When Socialist leader François Mitterrand succumbed to prostate cancer in 1996, he left behind an uncomfortable legacy that was viewed by some as a new beginning and others as a fateful end: a diminished France that would slouch irrevocably toward globalization and a new, more egalitarian and free-market Europe. A staunch champion of the Left-or so he claimed-Mitterrand was the last of the great presidents in the line of Charles de Gaulle, who heroically guided France into a fruitful post-war era. But Mitterrand, in the eyes of his detractors, was guilty of concealing the right-wing leanings of his past. Was Mitterrand the nec plus ultra in flip-flopping politicians? Or was he indeed France's dernier cri, the half-century servant who took France's socialist glory with him to his grave? Robert Guédiguian's riveting glimpse at the final days of this autumnal patriarch is a bold new stretch for an immensely gifted director accustomed to mining a more regional terrain. His past works, including the masterful The Town Is Quiet and the heartfelt Marius and Jeannette, are valentines to his native Marseilles. His latest work is less about a dying politician than a symbolic national twilight-the waning of the Old Left and the ensuing repercussions in a changing Europe. Framed as an ongoing interrogation between a career statesman and his dubious young biographer, The Last Mitterrand is a grand rumination on the perils of selective memory that features an astonishing central performance by the veteran actor Michel Bouquet, whose depiction of Mitterrand is at once cantankerous, mournful, witty, and wise.
Born in Marseille, France, Robert Guédiguian has made tremendous contributions to French cinema. As a writer, director or producer he's responsible for numerous films over the past twenty years, including Rouge Midi, Ki Lo Sa, Dieu Vomit les tièdes, A la vie, à la mort, Marius and Jeannette, Marie-Jo and Her Two Loves, The Town Is Quiet, and My Father Is an Engineer.