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France profonde

The French don't make biopics. The blend of fact and fiction confuses them and—as a new film about Mitterrand reveals—they are too in awe of power

By Tim King   April 2005

French cinema has never been strong on biopics, which are generally considered an Anglo-Saxon hybrid. Some 300 biopics came out of Hollywood between 1930 and 1960, both JFK and Nixon were brought to the screen in the 1990s and this year we have had representations of Howard Hughes, Ray Charles and, from Germany, Adolf Hitler. The French are more reticent, demanding a clear distinction between fiction and non-fiction, which is why a film about the late François Mitterrand is causing such deep debate. Does one have the right to portray a real person, particularly a French president, in a work…

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