La Chose publique

Director: Mathieu Amalric


And you thought they didn’t make them like this any more. An old-fashioned political essay in film-on-film, the latest from director Mathieu Amalric -better known as an actor, though he does not cast himself here-wears its Jean-Luc Godard influences proudly on its sleeve. Amalric puts his self-reflexive cards on the table from the start, with a meeting in TV company Arte’s boardroom, where executives discuss the progress of a series called Masculine-Feminin-for which Amalric’s film was indeed commissioned. All the real-life directors in the series are doing fine, except for Philippe (Jean-Quentin Chatelain), whose wife and muse Julia (Anne Alvaro) has announced she is seeing another man. Philippe’s agony starts feeding into his film, which appears to be partly a documentary essay on the Equality Institute, a body devoted to monitoring equal rights in the workforce, and partly a soapy political romance about a provincial hairdresser (Michele Laroque) who is persuaded by a manipulative mayor (Bernard Menez) to sign up as a right-wing candidate.
In truly Godardian fashion, actors Laroque and Menez play themselves-Menez sending himself up as a pompous, creaky thespian, and Laroque throwing a wobbly because, as a socialist, she can’t stand playing her character. All this mirror-play could have been alienating if the film were not executed with sterling good humour. The film’s moral is that if male and female make uneasy partners in society, then the personal and the political are just as tricky a match on screen.

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