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Fidgety Sarkozy Loses Wife; BP Spill Response Slammed in Cannes

''The Conquest
Denis Podalydes as French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Florence Pernel as his wife Cecilia Sarkozy before his election in 2007, in ''The Conquest." The film is to screen at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Photographer: Emilie De La Hosseraye/Cannes Film Festival via Bloomberg

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was satirized in a movie that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, appearing on screen as a restlessly ambitious politician who wins the election and loses his second wife.

“La Conquete” (“The Conquest”) starts with a message that it is inspired by real characters yet remains “a work of fiction.” We then see a close-up of the president-elect in 2007 sulking in his bathrobe and fiddling with his wedding band as he watches TV reports of his triumph.

Out now in French cinemas, the somewhat empathetic movie comes amid reports that Sarkozy’s third wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is pregnant. Sarkozy may also face no opposition from potential presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn, currently imprisoned in New York. A poll by Ifop for Journal du Dimanche put the president’s popularity at 28 percent, a record low.

Sarkozy is played by Denis Podalydes, who told reporters at a Cannes news conference that he met the president two months ago, after writing him a letter.

“He dismissed the movie right away, and said he wouldn’t see it, just as he never reads books about himself,” said Podalydes, who in real life is balding and bearded, not dark-haired and clean-shaven as on screen. “He said he had no reason to see it, especially since it focuses on his private life.”

“The Conquest” portrays Sarkozy as a politician who describes himself as a Ferrari. He craves votes and coverage as much as he does his wife’s advice and affection.

Jogging, Chocolate

The fidgety campaigner is seen jogging and cycling in full view of the TV cameras, chomping on chocolates, and confronting foes who call him a “premature gesticulator” behind his back. When a blue-collar worker buttonholes him on one factory visit, he chastises his advisers for letting the man get close.

Meanwhile, his exasperated wife Cecilia is slipping through his fingers, much to his dismay. We see the solitary Sarkozy charming female reporters on the campaign trail.

Xavier Durringer’s film is based on real facts and scripted by Patrick Rotman, who has made documentaries about former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Francois Mitterrand.

‘Big Fix’

The festival also served as a platform for the documentary “The Big Fix,” directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and featuring Peter Fonda.

It argues that the Gulf of Mexico -- which in April 2010 suffered the worst oil spill in U.S. history with the explosion of BP Plc’s Deepwater Horizon rig -- is neither clean nor safe, and local people haven’t been properly compensated.

The movie zooms out to include the global financial meltdown, the accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant and even recent rebellions in the Middle East. The premise is that the world is experiencing an ecological and economic crisis because of corporations’ stranglehold on government.

The documentary sets out to show the lethal effects of the oil spill on shrimp, dolphins and crabs as well as on the livelihoods of fishermen.

A dispersant used to control the slick, according to the documentary, has sparked health problems in humans, including Tickell’s wife. The film criticizes the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama for saying the disaster is under control.

“The issue that we have is that Louisiana is not cleaned up,” said Tickell in an interview after his festival briefing, “that from our knowledge dispersants were sprayed till the end of last year, maybe even the beginning of this year, and that there are sick and potentially mortally wounded people around the Gulf region whose grievances have not been addressed.”

“If you’re going to redress the issue,” he said, “you have to address the fact that the oil isn’t gone, dispersants have damaged the ecosystem and they’ve damaged people.”

The BP oil disaster killed 11 workers, injured 17, and spewed crude for 87 days into the Gulf of Mexico. Tickell said BP’s response wasn’t included because the company would not talk to them, though he was happy to speak to it now.

“We don’t need oil,” Fonda said at the news conference. He became interested in the film out of concern for marine mammals, whales and porpoises, Fonda said.

The 64th Cannes Film Festival runs through May 22. Information:

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