Thursday, December 30, 2010

Leaving (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway  


Domestic discontent can bring out monsters. Such is the case with "Leaving" (Partir), the latest film by Catherine Corsini, who directed  "Replay" in 2001 which detailed a tormented friendship between two female drama students. Corsini is not a director who pulls her punches and she doesn't disappoint in this latest venture.
Suzanne (Kristen Scott Thomas) is married to Samuel (Yvan Attal).  Suzanne lives in a geometric modern house that is sparse, glaring-white and curved with Minimalist and abstract paintings on the walls that sometimes resemble blood vessels on canvas enlarged to life size. Samuel is a  doctor, a man of smug affection and rules who runs his life like a medical chart. He is handsome, hawk-like and not overly warm. With Samuel, the house is a lukewarm egg with two kids inside. When they go to bed, Samuel is on his smartphone and Suzanne reads a magazine. The scenes group together briefly and slowly. Ending with fade outs, the episodes are visual sighs, showing a shared life short of breath.
  Samuel offers to have a reflexology studio built for Suzanne. Enter the earthy carpenter Ivan (Sergi Lopez). After a conference and a sudden kiss, Suzanne walks away, but her mind is occupied by the stubbled laconic Catalan stranger who spent time in jail, which doesn't seem to matter. At home under the ice cube of a house Suzanne is an anemic vampire, wearing pale pinks and muted pastels, but once she catches sight of Ivan, the two conjoin like lascivious crustaceans or lustful octopi---grunting, glued, enmeshed. During one clinical lunch in the Modernist house, Suzanne gives the news: she wants out. Samuel goes into a rage, hurling sexist attacks and slapping blows of physical violence. Suzanne becomes like a bounding gazelle under Samuel's bestial ego. 
Suzanne and Ivan sort of set up house. They find a crumbling brick sea-side shack and begin a Byronic idyll. Suzanne is infinitely touching, kissing and caressing, sharing more joy with Ivan's little daughter than her own. 
But all is not well. 
Samuel cuts off all monetary support and freezes her account. Suzanne is forced to look for work at a local pharmacy and Samuel writes a letter to Ivan's foreman, who ultimately lets him go. After a gas machine devours her credit card and she sells her gold watch, Suzanne gets an idea.
She will break into her own house and take the expensive art.
What emerges is class-warfare: the Status Quo against the reflexologist who follows her heart. Samuel with his brooding darkness is a bit like Macbeth. And Ivan is a little too nonchalant. To save Ivan from prison, Suzanne moves back with her white-ruled husband, but she is a wilted rose, cooking dinner like an automaton. 
Then with an unexpected clap---an end to a visual sigh that is part Raymond Carver and part Patricia Highsmith, Kristen Scott Thomas shows us what impulsive monsters there might be under the Minimalist veneer of a  marriage.
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