Screen/Society--French Film Festival--"The Minister"
Film Screening: "The Minister" ("L'exercise de l'état") (Pierre Schoeller, 2011, 115 min, France/Belgium, in French with English subtitles, Color, DVD). -- "Politics is a wound that never heals," admits Bertrand Saint-Jean, the beleaguered head of France's ministry of transportation in Pierre Schoeller's deft examination of power. Plagued by weird Sadean nightmares involving hooded black figures, naked women devoured by alligators, and his own asphyxiation, Saint-Jean must frantically scramble from one crisis to another: a horrific bus accident, contentious meetings over a plan to privatize France's train stations, explosive discussions with his colleagues in the cabinet, a near-death experience. The incomparable Gourmet is utterly mesmerizing as he transforms from a man of principle to a pizza-scarfing, hectoring tyrant -who then reverts to someone slightly more humane. Schoeller's second feature (after 2008's tender adult-child buddy film "Versailles") forgoes moralizing about ambitious politicians for a more complex (and rewarding) approach: uncovering the thin line that separates altruism from narcissism. // Made possible by support from the Florence Gould Foundation, the Grand Marnier Foundation, and highbrow entertainment. --Won Un Certain Regard prize, Cannes 2011//