This summer the Museum of Modern Art has honored the prolific François Ozon with a series titled "Ozon at the Beach." Simultaneously, the writer-director's most recent film, Le Temps Qui Reste (Time to Leave), is making its way into American theaters, carrying with it the usual Ozon baggage: sand, sea, a grande dame of French cinema (Jeanne Moreau this time), a sex scene with a busty blonde (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), two or three grams of cocaine and a corpse.
A young, beautiful corpse-in-the-making: Time to Leave is the story of a 31-year-old fashion photographer (Melvil Poupaud) who has just been diagnosed with an inoperable cancer. Given perhaps three months to live, the professionally superficial Romain neither confides in his friends and family nor strives to make the most of his time. Instead, he gives up working, pushes out his live-in boyfriend, excoriates his only sibling and wanders disconsolately through the back rooms of gay bars. Maybe he doesn't misbehave as flamboyantly as does the protagonist of Cyril Collard's Les Nuits Fauves--the obvious parallel--but Romain takes the bad news badly, in a way that's credible and ultimately moving.
In the past, I have tended to resist Ozon's immaculate, manipulative style and artifice-laden stories. (His biggest hit, The
, struck me as being a Russ Meyer movie with brie.) But in Time to Leave, Ozon has poked through the Saran Wrap of his own cleverness to touch on feelings that are simple and sincere. The format is CinemaScope, but the action may be as beautifully tentative as a moment of reconciliation in the park, or as inward as the recollection of a first boyhood kiss.
* * *
Short Take: To the growing list of heartbreaking, indispensable documentaries about the Iraq War, please add The Blood of My Brother by Andrew Berends. Opening at the end of July in Los Angeles, it is the first (and no doubt last) film shot by a journalist embedded with Shiite insurgents. It focuses on young Ibrahim, who dreams of revenge for his older brother Ra'ad, now thought to be a martyr after being killed by US troops. You hear from some of these soldiers, too; Berends tries hard to be balanced. But his film's unforgettable moments show the face of pure fury against "Americans and Jews." Let everyone watch, and decide: Just what is this course we're supposed to stay?