Chirac emerges as unlikely hero from big screen satire

Jacques Chirac has been many things to many people, but he has never been a movie star before.

The mystery of the President's political longevity - and his strange hold on the French people - is explored in a knockabout, satirical documentary which has just opened in French cinemas.

Dans la Peau de Jacques Chirac (Inside the Skin of Jacques Chirac) is attracting large audiences to cinemas in Paris. Some of them are Chirac-haters who have come to laugh at the President; many more are Chirac-lovers who have come to relive the highlights of the 38-year career of one of the most irresistible, and irresponsible, politicians of recent times.

When Tony Blair meets President Chirac at the Elysée Palace this morning for their final Anglo-French summit, Mr Blair will have one last chance to enjoy his counterpart's charisma. Even at the height of Anglo-French battles over Iraq, or the EU budget, or beef, officials say, Mr Blair was always "entertained by the Chirac show".

Much the same is true of the film. Although intended, largely, as a mocking retrospective on M. Chirac's career, the movie is transformed into something more ambiguous - even moving - by the President's charm and cheek. M. Chirac is set up as the victim and the villain. He becomes the hero.

The 90-minute film, directed by Karl Zéro and Michel Royer, is a hilarious riffling of the television archives to present the 38 years of U-turns, lies and back-stabbings which have distinguished the President's career.

There is a fictional voice-over by a convincing Chirac soundalike (Didier Gustin) boasting of an empty-headed, cynical determination to succeed in the "craft" of politics, for its own sake. "I never thought much of myself," the fictional, presidential voiceover confides. "And all the others thought I was a fool. But I screwed them one by one."

You see the Eurosceptic M. Chirac of 1981 saying that the enlargement of the European Community to include Spain and Portugal would be a catastrophe which would lay waste to French agriculture and turn the European dream into a nightmare. Then you see the pro-European President Chirac of 2005 mocking all those who "claimed that Iberian enlargement would be a catastrophe".

You see the Chirac who movingly condemned racism in 1995. You see the Chirac who said, in 1988, that he could "understand" racism because large, unruly immigrant families produced noise and "odours" on council flat landings.

You see the sinister - but handsome - early Chirac saying that police should get off the backs of motorists and not enforce speed and drink-driving laws. You see the avuncularChirac of 2002 announcing a national crusade to reduce road deaths by enforcing traffic laws properly for the first time.

The film explores the President's alleged illegal raising of political funds and his allegedly energetic womanising. At one point the Chirac voice says: "I have always loved journalists - especially blondes." Rapidly, the movie becomes a battle between this fictionalised - or semi-fictionalised - Chirac and the real, equally roguish, but finally lovable, Chirac seen in the old clips. The real Chirac wins.

In trendier parts of Paris, some showings have been attended by the directors, who run a news show on the cable and satellite television channel Canal Plus. During question times afterwards, young, leftish members of the audience have complained they had expected a cinematic assassination, such as Michael Moore's documentary on George Bush,Fahrenheit 9/11. Instead, they said, they came away from the film "liking Chirac for the first time".

Zéro said the film tried to show the "human" side of M. Chirac and tried to explain why he has been so successful as a candidate but so disastrous as a president. "It is the story of this bloke who wants vaguely to succeed, confronted with a romantic destiny, and an absurd run of luck, which transforms each error into a triumph," he said.

The attempt to pyscho-analyse the President is drawn from a novel that was published three years ago by Eric Zemmour, a right-wing political journalist. The Chirac figure inL'Autre ("the other bloke") spends his life trying to prove to himself, and his dead father, that he is not a worthless twit.

The right-wingZemmour is co-author of the film's commentary with the left-wing Zéro. In the movie, as in life, left and right wingers try to "screw" M. Chirac but ended up being screwed by him. As a retrospective on Chirac's life, the film becomes more subtle than they intended.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape