The French Minister

One hardly thinks of Bertrand Tavernier as a comic filmmaker, but he brings a sure touch to this French political satire, whose corrosive take on the scheming, overcaffeinated ruling class often reminded me of the BBC series The Thick of It and its big-screen spin-off, In the Loop (2009). A liberal young speechwriter (Raphaël Personnaz) accepts a job with the conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs (Thierry Lhermitte) just after 9/11, as the U.S. is trying to drum up support for an invasion of the fictional Ludemistan. The ensuing diplomatic campaign, which encompasses a trip to Berlin and culminates in an important speech before the United Nations, provides too little story momentum, and after a while some of the running gags (the endless, circular revision of the minister’s speeches; the baffling epigrams from Heraclitus that pop up onscreen) begin to lose steam. But there are enough moments of inspired lunacy to make this worthwhile: whenever the minister bursts into the room, papers spontaneously fly into the air. In French with subtitles.