Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Leaving (Partir): A Film Recommendation

A week ago I watched Inception, a visually stunning film, not entirely without emotional engagement. After all it is fundamentally (in my humble opinion of course) the story of a man trying to get home to his family. This is a story not unlike Homer's Odyssey, where a man must endure all manner of dangerous and fantastical adversities in order to return to his wife. One of the most striking performances of Inception was surely Marian Cotillard's Mal, the constant haunting presence of Cobb's subconscious. Indeed she is the Penelope to his Odysseus, the driving force behind Cobb's decision to take the one last job that is effectively his odyssey.

For all the explosions, high speed car chases and sharp tailoring, this is a movie about relationships; those based on power and love, all-pervasive but equally fragile. I suppose the beauty of cinema is that it can be a medium based on visuals and aesthetics. Those that demonstrate the labour of love that it surely is to make a film such as Inception. But cinema is also a literary format and the same concepts are just as easily explored in the dialogue that can be reinforced by the power of acting with one's eyes.

And this brings me to Leaving, a far humbler but arguably more powerful exploration of relationships, marriage, honour, loyalty and betrayal. Set amongst the French middle classes, the soullessness of privilege and bought lifestyle compete with the more basic human need for love and understanding. Kristin Scott Thomas is fabulous as a woman who enters into a passionate affair that challenges the illusions her marriage have created. Scott Thomas brings to the role the powerful ability to appear both austere and innocent in equal measure. Its all about the eyes I tell you. Well, the eyes and incredible bone structure. I don't wish to say much more about this movie - like I said last week, just go and see it.

On a personal level Leaving deeply affected me, indeed I left the theatre a little shaken. For it has been a while since a performance by a woman has so genuinely depicted the impossible situations we can find ourselves in; the choices, the gender power imbalances and finally the unpredictability of the human heart.

Film poster for Leaving, image by Dora Petherbridge


  1. I really want to see Leaving now I've read this. I saw Inception the other day and I agree with you about the performances but there were far too many guns, bombs and special effects for me. Stylistically it was excellent xx

  2. Your sky-scapes perhaps gain from having no quaint or noble towers - only chimney pots and an arial is it? Nature puts on her magical displays despite our banalities. A blossom tree round a couple of corners from us this spring would have graced a palace - once more made me marvel that it was prepared to display its white magnificence ajacent to the crude red brick and plastic framed windows of a block of flats.

    Today, walking into The British Museum, I passed a man who's job was scraping the chewing gum off the stone steps under the magnificent portico - was he set to work there to remind us of our crudity in the face of thousands of years of high culture?

    I feel like seeing the films you tell us about - even failing a Retro Tastic Cinema!

    All the best, Edward.

  3. Dear Christina, I know what you mean about Inception - I suppose the reason why I've been talking about it so much is because its not usually the sort of film I'd go and see, and I ended up really enjoying it. I think it was largely because of the cast - surely a director's dream to have such wonderful actors in the one film? Anyway I'm glad what I wrote has inspired you to go and see Leaving - its a very moving film. I read your post about screen on the green - that looks like such a cool cinema - cocktails and sofas? Sounds like my kind of place! xx

    Dear Edward, has Dora's photography inspired poetic prose? Your comment could be part of one of your literary blog posts. I think you should go and see Inception, I'd be fascinated to get a 'Petherbridge's Weekly Post' take on the movie.

    Thank you both so much for your comments - its lovely to get feedback! xx

  4. I share your admiration of Edward Petherbridge (I have even dared to classify him as the Mother of All Crushes I have had). I also share your mitigated enjoyment of Inception. Of course the Ariadne character's name made me think of just the association you mention, and I found especially the snowbound mechanical bits completely distracting from the essential scenes with Mal... during those scenes I felt completely engaged, and then... why do filmmakers do things because they can, not because they should? Thank you for your lovely writing.

  5. Dear Kristen,

    Thank you for your lovely comment! I've been lucky enough to see Edward in a few theatre productions and he's a fantastic actor. He's also a rather wonderful writer and it is interesting to correspond with him over the blogs.

    I think you make a sound point about Inception - I was really surprised to find it as emotionally engaging as I did especially as it is essentially an action movie. The scenes with Mal and Cobb where they were interacting as husband and wife were really quite moving. They were both played by very talented actors -so that helped!

    I am glad you like the writing (such a kind thing to say), please do visit again.

  6. Dear Ruthie, I haven't seen Leaving yet but absolutely will. The Screen on The Green has renewed my interest in going to the cinema rather than watching things on Dvd (lying down) at home. I'm dying for The Actor to get back from filming so we can go and see Gainsbourg together there xx

  7. I much prefer seeing a film at an independent cinema, especially if they are a bit retro - it all adds to the experience. Please do let us know on your blog what you thought of Gainsbourg when you get round to seeing it - I think it would be really interesting xx