It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"The Conquest," a feature about recent French politics, makes me yearn for a similar American treatment of our own scene. Scored with Felliniesque circus music, it depicts such figures as French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac and their wives on a merry-go-round of vanity, vulgarity and viciousness. I'm not an expert on French politics, but I gather the director and co-writer Xavier Durringer has worked by simply cranking up the energy under what everybody knows really happened. The result at times approaches screwball comedy.
But no, this isn't deliberate comedy. It's essentially realistic. It's simply that the real lives of these figures are funny. Most of the major players here are in the same political party, we hardly hear about their opponents, the focus is on infighting within the government, and they warmly hate one another. As I follow our own GOP caucuses in Iowa, I'd love to see this approach adapted to Newt Gingrich's real feelings about Mitt Romney, and listen in on his language.
The film opens with a problem that would become chronic with Nicolas Sarkozy (Denis Podalydes), who was then a minister angling for higher cabinet posts in the government of Jacques Chirac (Bernard Le Coq). It is an election day, and his wife, Cecilia Sarkozy (Florence Pernel), is nowhere to be found. Sarkozy refuses to be seen voting without his wife at his side, and Cecilia is so mad at him, she refuses to appear.
French political spouses obviously lack the rigorous training on the campaign trail that American partners receive. In our country, a spouse is in it for the long haul and must be prepared to spend 18 months in an endless series of campaign appearances, smiling and waving, loyal and staunch, every word and gesture under close guard. French campaigns are most shorter and more brutal.