REVIEW / FILM OPINION – On a complex and still hot subject, Thierry de Peretti deciphers the construction of a media narrative and questions the corruption of institutions as well as the more intimate corruption of the personal motives of individuals. “Investigation into a state scandal” is a great, vertiginous film, which, sure of its strength, offers itself to the doubt attached to any narrative.
State Scandal Investigation cinema of mirrors
We do not get rid of the disorder that seizes when ends State Scandal Investigation. An ambiguous confusion, as if both completely everything and absolutely nothing had been said. While everything was there, perfectly staged, photographed, and interpreted. However, the truth of Thierry de Peretti’s film does not appear as one might imagine, simple and clear.
If it appears, it is according to the only modality possible for any truth. Like an agreement, a convention, a concept, and at best a shared reality fact. It should be remembered that truth and art have thus never had much to do, and paradoxically especially when the cinema falls in love with a resounding news item.
Like each of the protagonists in the case at stake, State Scandal Investigation tries his story. He invents a story, which is not that of the journalist Stéphane Vilner (Pio Marmaï), nor that of the informant Hubert Antoine (Roschdy Zem), nor that of the former narcotics chief Jacques Billard (Vincent Lindon).
It is a bit of all these stories, captured and developed in a story conceived as a long dialogue between Stéphane and Hubert, with its ellipses, its misunderstandings, its lies too. The truth is a speech, the cinema is a speech, and it is there the real theme of the movie extraordinarily brilliant by Thierry de Peretti.
At the heart of a major scandal
To bring this serious affair to light in 2016, Emmanuel Fansten (Stéphane Vilner in the film), a journalist for Liberation, publishes an investigation into the involvement of narcotics and particularly the former number 1 in the fight against drugs in international traffic.
The trigger event is the discovery by customs of a shipment of 7 tons of cannabis resin in the middle of Paris, on October 17, 2015, loaded into three vans parked on Boulevard Exelmans, in the very chic 16th arrondissement.
The investigation reveals the involvement of a major drug trafficker, who also happens to be a valuable informant for the Central Office for the Suppression of Illicit Drug Trafficking, then headed by François Thierry (Jacques Billard in the film).
Emmanuel Fansten is informed by a former undercover narcotics agent, Hubert Avoine (Hubert Antoine in the film). It is thanks to his testimony that he will be able to update what looks like a state scandal. Together they publish the book The infiltrator: From the hunt for Chapo Guzman to the French narcotics scandal in 2017. So three men, a journalist, an informant, and a “big” cop, to a complex case that does not want to find its end. So who did what? Who is right?
State Scandal Investigationsupreme exercise of doubt
Thierry de Peretti pulls off a brilliant tour de force by not answering these questions decisively. On an established scandal and whose legal proceedings are still ongoing, we do not know at the end ofState Scandal Investigation if it’s very real matter really existsand where would be the distance that makes it possible to form a judgment.
We are of course attached to the quest for the two men, a priori brave anti-heroes. Until this brilliant end where Jacques Billard cancels this attachment, perhaps by talking about “higher” reasoning, in the sense of collective and long-term reasoning.
When Stéphane and Hubert would only be moved by personal and short-term interests. Because Stéphane cannot deny his addiction to investigation and hearing, just as Hubert cannot deny his personal hatred of Jacques Billard.
The drug at the heart of the scandal is indeed also the one that Stéphane uses on occasion. As for the light that Hubert seeks on the affair, he also wants, perhaps above all, to capture it for himself, to make a name for himself before disappearing.
Normal contradictions, from which the Jacques Billard image is exempt, on which we see logically much less. Simply because to make the film, Thierry de Peretti only worked as closely as possible on the documents. Those are essentially recordings between Emmanuel and Hubert.
To stage this story of an investigation, the camera follows these characters in long sequence shots where the main actors shine.
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