John Lichfield: Just the part for you, M Sarkozy


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The Independent Online

When I was young, I had a friend who day-dreamed that his favourite film stars were acting out his everyday life. I didn’t play the game myself. Somehow, I could never picture John Wayne living in a village near Macclesfield.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, 56, has no such inhibitions. He apparently told his aides in the Elysée that his personal triumph in saving the Euro at the Brussels emergency summit this month was “exactly like Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men”. In the film (directed by Sidney Lumet in 1957) the Henry Fonda character reverses, one at a time, the opinion of 11 fellow jurors who want to condemn an innocent young man to death. According to the investigative and satirical weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchainé, M Sarkozy boasted to his aides last week: “In just the same way, I turned around, one by one, the other leaders who wanted to punish Greece…”

M Sarkozy has become, late in life, a great film buff as I reported here a couple of months ago. His wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, reportedly decided that he was a lamentably uncultured man and ordered him last year to undergo a crash programme in classic literature and film.

It occurs to me that there are other notable films which M Sarkozy might easily merge with his humdrum, everyday life as President of the Republic. One obvious candidate, given his enthusiastic role in the Libyan war, would be the Rambo series. There is a startling facial, if not wider, resemblance between Nicolas Sarkozy and Sylvester Stallone.

Possible presidential line in a televised electoral debate next spring: “Any of you boys want to shoot, now’s the time...Live for nothing, or die for something. Your call.”

On the whole, however, I think that the movie role that might most suit M Sarkozy would be Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup (1933). If you add a grease-paint moustache, a cigar and a dishevelled longtailed-jacket, M Sarkozy would look just like Groucho Marx. (Born to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, a sixth brother, “Sarko”).

In Duck Soup, Groucho plays the unpredictable, self-regarding but irrepressible president of a debt-ridden country which begins with the letters Fr. The IMF, led by the former French finance minister, warned last week that France needed to do more to reduce its borrowing.

Possible snatch of dialogue from “Potage aux Canards” (2011):

Rufus T. Firefly (Nicolas Sarkozy): Now, how about lending this country twenty million dollars, you old skinflint?

Ambassador Trentino (Christine Lagarde): Twenty million dollars is a lot of money. I’d have to take that up with my Minister of Finance.

Rufus T. Firefly: Well, in the meantime, could you let me have twelve dollars until pay day?

The President will certainly not be casting himself, in the final episode of the Harry Potter saga. M Sarkozy, sensitive about his height, will have been displeased, by a recent confession by the French actor, Christophe Fluder.

M Fluder, who is 4ft tall, played a Gringotts Bank goblin in the latest Potter movie. He revealed in a couple of interviews that, to “pay homage to France”, he enlivened his goblin role by imitating the body language, and especially the “shoulder jerks”, of President Sarkozy.

Power isn’t always an aphrodisiac

Now that holiday time is here, the thoughts of most French people turn not to movies but to sex, according to the upmarket French news magazines. It is traditional for all four of the serious, weekly news mags to have a “sex-led” cover at some time in late July or August. Marianne kicked off last week with a front page which said “Sex: the real fantasies of French people”. The story inside was desperately dull but did include a new form of opinion poll, based not on political preferences but on sexual fantasties.

“Amongst the following political figures, with which two would you most willingly fantasise having sex?” Harris Interactive blushingly asked 1,024 French adults on behalf of the shameless Marianne. Far and away at the top of the poll came the beautiful, Senegalese-born, former human rights and sports minister, Rama Yade. She apparently stars in the erotic day-dreams of 25 per cent of French men and 2 per cent of French women. Nicolas Sarkozy did rather badly, appealing to only one per cent of men and one per cent of women.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a sex icon for 0 per cent of men and 1 per cent of women.

Jointly at the bottom of the poll came the two leading contenders in the Socialist presidential primary next October. Both François Hollande and Martine Aubry scored what cricketers call a “pair”: 0 per cent of male fantasies and 0 per cent of female fantasies. Ouch.

Are Mancunians ready to adopt Parisian ways?

The most startling French story of the week was missed by Le Monde and Le Figaro but not by the Manchester Evening News. The RATP, the state-owned company which runs the Paris Metro, is to take over the Mancunian tram nework, according to an MEN scoop.

To fit RATP’s corporate image, the Manchester trams will presumably have to be sprayed with the characteristic Paris “Metro smell”, an elusive blend of burned rubber, sweat and cheap perfume. Mild-mannered Mancunians will have to be taught how to push rudely into the trams before other passengers alight. And ticket salesmen and women will be trained in the 10 varieties of the “Don’t bother me” RATP scowl or pout. But the greatest culture shock of all will be that the trams will appear like clockwork every two to three minutes.