The President (2014), which attains the open force of a parable while at the same time maintaining the excitement and tension of a political thriller. Georgian actor Misha Gomiashvili plays the President of the title, who reigns over an unnamed country. His grandson (Dachi Orvelashvili) sits on his knee, dressed in a military uniform and asks for ice cream, which he's not allowed for health reasons. To distract the boy, the President has him order by telephone that all the lights in the city be turned off. It's a brilliantly absurd moment showing the childishness, flippancy and immorality of absolute power.
The President is a vile character, using whatever he has in his power to secure his and his grandson's safety. A loyal bodyguard who dies saving him has his body dumped at the side of the road; a gun will be pulled on anyone to secure their help. His one redeeming attribute his genuine love for his grandson, but often intense cruelty is underwritten by some devoted sentimental affection - Hitler and his dog, the Krays and their mother. For his part, the grandson is a genuinely good soul, an innocent abroad who is only partly fooled by the President's Benigni-like attempt to turn their plight into some kind of charade. The grandson is a witness to the savagery around him, a cinematic descendant of Andrei Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood (1962) and Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum (1979).
As they pass through the country, the pair, disguised as a street musician and his dancing boy, meet up with various victims of the regime and see first hand not only the suffering that the regime has caused but the lawless brutality which the country is now undergoing. Indeed, Makhmalbaf's concerns are not exclusively tied up with uncovered the depravities of the powerful, he is also intensely interested in the post-regime world: the hope that can give way so quickly to anarchy, murder and rape. Although filmed in Georgia, The President has an urgent relevance to all too many countries around the world, including those touched by the Arab Spring; a darkly comic and poignant portrait of an Ozymandian fall from grace and the subsequent damage that ensues.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty
★★★★☆ The Killing of a Sacred Deer
★★★★☆ The Meyerowitz Stories
★★★★☆ Happy End
★★★☆☆ The Square
★★★☆☆ 120 Beats Per Minute
★★★☆☆ Jupiter's Moon
Follow our ongoing Cannes 2017 coverage.
★★★★☆ Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster elevated the Greek director to the main competition and saw him walk away with the Jury Prize ...
★★★★☆ Entering the race for the Palme d'Or, Bong Joon-Ho's Okja is lumbering, clumsy but ultimately as loveable as its eponymou...
★★★☆☆ Outside of Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pirates of the Caribbean is one of Disney's most successful franchis...
★★★★☆ "Family isn't a word, it's a sentence," ran the tagline to Wes Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums. In Noah Baum...