A fashion photographer with terminal cancer elects to die alone, preparing others to live past him rather than prolong the inevitable with chemotherapy or be smothered in sympathy by those who know him.
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Marina de Van
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After losing her virginity, Isabelle takes up a secret life as a call girl, meeting her clients for hotel-room trysts. Throughout, she remains curiously aloof, showing little interest in the encounters themselves or the money she makes.
In Paris, thirty-one-year-old gay fashion photographer Romain learns he has a terminal cancer. As chances with chemotherapy are only slim, he chooses to live the rest of his life without treatment or mollycoddling, hiding the truth from his lover Sasha and his family, being cruel to kindly push them away. He visits his estranged grandmother Laura for a few days and has a small talk with a waitress he chance meets along the way, a waitress who, upon a second chance meeting, asks him for an unusual favor. Romain returns to Paris where he privately puts his affairs in order and awaits the end. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / revised by statmanjeff
Francois Ozon is one of my favourite French directors. His artistic renditions of the human drama contribute significantly to what makes French films so worth seeing. This is his second instalment of a trilogy about death that started with the emotionally enthralling, understated Under The Sand.
Previously he has covered different genres like comedy (8 Women) and thriller (Swimming Pool). While these films have found a wider audience, I find the dramatically subdued exploration of grief and mortality in Under The Sand and A Time To Leave much more interesting and satisfying.
In A Time To Leave, Romain finds his own way to deal with imminent death. Unlike most of his previous films, Ozon uses a male protagonist. He appears to be selfish and egocentric not overly likable. Perhaps like an essay on the human condition, it is revealing to observe how he interacts with people and attempts closure on his 'final journey'.
The film has a bit of a wandering Zen feel about it. There is no sentimentality and Romain does not burden anyone. It appears that he wants to tidy up loose ends before his passing in an attempt to find peace within himself.
Legendary actress Jeanne Moreau, playing the grandmother, has as strong a screen presence as ever (55 years after her debut). It is only with her that Romain seems to open up emotionally, and we get a glimpse of his warmer side. These scenes were very moving and felt like the emotional core of the film.
Like Under The Sand, A Time To Leave doesn't seem to be making any particular point. Neither are evangelical or proselytising a world view. Nor are they gratuitous, contrived or flamboyant. Each of them is like another essay about the human condition, done with great artistry. There are no grand sweeping statements just one person's story. There is such understated confidence, intelligence and skill in Ozon's direction. Highly recommended.
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