CANNES: Fest Turns Political As Obama & Sarkozy Are Dissed In Official Films

Cannes has never been a place to shy away from politics. It’s not enough that official competition entry Melancholia’s director Lars von Trier stirred things up Wednesday by singling out Hitler and Nazis for his admiration, forcing the festival to ask for an apology. The last couple of days have also seen presidential politics creep into the fest lineup in a very prominent way with eyebrow-raising equal-opportunity disses thrown at President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in two very different films screening in the official selection.

Before the Festival began May 11, we reported rampant rumors that Sarkozy might be attending the Cannes kickoff since his wife, Carla Bruni, was appearing in the opening-night film, Midnight In Paris. As it turned out, neither showed on the red carpet, but Wednesday Sarkozy finally made his debut in Cannes — sort of. The night’s main event, an out-of-competition premiere showing of The Conquest, launched the nationwide start of what can only be described as a French Primary Colors (a veiled story of Bill Clinton). Unlike that movie, this one, about Sarkozy’s rise to power, was not even thinly disguised, using real names and actors who look exactly like the real-life players.  Sarkozy cannot be very happy with this portrait, which paints him as a master manipulator who was dumped by his wife of 20 years and then participates in a charade to convince voters he is still happily married in order to get elected — even though the “future” First Lady has shacked up with another guy. It may be tres scandalous but it is also very entertaining, surprisingly one of the best times I have had in the Palais the entire festival.

At first, you would think a French film about national politics would be off limits to anybody but locals. The fact is this film could play anywhere. It’s a biting, hilarious story of a grab for ultimate power that with a revolving cast of ambitious, duplicitous characters is full of positively Shakespearean intrigue. It’s interesting that even though the names are real, an on-screen card at the beginning states, with a wink, that “the story is fiction.”

It also is lucky timing that The Conquest (French title: La Conquete) is using its high-profile Cannes launch  to open in theaters across the country just as a sex scandal involving presumed 2012 French presidential frontrunner and chief Sarkozy rival Dominique Strauss-Kahn (the International  Monetary Fund chief and leader of the Socialist Party) is making headlines here and in New York, where he is being held for allegedly sexually assaulting a maid at a high-end hotel — charges he denies. And in the very same week Sarkozy’s father announces that Bruni is pregnant with their first child, an event sure to boost the unpopular president’s sagging polls, which reportedly stand at 20% approval. It’s the perfect background to view this shrewd and lively film that shines a light on the routine backstabbing involved in any political process. Plus, its got a sensational lead performance by Denis Podalydes, who has clearly studied Sarkozy with a fine-tooth comb and turns in a flawless portrait of a very flawed man — at least the way it’s painted in director Xavier Durringer’s take on things.

It was also fun to see it with a packed house of mostly French film fans at the 2300-seat Lumiere theatre this morning. Although U.S. distributors might shy away due to the very French political content, this is a film that with clever marketing could probably find some success in America. It’s certainly more worthy and a lot better than Sleeping Beauty and House of Tolerance, mediocre and exploitative French titles in competition here that have already been picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects.

The Obama bashing takes place in The Big Fix, the only documentary in the festival’s official selection of films this year. It focuses on the scandals behind the Gulf oil crisis and had its world premiere out of competition Tuesday night. With a tagline calling it “The ultimate un-cover up,” filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell hope to replicate the success of another doc that debuted in the exact same Cannes venue one year ago and went on to win an Oscar as Best Documentary Feature. That film of course was Inside Job, a brilliantly conceived indictment of Wall Street that Big Fix wants to emulate in style and substance. Unfortunately the Tickells’ half-baked movie never rises to the occasion, settling in to be a overly slanted agitprop that is bleak and hopelessly depressing. The directors have chosen interview subjects who offer repetitive theories on how the problems that got us into this mess will never be solved so why bother. The only solution and positive suggestion the filmmakers come up with is for people to rise up, as in Egypt and Wisconsin (there’s lots of footage), to take to the streets against the oil companies .

The film also comes out swinging against President Obama, repeatedly stating he is no better than George W. Bush and even implying at one point that his administration and all government is corrupt. It presents the most aggressive attack from the left on Obama yet seen. Peter Fonda executive produced and is seen mainly in the first 15 minutes of the film “observing” the problems that were the result of the worst oil spill in history. Then the voice-over narration says he had to go back to L.A., making his entire on-camera participation pointless. At an American Pavilion news conference, Fonda went even further than the film in attacking Obama. “I sent an email to President Obama saying ‘you are a f****** traitor’ by those words. ‘You’re a traitor, you allowed foreign boots (meaning ther BP oil company) on our shore, telling our military — in this case the Coast Guard — what they can and could not do,’ ” he said.

At least 20 minutes too long, The Big Fix is in need of a big fix itself, seeming more like a work-in-progress than something that would have any shot of theatrical success in its present form. It does focus worthy attention on the continuing plight of Gulf residents and effectively details BP’s broken promises (to date), but it doesn’t offer an alternative beyond picking up protest signs.

Beyond this, Cannes could be gearing up for more political impact if, as fest director Thierry Fremaux indicated today, persecuted Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof (sentenced to six years in jail and banned from making films for 20 years; he is free on bail but can’t leave Iran) is allowed to travel to France and attend the festival before it ends Sunday evening.

  1. Don’t worry Hollywood, Peter Fonda will be punished career wise for criticizing Obama, don’t worry…. Already there will be 50 like counter documentaries being prepped to be shoved down America’s throat….

    Hollywood demands you serve Obama, whether you want to or not, sadly more entertainment jobs will vanish in this latest scrap fight when these “counter,” projects fail to make money.

    1. Good for Fonda for speaking truth regarding our so-called leader who is simply taking this country down, down, down.

    2. Great post ‘Obvious’.
      Of course, you know now you’ll have to leave the country!

  2. Obvious, your comment has to be one of the most bizarre, incoherent, and disjointed of any I’ve ever seen. You clearly do not work in or around Hollywood, nor do you even appear to live in anything resembling reality. Seek help.

    1. Yeah, I need help. Just look what happened to Jon Voight’s career after he came out strong against Obama, despite being a great actor. Nope. No work for you, just “scraps,” that no one else really wants.

      The list goes on, Billy. Already I’m sure a film is being prepped where Wolverine or somebody will face off with a “Peter Fonda,” looking villain and Fonda better get used to difficulty finding work.

      Live or work in Hollywood? No one gets to work in Hollywood anymore when all the jobs vanished. Unless you think like you’re on “30 Rock,” and even then, it’s fleeting.

    2. @ billy…. Please do tell us, where does your expertise on Bollywood come from? Please take some time to wipe that silly purple mustache from your lip before you walk out the door.

    3. Ya, go back to your TV and worship the new holy trinity. You are the one living in a false reality. If you can’t plainly see the blatant corruption that is naked in front of us, then you are part of the hopeless. You have a lot in common with those who are marched into pits to be machine gunned.

      People are waking up in droves. And you better figure out if you really want to be supportive of the governments of the world that are evil and tyrannical. If you support the US government, and Obama, then you support bombing innocent people, and assasinating government leaders for corporate profit. But you don’t believe that, because you listen to your TV. And your TV wouldn’t dare misguide you…………..would it?

      There are those who connect the dots for themselves.

      And there are those who allow a glass tube, and rich smiling men connect the dots for them.

      Take a wild guess who is wrong more often than not?

  3. Why has no one from BP or Halliburton been arrested? Didn’t 11 people die in that rig explosion? And didn’t the BP CEO sell a ton of shares right before it happened? Are we really supposed to believe he didn’t know?

    1. Excellent point. Sorry, but the other people on this board are too busy trying to paint the whole “Hollywood’s really diverse,” line to comment on that.

      Hollywood diverse, go yell at a SAG function, “Obama sucks. I support someone else for President,” and MAGICALLY all will simply accept your opinion and let your participate in the creative community.

      Yeah, and pigs fly. Rather they’re on the phones making sure whoever it is is not hired on anything they’re casting/working on. So they can then claim, “Oh, he/she was old and past his prime anyway. Nothing to do with politics.”

      Yeah, keep up the whole “Hollywood diverse,” line. See where that gets you.

    2. Here we go…another conspiracy theorist who has never been on a rig. 11 individuals did die, and it is a great tragedy, but there were so many variables involved here, yet you mention HAL and BP only. Do some homework…or go on a rig. People sell their shares all the time.

    3. Probably the same reason White Castle doesn’t get sued every time someone gets diarrhea after eating a bunch of sliders.
      Or Government Motors doesn’t get sued every time someone dies in a car crash.

      Stay off the late night conspiracy channels my friend. Look at those who ran around with a (forged) copy of a military letter about Bush.
      Or even the obama birthers (although there is something fishy about someone that refuses to release any prior info that everyone else readily releases)

      Take a breath. There are much more important things in life than racing your mind with every stupid thing that comes off of Huffpo.

    4. Any proof you can point us to on laws broken by BP? If not then perhaps you suffer from a furtile (furtive? futile?) imagination.

    5. Literally every move that is made on one of those offshore rigs is reviewed and approved by the MMS (government) before it is done. Running casing, cementing, logging, everything. Why do you think the MMS did not show up for the Congressional hearings? If there is blame and punishment the MMS should be front and center.

  4. uh, Jon Voight and Peter Fonda weren’t exactly rolling in gigs BEFORE they made these films…I think it probably has more to do with the fact they’re both 70 and there’s not exactly a plethora of roles for any actor over a certain age.

    1. Lara Croft, Ali, Holes, National Treasure, Transformers…
      Voight wasn’t “rolling in gigs”? really? The Oscar winning actor had plenty of work. Obivous is right, Mr. Voight has been shunned for his political views. On the other hand communist like Penn are glorified by the media. Coincidence?

    2. Jon Voight has actually been fairly active. Fonda hasn’t worked in a memorable gig since he got off the motorcycle.

      1. Peter Fonda did a great job in the film Ulee’s Gold (1997). I highly recommend this film. There were Academy and Golden Globe nominations for this movie.

    3. Hi There-

      The point is in the Arts, if you do not agree with mainstream politics ( Obama ) you must not mention it or else you can loose your job, etc. There is pressure in the following fields: Media, Education and the Arts.

      -Glass Artist, free thinker

  5. hollywood in irrelevent. who cares what goes on in hw. the last movie i paid to watch was dirty harry. it’s their loss, not mine.

  6. So, it’s ok for a fat, lazy slob like Michael Moore to make a liberal propaganda movie like Fahrenheit 911, which criticizes Bush, yet Hollywood has a problem with a movie that criticizes Obama? Hmmm…


  7. I’m looking forward to the Hollywood biopic on OBL. The Legend of Osama bin Laden”. Starring Clint Eastwood as OBL and Denzel Washington as BHO.

  8. Good lord,does anyone really care what happens to the phonies on the left coast? The hollywood elite have championed liberal policies ,got their wishes, and now are seeing the fruit of their 50 years of labor. Obama was their great savior,and now that he sees the real issues, he realizes George Bush was right ,when he said” the next person that gets in office will soon realize he doesn’t have a lot of choices” Liberalism is dying as the country crumbles,hopefully the leftwing nutjobs will realize that math and science are much more important for schools to teach than diversity sensitivity, and womens studies. Peter Fonda has toasted his brain with too much booze and narcotics,Voight was a marginal player anyway,who gives a shit. How about those jobs Barry?

  9. It takes real balls to stand up to the likes of el creepo obama. He is the very worst thing to happen to this country.

  10. “Peter Fonda executive produced and is seen mainly in the first 15 minutes of the film “observing” the problems that were the result of the worst oil spill in history.”

    Don’t let facts get in the way of an agenda. Deepwater Horizon was the FIFTH LARGEST in history. In fact quite small compared to the other four, the largest of which spilled over 250 times more than Deepwater Horizon.

    Lefties hate facts!

  11. Look who owns and operates Hollywood. The same “people” (96%) who own and operate MSM. The propaganda runs rampant. Obama and the rest of all politicians do what they are told to do by those who own them.

    America is dying because Americans are too busy being busy doing absolutely nothing with their lives, addicted to; texting, junk food, obesity and ignorance. The Gulf disaster and the Fukushima fallout will seem like a party compared to the economical meltdown that’s going to slam dunk this country into oblivion.

    What ever it takes to wake America up. Welcome to Hollywood!

  12. I thought Inside Job was overrated, Maxed Out covered the same topics and more, much better, and years earlier-just before the financial crisis hit.

  13. “Although U.S. distributors might shy away due to the very French political content, this is a film that with clever marketing could probably find some success in America.”

    Find success in America? Wanna bet?

  14. The difference between Jon Voight and Peter Fonda is one is on the right, and one is far far left. Other then that, they are both two old guys who are relegated to playing heavies. My money is this HELPS Peter’s career, not hurts it.

  15. Fonda won’t work because he is a bad actor.
    I think conservatives should stop going to movies.

  16. Gee, Obama dissed in official films? My group disses him in unofficial films and even on bathroom walls. The schmuck is a schmuck.

    1. Jacopone,

      Your puerile name-calling speaks for itself. And bathroom walls are clearly the best and only places for your “dissing” of Obama. After all, you have a captive audience rather than earning one by the insights and arguments you’re obviously utterly incapable of offering.


  17. Okay so we’re clear:

    Movies Bashing Bush = brilliant, oscar worthy.

    Movies bashing Obama = trash.

  18. Talk about confusion – a liberal making incendiary remarks about Obama. Does that mean Fonda is a racist? No, of course not; he’s a liberal, and they can’t be racist even when it comes to slamming Obama.

  19. My kid lived in France for two years and is fluent in French. When we would visit he and his friends often told us the French only cared about good wine, good food, and women. Everything else was a sideshow.

  20. More people cut off from access to the Obama administration because they voice their opinion…

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