Being W



Opened: In France Oct. 8.

PARIS -- Take one lame-duck president, preferably unpopular. String together a collection of archive material including news footage, press conferences, political broadcasts, interviews and home video, portraying his rise to power and his subsequent use of it. Add a voice-imitator providing a fictional interior monologue. Then stand back for hilarious results.

With their debut "Being Jacques Chirac" two years ago, comedy writer-directors Karl Zero and Michel Royer scored a minor hit in France. Reapplying the technique to the present tenant of the White House in "Being W," they may do even better this time targeting world audiences.

Made entirely in English and released here with French subtitles "Being W" is well timed to take advantage of the political calendar, though it has yet to secure distribution in the U.S.

Divided into chapters headed "W as Walker," "W as WASP" and so on, through "W as Warrior" and finally "W as Wrong," this unauthorized biography ticks off the milestones of George W. Bush's career -- his privileged background, failed business ventures, discovery of religion, entry into politics and subsequent progress to becoming the most unpopular U.S. president in living memory.

Most of the targets for Zero and Royer's derision are the obvious ones, notably the president's notorious "Bushisms" and his stumbling good-old-boy persona. There are no revelations, and Yank audiences may find the first hour rather tame, as if a conscious decision has been made to avoid culture-specific references that might be unclear to non-American spectators.

The humor differs from that of "Being Jacques Chirac" in which Zero and Royer appeared to harbor a grudging affection for the outgoing French president, a sense almost that "he might be a rogue, but he's our rogue."

There is nothing remotely affectionate about "Being W." The filmmakers make no attempt to hide their contempt for Bush, whether regarding his frat-boy antics, his posturing in military gear post-Baghdad or his lack of remorse or self-questioning over civilian casualties.

Their satire acquires real bite in the final half-hour with its evocations of the war in Iraq, the hanging of Saddam Hussein and the abominations in Abu Ghraib prison. The movie may make for uncomfortable viewing for those who regard the office of president as sacrosanct, but for unconditional Bush supporters "Being W" will be no more than what they would expected from a nation once dubbed as cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

Production companies: Societe Secrete, Canal +, Arte
Cast: George W. Bush (as himself)
Voice imitator: Jim Maskimen
Directors: Karl Zero, Michel Royer
Writers: Karl Zero, Michel Royer
Producer: Karl Zero
Editor: Pierre Haberere
Music: Laurent Levesque
Sales: EuropaCorp.
No rating, 91 minutes

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