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It was a tough year for France. Apart from the COVID-19 crisis, in 2020 there were also terrorist attacks, natural disasters, heated debates around a new police security bill, violent protests, plus the death of many significant public figures from the world of politics and culture. True to his “youthful” and “communicative” style, Emmanuel Macron was very much (audio)visible, and not only in the news but also thanks to his own social media channels. Due to the frequency with which he had to “tune in” in the most difficult periods of the year, he turned into a YouTube star in his own right. With Macron’s experience in amateur theatre, painstakingly polished rhetoric, and carefully calculated PR, these videos were supposed to be a plea for perfection. Part TV drama, part live performance, part textbook etiquette, Macron’s public speeches aimed to be exemplary in every sense, yet the pandemic hyperreality and entropy’s intrusion turned them into cinema at its most thrilling.

#1 Yesterday morning, I tested positive for COVID-19. (posted on December 18th)

The most unique entry in this list, both in terms of aesthetics and execution. This short appeared a day after world media outlets announced the news of Macron’s COVID-19 infection. The handheld mobile camera and the spontaneity with which the French president, already in isolation, addresses the outer world are somehow touching. What opens with a hint of found-footage horror quickly turns into melodrama, so with the casual mise-en-scène and the emotional undertones considered, it is a natural favorite. In addition, it was a surprise “vlog,” and through it Macron promised to post daily audiovisual updates on his condition, which did not in fact happen… but well, this is a recurrent motif in his cinematic universe.

#2 Entretien exclusif : Emmanuel Macron répond à Brut (posted on December 4th)

Brut was launched as a media project four years ago, in 2016, and exclusively in video format. In the beginning of December, Macron was cross-examined, live, by three journalists in their office, while questions and comments stormed in from various social media channels. Going on for more than two hours, this full-length independent drama has a masterful montage with action-packed rhythm. The French president demonstrates his impressive range as an actor, proving he can be both didactic and easygoing, with a disarming smile flashing here and there. As we all know, French cinema tends to be too chatty, yet I can assure you that this interview can compete with the best from the Hollywood political thriller (and judging from the reactions afterwards, the outcome was 100% rotten tomatoes).

#3 Adresse aux Français (posted on March 12th)

This is the first entry that set the tone of our shared 2020 dystopian canon, and I admit being sentimentally attached to it. The good-cop-Macron trope is peaking here, with the president calmly summing up well-known facts, telling everyone to wash their hands, and that everything will turn out fine at the end. Screenshots with the live-transcript were quickly immortalized as memes, whereas serious media analyzed his peculiar style of expression mingling old-school phrasing with corporate lingo. Merely half an hour, being watched in real time the video did feel like a full-length movie for its parlance gravity.

#4 Adresse aux Français (posted on March 16th)

Broadcast only four days after #3 and a sequel of sorts, this video in fact inaugurates the first lockdown, in the spring of 2020. The sole blockbuster in this selection, as it went beyond the 1 million-view mark. In the aftermath of the local elections from March 15th, this address put in circulation the bad-cop Macron, the one who waves a finger at those who do not obey at the rules he imposed just a couple of days earlier. Except for its tone, the video is not much different from the one on March 12th, yet the two complement each other. Still, reliving similar motifs and gestures with a slightly different mood granted the audience some critical distance from the material.

#5 French President Emmanuel Macron Press Conference in Beirut on 6/8/2020 following Beirut Port Blast (posted on August 6th, via LBCI Lebanon)

Hands down, the Beirut explosion from August 4th was among the most dramatic events from the past year, and to everyone’s surprise, Macron ended up on the spot shortly after, as a deus ex machina in a disaster movie. There he flourished two of his favorite roles: the determined politician (stylish dark-blue suit, strength of character, terse diction) and the white-shirt-rolled-sleeves guy in the crowd who is approachable and listening. If you need more of the latter, I would recommend you this short [Le Liban n’est pas seul. – posted on August 10th] from Macron’s own YouTube page. What is really interesting to observe in this intense international coproduction that happened to be his press conference, though, is the postcolonial dynamics. The slightly shaky camera, the “non-French” semiotical frame of the president’s face, the myriad of female voices with various accents yet all pressing for actual answers make this audiovisual work truly gripping, and only accentuate the controlled reality in which Macron’s public image prevails on home soil.

#6 Déclaration après l’attaque terroriste de Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. (posted on October 16th)

France has had its taste of radical Islamism in the past couple of years, and yet the beheading of a school teacher in October 2020 was a truly dark episode. Shot on the spot in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, this video is short yet striking with its nocturnal setting. In the background: the “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” sign, visible on every school’s facade in France. In front: Macron in a dark-blue coat, surrounded by people who do not look like officials, all of them keeping “social distance” with the president, as prescribed, so he can be in the center. As he takes off his black face mask, only to spend the next minutes squeezing it in his palm, the bad-cop character is back. A “battle” is being mentioned, as well as an arcane “they,” and in line with the psychological thriller vibe, the palette is bleak. Still, as it is the case with French films about teenagers, there is a pinch of humor even in the dismal moments, with one colorful personage with fogging glasses behind.

#7 REPLAY – À Nice, Emmanuel Macron dénonce „une attaque terroriste islamiste“ (posted on October 29th, via France24)

Merely two weeks after the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine accident, a new attack happened in Nice, however, this 5-minute video differs from #6 in several regards. The president is again surrounded by other people, this time 100% men actually, and with identical suits plus one uniform, all tightly squeezed in the frame. It is daytime, but the atmosphere is utterly “catholic,” and this is a word Macron repeats several times, especially given the circumstances of the attack, and the fact it took place shortly before All Saints’ Day. Even if talking to a crowd of journalists, on this occasion the president looks straight into the camera, speaking slowly and solemnly. A bird croaks not far away, as if on cue to underline the gothic vibe.

#8 COVID-19 : suivez mon interview. (posted on October 14th)

At a moment when the second COVID-19 wave was clearly on the rise in France, Macron opted for a slightly different format for a public announcement, so the nation can swallow the bitter pill of new curfew measures. With two well-known and high-profile journalists as “opponents” (in stylish dark suits) the usual monologue takes form of a parley. Nowhere close to the zest of #2 or #5, the president easily reins dialectically, only to convey the good old “It is what it is.” The split screen is an interesting innovation visually, yet it is actually the choreography of sign-language interpreters that adds a comedy layer, as a counterpoint to the staged demagogy.

#9 Adresse aux Français (posted on October 28th)

On October 28th, 2020, Macron appeared once more live to announce a second lockdown. This time he is even more cogent, speaking also with his eyes and his hands, because it is not just about the pandemic – all recent events considered, his discourse has a deep political subtext as well. The middle-manager mode is fully on, with detailed infographics being flashed on the screen. The president needs to sell various ideas, each potentially unacceptable to a wide range of society. Part online marketing, part instructional video, the drama arises within the context of serialization.

#10 Vœux 2021 aux Français. (posted on December 31st)

Every year on December 31st, at 20:00h, the French president addresses the nation in a live broadcast. In 2020, naturally, it was important to hear the official recap, and even more – to see Macron who seemed to have recovered from the virus. The usual mise-en-scène with the presidential desk is gone, replaced by a cosy corner of the Élysée Palace with a chimney and pleasant contemporary furniture. The “ordinary people” he mentions in the uplifting middle part can easily make you think of the classic Balkan curse “may your house be on CNN,” however the declamation serves its purpose to inject the “positive” spirit re the upcoming vaccination and lessons well learned. As the pulsation of Macron’s last words fades out and he looks into the second, more distant camera, there is a dash of fatigue, and something vaguely Sarkozyan in this lonely figure, like a post-credit Marvel scene.


First published in Japanese on Z-SQUAD

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февруари 1st, 2021 at 1:13 am

Posted in audiovisual,macro

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