The epitome of an in-joke, best appreciated by director Alain Cavalier and his slender cast, “Pater” is a confounding slog for most anyone else. Curiously tapped for a Cannes competition slot, this sloppily improvised film about filmmaking doesn’t bother to make clear whether and how it’s a mock-docu account of the shooting of a French prime minister biopic, as Cavalier cavalierly squanders the chance to represent his meta-narrative in stylistically coherent terms. Dialogue about the great glory of appearing in a Cavalier film does nothing to minimize one’s pervasive sense of “Pater” as the auteur’s excruciating display of unearned arrogance.
Cavalier appears directing Vincent Lindon in the P.M. role and gratuitously mentioning that he hasn’t donned a tux since his film “Therese” was at Cannes in 1986. That the pic’s title translates as “Old Man” is odd in that the ostensible star is Lindon, who distinguishes himself by nervously playing a nervous actor playing a nervous politician. Lingering shots of wine bottles and moist truffles on a plate accentuate the feeling of a private party, one to which only the director’s inner circle and least discriminating fans have been invited.