Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kristin Scott Thomas, Sergi López and Yvan Attal power Catherine Corsini's LEAVING

A performance as stops-out, emotional and driven as any that Kristin Scott Thomas has ever given guides home LEAVING, the new film from French co-writer (with Gaëlle Macé) and director Catherine Corsini. We are most often used to seeing Ms Scott Thomas, shown at right and below, in buttoned-down roles, which she can handle with the best of them (and will do again next week, when the John-Lennon-as-a-teenager movie Nowhere Boy opens). It is something of a surprise, which then becomes a kind of joy, to watch this fine actress let go and give her all in the pursuit or a love that is clearly the most passionate her character has ever felt.

Those of us who've experienced this kind of all-out passion will perhaps nod and reflect (or maybe relive it a bit). Others who have not yet experienced this can only wonder at the level of emotion (which leads to some shocking actions) and either wish for something like this to befall them or be supremely grateful that it has not. Either way, thanks to a fine script that begins near the finale and circles back, the filmmaker crafts a movie of amazing immediacy that should leave you both jolted and thoughtful at its finale. Corsini chooses carefully the right steps to show how the affair takes off, together with the correct amount of detail to pull us in, build up a good deal of suspense but never sate us, and then tops off the script with alert direction that captures precise moments from this woman's work life, family life and lovemaking,

Ms Corsini (shown at left) has given us over the years a number of successful films -- La nouvelle ÈveLa répétitionLes ambitieux, and now this one -- that remain interesting and exploratory, particularly where the role of woman is concerned (and by extension, man: With most filmmakers, especially men, it's the other way around). Corsini never excludes the guys. She gives them their due, as she does the attitudes and feelings of the teenage children involved. Yet it's the woman (or women) at the center of her stories that interests her most. And in all cases that TrustMovies has seen, she (together with the actresses involved) makes these women comes fully, sometimes alarmingly, alive.

Ms Scott Thomas has always been an actress to breathe great life into each of her roles. Last year, in I've Loved You So Long, even as a broken woman suddenly free after a long prison stint, she managed to radiate enough inner intensity to keep us enrapt. Here, as a relatively happy if somewhat bored housewife with a slightly too self-satisfied and controlling husband (the sex scenes between wife and husband and wife and lover bring this point home in spades), once she allows passion to have the upper hand, there's no turning back.

Casting Yvan Attal (above) as husband and Sergi López (below) as lover would seem to go against the natural grain of so many of their past performacnes.  Still, Attal was splendid as the controlling businessman/hubby in this past year's Rapt, and López, in his many villain roles from Sólo mía to last year's Ricky, always manages to add passion, strength and sometimes several dollops of caring to his creeps. In any case, the casting works beautifully, and both men register strongly and believably.

The film's ending should and will cause talk.  The movie ends, all right, but you certainly could't call it "wrapped up."  Or could you?  I'd love to talk to Ms Corsini about this....  In any case, Leaving is risky, thought-provoking movie-making.

Leaving, distributed via IFC Films, opens this Friday, October 1, at the IFC Center in NYC and will also be available from IFC On-Demand beginning October 27.  Click here to determine if you can get it in your area.

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