Hénaut Président: satire sends storytelling up in flames
by Fabien Lemercier
21/03/2012 - While reviews this week are all mostly about the superb Farewell, My Queen [trailer, film focus] by Benoît Jacquot, a film that stars Léa Seydoux and Diane Kruger and opened the last Berlinale (distributed by Ad Vitam on 205 copies), this Wednesday political satire Hénaut Président [trailer] (lit. “Hénaut for president”) by Michel Muller (CTV International on 55 copies) is also out in French cinemas.
Hénaut Président is a silver-screen version of a 2007 cult television series of the same name, whose 70 four-minute episodes were then adaped for American television in The Handlers. The film is full of absurd and caustic humour, and tells the story of a small-town mayor (Michel Muller) who launches an electoral campaign to become president, orchestrated by the boss of a public relations firm (Olivier Gourmet) ready to lie about everthing to get what he wants. Produced by Axel Films, Hénaut Président also features Robinson Stévenin, Olivier Charasson, Noémie de Lattre, and Fred Scotlande.
"I imagined a completely sincere candidate confronted with unscrupulous publicists," explained the director. "I focused on the storytelling process: to tell a story from true elements, but with the sole aim of creating empathy, emotionally mobilising the public, and winning votes. But this sentimentality feeds fantasy, distorts reality, and leads sooner or later to deception. By showing a view from behind the scenes, the satire is on this marketing world that privileges images and sensationalism over society’s real issues."
Also in French cinemas this week are non-French European productions, with Spanish director Kike Maillo’s fascinating and futuristic first feature film Eva [trailer] (discovered out of competition in Venice - article - Wild Bunch Distribution in 37 cinemas), the endearing Torpedo by Belgian director Matthieu Donck (review - Bac Films on 90 copies), and Aurora [trailer] by Roumanian director Cristi Puiu, selected at Cannes’ Certain Regard in 2010 (review and video-interview with actress Clara Voda - Shellac on 5 copies).
Finally, French cinema-goers will also be able to see Bye Bye Blondie [trailer] by Virginie Despentes (with Béatrice Dalle and Emmanuelle Béart as lovers - article - Happiness Distribution on 60 copies), the comedy L'Oncle Charles (lit. “Uncle Charles”) by Etienne Chatilliez (article - Pathé Films in 470 cinemas) and Normal by Merzak Allouache (Les Films Des Deux Rives), as well as the documentaries Mains brunes sur la ville (lit. “Brown hands on the town”) by Bernard Richard and Jean-Baptiste Malet, and Y'a pire ailleurs (lit. “There’s worse elsewhere”) de Jean-Henri Meunier.
(Translated from French)