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Pater: Cannes 2011 Review

Pater
Cannes Film Festival

The Bottom Line

A playful, revealing portrait of two unusual Frenchmen will amuse highbrow audiences.

Venue:

Cannes Film Festival, Competition

Cast:

Vincent Lindon, Alain Cavalier, Bernard Bureau, Jonathan Duong

Director:

Alain Cavalier

CANNES -- Witty, urbaine and quintessentially French, Pater is a game two famous adult men play with the camera in an offbeat film closer to documentary than to fiction. Director Alain Cavalier and his friend, actor Vincent Lindon, film themselves as they pretend to be businessmen-politicians campaigning for office. The politics are so tongue-in-cheek and the protags so articulate and funny that the film works – at least for the cognoscenti of France, a small niche that can expand to include film societies and upscale festivals. Everyone else is likely to feel excluded from their private party.  

Pushing 80, Cavalier’s rare film work now centers on diary-style films (Lives, Le Filmeur) he shoots himself using a small DV cam and the help of his companion and co-editor Francoise Widhoff. The intimacy of this personal style makes for very closed films for the happy few. Pater is a little more accessible thanks to popular actor Lindon, called on by “President” Cavalier to be “prime minister” in the cabinet he wants to form after the elections. Though the jokes relate to French politics, they are easily translatable for European viewers.

From the opening close-up of juicy truffles on a plate to the numerous scenes shot in kitchens and at the dinner table, Cavalier introduces the viewer to a posh upper class world of good taste. Surrounded by books, paintings and rich furnishings, the President and future prime minister debate the inequality of the law, which allows CEOs to earn huge salaries. Their platform is to set maximum salaries alongside minimum wages, somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-to-1. Discussed very seriously over fine wines and exquisite food, the maximum wage notion seems to lampoon leftist political frippery, especially when the whole idea is abruptly abandoned as an election handicap.

Though both Cavalier and Lindon mention their fathers, the Pater of the title seems to refer to a political dynasty that just goes on and on, whoever wins the elections.

At the same time the film reveals a great deal about its protags -- a slice of life that particularly reflects Cavalier’s own refined lifestyle and wicked sense of humor. Lindon is a hoot in a long monolog about his landlord, while Cavalier riffs on soft silk ties and Ines de la Fressange. One either likes these characters or finds them unbearably self-indulgent, but in any case the film is beautifully shot and paced with only a few longeurs. 

Venue: Cannes Film Festival, Competition
Production company: Camera One in association with Arte France Cinema
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Alain Cavalier, Bernard Bureau, Jonathan Duong, Huber-Ange fumey, Jean-Pierre Lindon, Manuel Marty, Claude Uzan
Director: Alain Cavalier
Assistant director:  Francoise Widhoff
Screenwriter:  Alain Cavalier
Producer: Michel Seydoux
Director of photography: Alain Cavalier
Sales Agent: Pathe International
105 minutes