Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:45 am 
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This time Ozon isn't playing

If you look at the last half dozen films of François Ozon, Criminal Lovers/Les amants criminels (1999), Water Drops on Burking Rocks/Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes (2000), Sous la Sable (2000), 8 Femmes (2002), Swimming Pool (2003), 5 x 2 (2004), they've been witty, edgy, even probed mysteries, but there seemed an element of fakery, of playing a game, holding back. There were times when it was hard to believe any of it. Time to Leave/Le temps qui reste, with its heavy subject, tempts one even more to say, "This is crap." It seems to easily set up to be Important, and some have dismissed it as empty and glib. But that's not so. For the first time in Time to Leave, Ozon deals with home truths he might himself know or care about, and he shows unusual sympathy for his hero, chic young gay fashion photographer Romain (Melvil Poupaud, ideally cast, as we shall see) who discovers he's mortally ill. After Romain decides he's not got a chance to recover from his cancer and won't get treatment, he has dinner with his parents and Sophie, his sister (Louise-Anne Hippeau). He is cruel to Sophie, but in the car with his father (Daniel Duval), he is caring; he weeps. Ozon doesn't hesitate to provide wickedly sexy moments, as when Romain gets his young Germanic lover Sasha (Christian Sengewald) high on coke and chokes him as they grahically make love, then kicks him out.

In show business since the age of ten and the veteran of more films than he can count, Poupaud is perfect looking, with his thick, rich hair, his immaculate brow, yet has a cold, by-the-numbers quality about him that makes him a classic Ozon figure for this story. His lips are pursed a little prissily. His button eyes don't seem to look at anyone. You can't look away from him though: he has a presence; perhaps it's ego; perhaps it's purely his practiced ease onscreen. Anyway, Ozon keeps us on edge, because his Romain isn't going to do the conventional things. He isn't going to tell people, he isn't going to make peace or say goodbye.

But he does go to see his grandmother (Jeanne Moreau) to tell her he loves her, and to reveal to her, and to no one else, what's happened to him. They're such a pair, he says if only he'd met her sooner, he'd have married her. At a roadhouse, he talks to Jany, a waitress (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, a strong presence in a brief role). Surprisingly, she asks him to give her a child -- a chance for a legacy -- but he declines saying he's not interested in children. This begins to look like a twisted Calvary. Sasha is gone, Romain is growing more unwell and washes down his pills with vodka. There is a slight rapprochement with his sister, with Sasha, even with Jany and her sterile husband. He shaves his head and grows disturbingly thin, memories of himself as a child haunt Romain, yet things are more transgressive than solemn, and one has the impression Ozon doesn't quite know where to go with this, how to carry it to the end. But he has managed to bring the story of a death toward a new direction. And as slick and cold as he is, Ozon's dying hero, Romain, manages somehow to embrace life and to go out with class.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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