Originally posted on Variety:
Terrible English title aside, “Being President” is a terrific documentary that follows Gaul’s current head of state, Francois Hollande, during his first eight months in office. Helmed by Patrick Rotman, this is a unique, almost all-access portrait, shot with pared-down elegance, that suggests what the day-to-day of a contempo French president is like — more meetings and speech rewriting than you can shake a stick at — as well as how Hollande in particular makes it his own. A film of observation rather than of juicy revelations, “Being” might be a tough sell theatrically, though docu fests and smallscreen buyers will be impressed.
A politically inclined documentary filmmaker (TV’s “Chirac,” “Mitterrand, le roman du pouvoir”) and screenwriter (the Sarkozy pic “The Conquest”), Rotman seems ideally suited to document the inner workings of the presidential Elysee Palace and the man at its head. (The helmer simultaneously directed “A l’Elysee,” a nonfiction feature for co-producing Canal Plus that focuses on the palace’s employees).
As per onscreen credits, Rotman “proposed and developed” the pic with Pierre Favier, a political journalist who not only collaborated with Rotman on “Chirac,” but also extensively covered the Elysee under Mitterrand and co-penned a 2009 book of interviews with then-politician Hollande. The duo also interviewed the chief of state on several occasions, and audio recordings of these encounters are occasionally used as voiceover. Hollande suggests, for example, that the Elysee, whose empty corridors and opulent furnishings are elevated to more than just decor here, is a place in which time has seemingly stopped, and that it’s his job to breathe some life into these inorganic trappings of power.