Pater, a French film from 2011, pokes fun at the movies. Yes, all of them.
Vincent Lindon and Alain Cavalier (indeed, Cavalier directs as well) star in this film that many American critics would dismiss as meta or “an inside joke” (and they have), one that leaves Frenchmen rolling in their seats and Americans scratching their head in confusion. This misses the point of the film. In reality, it is a critique of movies and our own expectations of them, coupled with themes of inequality.
Within the plot of the film, which often renders itself irrelevant to the greater themes, Lindon and Cavalier play at being a Prime Minister and President, without ever fully committing to the roles. Instead they dip in and out of these characters, debating economic inequality as political allies and then their personal histories as old friends. The major plot is the introduction of a bill mandating a “wage maximum” as a response both to the minimum wage and the widening gap between rich and the everyman. Through this, we are able to see banter turn to political blows to inner contemplation of their relationship to each other as friends, as allies, and finally opponents.
The film culminates in them filming each other as they eat and discuss the final “plot” point- both of them losing the presidential election. It is shot first by an omniscient cameraman in one of the only shots where neither actor holds the camera, and then through Cavalier’s camera we watch the same scene over again, seeing only Lindon’s face. Earlier in the movie, Cavalier remarks on how it almost felt real to watch himself as president in the mirror. To which Lindon replies wryly that it was real; it was a movie, after all.
Viewers are sure to leave the theater rethinking what a film is, measuring this up to their previous expectations, and wondering why it matters that it falls short of what was previously assumed. To enter this movie with assumptions is to undermine its goal, and to leave the theater with questions proves you payed attention.