André Dussollier are The Tiger and the President, at the cinema this Wednesday. They respectively play Georges Clémenceau and President Paul Deschanel in this political comedy, freely inspired by facts that happened during the Third Republic.
What is it about ?
1920, the Roaring Twenties. Georges Clemenceau has just lost the presidential election to the unknown Paul Deschanel, an idealist who wants to change the country. But one evening the latter falls from a train and vanishes. In the early morning, France is looking for its president, a golden opportunity for Tiger Clemenceau…
The crazy story of an unknown president!
Rather rare are the recent films to have taken a full interest in the Third Republic (1870 – 1940), and rarer still are the films to have set their sights on the figure of Paul Deschanel, considered to be one of the presidents of the Lesser known republic in the history of France. This president who presided only 7 months and 3 days nevertheless marked history… for more or less truthful facts, in any case incredibly romantic!
It is with this bias that director Jean-Marc Peyrefitte, his co-screenwriter Marc Syrigas, and the producers of tiger and the president wanted to tell this story which seems so incredible that it could be invented. Admittedly, the film romances a lot and takes a number of liberties with reality. But the raw material remains authentic: that of a president with the shortest mandate in the entire history of France.
In line with Amadeus
“We are part of the great tradition of ” historical novel “which, according to its definition, “Takes as a backdrop an episode (sometimes major) of History, to which it generally mixes events and real and fictional characters”, details Jean-Marc Peyrefitte in the press kit of the Tiger and the president. The best example in cinema is undoubtedly theAmadeus of Milos Forman which is based on a fictitious rivalry between Mozart and Salieri, since the second, admiring the first, presumably rather sought to support him, never commissioned the Requiem, and did not murder him by overworking him. But fiction is sometimes easier and more delicious to believe than reality…”
A political comedy about power
To describe the intentions of this film, the screenwriter speaks of a “political comedy about power“, which also finds a certain echo with current subjects (the place of women, the media, etc.). Thanks to its comedy tempo, and its actors who fully assume this register, going almost to farce, The Tiger and the President aims to interest spectators of pure entertainment, perhaps more than history purists, attached to real facts. The film displays a certain fantasy and wants to paint a portrait of “gorgeous losers“, “antiheroes“, even if it means taking liberties with the facts. Some are purely invented.
I like History with a capital “H” to take a slight step aside
“I liked this notion of the magnificent loser and I wanted to confront this evanescent, elusive being, ahead of his time and a little fragile, with Clemenceau, a virile and strong man, who left his mark on history. I sensed that in this confrontation, there was a way to make films, says the director. I like that History with a capital “H” takes a slight step aside and offers the possibility of telling the little story, at the height of a man, within the big Story. That’s what interested me in these two characters and I was lucky enough to have two great actors to embody the contradictions of human beings in the face of power.“
To play the main roles, Jean-Marc Peyrefitte called on Jacques Gamblin and André Dussollier. The two reunite almost 25 years later. The Children of the Swamp by Jean Becker, released in 1999. Both had already distinguished themselves in the biopic genre, but in quite different registers: André Dussollier in Stalin’s costume for An Ordinary Execution by Marc Dugain (2010), and Jacques Gamblin in Postman Horse, in The Incredible Story of Postman Horse (2019).
The Tiger and the President is currently in theaters.