It's Hard Being Loved By Jerks



CANNES -- After watching this spirited, nearly two-hour documentary, you may rethink your assumptions and conclusions about the infamous Danish cartoons, published a few years back, that were accused of being insensitive toward Islam and "pouring oil on the fire."

Noted French documentarian Daniel Leconte follows the exciting trial of the long-lived leftist satirical rag, "Charlie Hebdo," when it chose to reprint the offending cartoons. Unlike the Anglo-American documentary tradition of maintaining at least the pretense of objectivity, filmmaker Leconte's attitudes are easy to read, especially when he argues vociferously with some of his talking heads, especially lawyers, who had the nerve to defend the other side.

All the great players in contemporary French society make an appearance, from the eloquent philosopher Elisabeth Badinter to the socialist politician Francois Hollande. Even Nicolas Sarkozy, the current French center-right president and frequent target of Charlie's scorn, sends a supportive fax which is read out loud in the courtroom.

The film is enormously self-important, like the truculent music track that accompanies it, but by the end you'll be cheering for Charlie and for its crucial defense of freedom of speech, no matter what your politics are. Great festival and television fare, though a theatrical run seems doubtful.