The review of Candidato Unico, a French-style television series available on Netflix where the presidential race of a young man from the suburbs of African origins is a parodic look at the vices and virtues of society beyond the Alps.
Making people laugh by lightly dealing with social issues with a strong, pregnant, culturally heavy and humanly decisive impact. It is not a magic formula, but a further nuance of that revolutionary side that France hides in the folds of its national history.
From Down in the Northuntil the acclaimed success of Almost friendsthe social discrepancies and prejudices that grip the citizen apparatus of a multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan nation becomes a golden basin from which to draw liberally, to transform the negative influence of a current of thought full of stereotypes and clichés into material to overturn ironically.
As we will point out in this review of Unique Candidatethe series created by François Uzan and Jean-Pascal Zadie (now available on Netflix) becomes the last stronghold of an attack carried out with the force of parody and the crushing of outdated preconceptions, without rhetoric, but attentive and simple alacrity. That of the humble Stéphane Blé is a full-fledged hero’s journey, accomplished without a bow or sword, but with intelligence and optimism. That wide teeth that characterizes him so much becomes by extension a symbol of his personality and of that path that will lead him to win not only the sympathy of an entire nation, but also the role of first black French president.
Sole Candidate: the plot
France is called to vote. Stéphane Blé is a very ordinary animator of a youth center in the suburbs of Paris. During a television interview given by the mayor, he intervenes by judging the sympathy of viewers and the possibility of playing the role of outsider in the presidential elections. His is an ascending path and, thanks to various vicissitudes, he even finds himself competing as a finalist. But the real question is: is France really ready for its first black president?
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The parody that spreads
It can make you laugh, it can entertain, and yet the parody sometimes proves to be a winning weapon to destabilize opponents and hit them with the force of humor. French directors have inscribed this unique ability to show without forcing, but with subtle sarcasm, the vices and virtues of their own society, overturning them like socks in a parodic language, but never superficial. A teaching already widely learned even in English lands from an author like Edgar Wright, but which in France almost becomes a national language, a cinematographic code to denounce hesitations and steps backwards for a universe that hopes to move forward. And Unique Candidate lives on such parodic language. Taking advantage of the power of every type of lens (especially the wide angle) and continuous camera movements, including tracking shots, slow motion and jump-cuts, the film editing of Stéphane Blé’s story thrives on dynamism and emotional leaps. A shaking of the camera that reduplicates the mental one in favor of spectators now called to wake up from their sleep, to free themselves with bitter smiles from the problems of their society.
Human stories, bitter laughter
Unique Candidate in its simplicity it is above all a human series: each episode becomes an essential piece of an anthropological mosaic where the joke of an individual becomes a warning and a subtle denunciatory act towards an unheard minority, or towards a thought to be torn apart, because it is full of sexism, prejudice veiled racism. Remaining faithful to a thematic skeleton revolving around the injustices and not always so legal shortcuts that so characterize electoral campaigns (a speech, this, which could very well also extend to situations outside the French ones), Unique Candidate adds to this smattering always new ingredients thanks to which to draw up an essay as broad and prolific on injustices and the unheard, the marginalized and minorities placed on the edge of society just because of other religions, other thoughts, other cultures.
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Fictional stories for realistic characters
But if Unique Candidate it works thanks above all to the human reach offered by a brilliant and never excessive acting sector in returning jokes, or marked expressions. A discourse easily applicable to the protagonist, Jean Pascal Zadie (who is also the creator and director of the series) who in the role of Stéphane Blé returns a mimic-expressive map that is always different but never loaded. Without the help of many words, the ingenuity and brilliance of this sweet and irresistible character is almost tangible, thanks also to a profound sensitivity of his interpreter to grasp and internalize every nuance of the protagonist’s character. Although played rather in subtraction, even the mass of supporting actors that surround Stéphane along that roller coaster that will lead him to the Elysée (one above all the mayor played by Benoît Poelvoorde, already appreciated in God exists and lives in Brussels), live on a verisimilitude that makes them real, probable doubles of possible existences borrowed outside the cinematographic frame.
Despite the small number of episodes, and the typical short duration typical of sit-coms (about half an hour per episode) each narrative arc is perfectly concluded, returning stains – and not specks – of an image imprinted on the canvas that only one certain distance reveals its beauty and its uniqueness. A snapshot developed with the force of hilarity while that is still heard in the background liberté, egualité, fraternité so many times repeated, and another hundred forgotten. A motto that thanks to works such as Candidato unico is strengthened and comes alive again, with the inspiration of a parodic sarcasm ready to reveal the shadow of society, to emphasize its light.
We conclude this review of Single Candidate by emphasizing how the French TV series now available on Netflix manages, with brilliant ingenuity and humor, to recover that parodic tradition typical of transalpine comedies to denounce the vices and virtues of a society as cosmopolitan as sometimes still alive with prejudices and inequalities.
Because we like it
- The brilliance of the script.
- The dynamic use of the camera and the games between jump-cut and slow motion.
- The depth of the topics covered, returned with irony and sarcasm.
- The performances of the actors.
- The management of the final episode where everything is resolved too quickly.