THREE AND A HALF STARS With Nazis on the doorstep, General De Gaulle flees to Britain and establishes a new French government in exile.
DRAMA FRANCE French Language #DEGAULLE
Lambert Wilson, Tim Hudson
Rather than a sweeping biopic of the formidable influence of General Charles De Gaulle on the French Republic, this narrative by writer/director Gabrielle Le Bomin keeps a sharp focus on events surrounding the armistice of 1940. De Gaulle was a middling military man who found his very specific point of view curried favour with the outgoing prime minister but more importantly, in Britain with Winston Churchill. When the Nazi’s invaded Paris, De Gaulle, horrified by his government’s capitulation, fled to London and became head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic in exile, one that supported a resistance movement which would play a significant role in the fall of Germany.
In the lead role, Lambert Wilson (THE MATRIX: RELOADED) is formidable. It is (cliché-alert) a role he was born to play and he portrays the leader with obvious relish as he bounces between Paris and London with great purpose. Watching Wilson work is reason enough to watch the film. Less successful is just about everyone around him, notably De Gaulle's family who are appear for little other reason to remind us what a terrific family man he could have been if he wasn’t so busy fighting weak politicians or Nazis. They’re tasked with creating some tension in a vague subplot about keeping ahead of enemy lines, and so the film could finish in (another cliché alert) a happy embrace.
Le Bomin’s narrow focus ultimately fails him as this is, perhaps, one of the least cinematically interesting of De Gaulle’s significant achievements. Pretty much everything that happens after the final reel, such as his work with the resistance, his government in exile, his triumphant return to Paris, his steerage of Algerian independence, his establishment of the Fifth Republic, his election as President, his embrace of nuclear power, even his ultimate failure to manage the cultural revolution in the late 1960s is more narratively charged.
Nonetheless, what we do have is still a compelling and occasionally exciting history lesson. Wilson is the key, and lights up the screen every time he appears. Fortunately, that’s quite often.