Since Under the Sand, François Ozon’s films have progressively succumbed to art-movie pretenses. With Time to Leave, he works in the opposite direction of Alejandro Amenabar’s horrendous The Sea Inside, burying emotion beneath prissy camerawork; only someone completely averse to pathos—or with a subscription to Vogue—would consider any of this a coup. The director casts Eric Bana lookalike Melvil Poupaud as Romain, a thirtysomething fashion photographer who learns he has mere months to live. The twist here is that he’s gay, which means he snorts coke and mopes around inside an S&M fuck dungeon. For a stretch, the film appears as if it’s ready to buck standard rules of movie engagement: Instead of salving the wounds of family and friendship, Romain picks at them, attacking his sister during a dinner with his parents and breaking up with his boyfriend. (His flashbacks to their shared youth, which include pissing in a church’s holy water and kissing each other on the cheeks, feel lame and proper so close after Bad Education’s slippery-when-wet scrutiny of dreams and movie aesthetics). Poupaud is a great crier but his character’s bratty attitude feels groundless, just as Ozon fails to convincingly express how the many scenes that fuse past and present are consequences of Romain’s failing mind and body; what could have been poetic is simply maudlin. Even in the film’s best scene, in which Romain divulges the truth of his condition to his grandmother (Jeanne Moreau) because she too is knocking on heaven’s door, the character’s attitude feels like a contrivance, much like the character played by Valeria Bruni Tededeschi, who exists to fulfill a predictable function and guide Romain back onto familiar disease-of-the-week terrain. Strangely, it’s by adhering to convention that the film sweetens. Romain’s Odyssean return-to-the-sea is shot like a glossy magazine spread but it deeply embodies the cycle of life, beginning with Romain nonchalantly acknowledging his fleshy sexual desires one last time before mythically laying down to sleep.
- Strand Releasing
- 81 min
- François Ozon
- François Ozon
- Melvil Poupaud, Jeanne Moreau, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Daniel Duval, Marie Rivière, Louise-Anne Hippeau, Henri de Lorme
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