to fidelity and vows, is the relationship among the candidate and his wives (three for each). Carla Bruni, Sarkozy's current wife, does not appear, nor does his first wife, Marie-Dominique. But the second wife, Cecelia (Florence Pernel), is the brains behind his campaign, which she is running even though she's trying to leave him to run off with her lover. Somehow, Sarkozy keeps her close, though blackmail of some sort is hinted at. Finally, on election night, she's gone, in highly dramatic style.
A campaign that ends with an election in 2007 isn't highly dramatic, of course, but Durringer keeps the non-action moving rapidly. Sarkozy, his movements and expressions on the wild side, is fascinating (another comparison with today's Republicans), and Podalycles is remarkable in his resemblance. The surreal world of politics, in France as in our own nation, continues to be slightly beyond belief. And yet, we're as fixated as we would be on a massive auto crash
The Conquest opens today at the Tivoli