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The Last Mitterrand: Last Socialist Standing

The Last Mitterrand is a Robert Guédiguian docudrama about the last months of the last Socialist President of France. Told through the eyes of a writer who has been contacted to help Mitterrand write his memoir, the film stars Michel Bouquet as François Mitterrand and Jalil Lespert as Antoine Moreau.

Told with over voice and in a series of disjointed meetings, one gets the feeling that Guédiguian had no choice, but to use Moreau as a device to explore the innerworkings of Mitterrand. Perhaps no one actually knows the unadulterated true story of Mitterrand.

As evidence of this, instead of scripting a fictionalized story in attempt to answer the question of why Mitterrand possibly made certain choices (rumors he had sided with the Vichy Government); Guédiguian chooses to use the device of an elder imparting advice in the last few months of his life (à la King Lear). Some of the advice is very endearing, such as the advice involving what exact type of woman to fall for and a cheekingly admitted admiration of Julia Roberts. Other times his ruminations on why he feels people are out to get him seem megalomaniacal. Moreau serves as a foil who not only records, but also embodies youth and youthful socialist idealism.

Like real life, the film leaves in doubt the question of what is truth and what is deception versus selective memory. The audience is left with the idea that Mitterrand might have a questionable past as a "Champagne Socialist", but his career stayed true to the ideas of the Socialist party. Most importantly, he stood up against the capitalist ideals of the US at the UN at a time when Socialist governments (such as the USSR) were falling around the world.

Not being knowledgeable about French government or French history didn't mar my enjoyment of the film. Certain historical markers are indicated and certain key dates, so if you can understand how Mitterrand may have fit into the world at the time of his presidency one can understand why he is still an enigma. Well done in that fictionalized docudrama sort of way.

The Last Mitterrand plays on April 22 at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theatres and April 24 at the Castro Theatre as part of the SF International Film Festival.

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