If you are interested in an intriguing movie based on a work in comics besides “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” you will want to see “The French Minister.” This comedy could be your window to offbeat political satire and French comics all rolled into one.
“The French Minister” is written by the same creative team for the graphic novel that the movie is based upon. Both the movie and the book were originally released in France and are both now being released in the U.S. The graphic novel, retitled in the states as “Weapons of Mass Diplomacy,” gives us an insider’s perspective on the French opposition to the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. It does this with an elegant and thoughtful discussion with just the right amount of satirical bite.
Writing under the pseudonym Abel Lanzac, author and diplomat Antonin Baudry gives us a fictionalized auto-biographical look back at what it was like to be a speechwriter to the charismatic French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, particularly in the time leading up to the U.S. gaining approval from the U.N. to go to war. In the graphic novel, Christophe Blain provides a tour de force in masterful comics transforming the French leader into a feverishly animated and elastic figure. That said, it is quite a treat to see the team of Lanzac and Blain behind this film.
Lanzac represents himself as Arthur Vlaminck (played by Raphaël Personnaz). We see the many frenzied machinations from his point of view as the minister’s key speechwriter. As the film opens, we see that he has just landed his position with the French Foreign Minister Alexandre Taillard de Vorms (played by Thierry Lhermitte). It is this important first meeting that sets the tone. It varies in interesting ways from the book and is a good example of the distinct purposes, and expected audience, for an ambitious graphic novel as opposed to a major motion picture.
For instance, de Vorms has a book he wants to share with Arthur. The movie uses an easier quote to digest. In explaining the U.S. threat of becoming unilateral, the book takes on the issue with a somewhat stronger description. That said, in both cases, it works. We understand that de Vorms sees the American neocons as heading down a dangerous path. He inspires Arthur to work with him to try to put a stop to the emerging U.S. doctrine of preventive war.
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier, “The French Minister” would make an excellent companion to the graphic novel, “Weapons of Mass Diplomacy.” As a farce alone, it works very well. Thierry Lhermitte proves to be quite up to the task of embodying the whirlwind that is Alexandre Taillard de Vorms. There is a running gag in the movie that has stacks of papers blasting into the air whenever de Vorms rushes from one urgent matter to the next. It’s quite an entrance to live up to and Lhermitte nails it every time with excellent comedic chops.
“The French Minister” is currently showing in select cities in the U.S. And you can also view in on Amazon right here. And the graphic novel the movie is based upon, “Weapons of Mass Diplomacy,” is published by SelfMadeHero, an imprint of Abrams Books. You can also find it on Amazon right here.