Time to Leave review

:. Director: François Ozon
:. Starring: Melvil Poupaud, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
:. Running Time: 1:25
:. Year: 2006
:. Country: France


The second chapter in his trilogy about death, François Ozon's Time To Leave follows the last days of Romain (Melvil Poupaud), a young man who has just discovered that his days are numbered and embarks on an odyssey to find peace with himself and his family.

While his first entry, Under the Sand, dealt with the indirect repercussions of death — the elephant in the room symbolized by disappearance — for those who stay, this time Ozon focuses directly on those who leave and the process of assuming their fate.

Slowing turning from an arrogant fashion photographer into a ghost-like figure, Poupaud perfectly embodies the trauma at an inner level, not saying or acting much, but rather using his body as a mirror of his damnation. His minimalist performance matches the surface of this film, which mostly focuses on what is felt by the individual and what isn't said. His character is also the reflection of a new — and welcome — trend in French cinema: creating characters who are not role model-material but rather highly-flawed human beings or, to put it simply, jerks; Jacques Audiard's striking The Beat That My Heart Skipped is another great example.

By making his character homosexual, Ozon clearly makes a film about the victims of AIDS, even if he chooses another disease for his metaphor. What in American cinema would have turned into a melodrama is approached with subtlety and a light dose of humor here, thus avoiding any heavy-handed pathos. As in Under the Sand, he crafts a poetic and contemplative piece soaked in sadness. However, his depiction of death, rather than being shocking, showcases some seductive allure — it's not by chance that both films feature old icons of beauty (Charlotte Rampling in Under the Sand and Jeanne Moreau here).

Time To Leave is without a doubt a highlight in a filmography made of more downs than ups — if you're not aware, Ozon finds more success in the US and internationally than in his native country as his cinema is often seen as too calculated in his provocation to be honest. Talking about provocation, the filmmaker who's mastered the art of second-rate sleaze with such films as Swimming Pool, didn't forget to include his usual dose of gratuitous sex and nudity, except that this time the beautiful women have been replaced by men copulating. While there is quite an amusing scene of a threesome, his creepy take on gay nightclubs has already been seen many times, from William Friedkin's Cruising to Gaspard Noe's Irreversible, and doesn't bring anything here, besides making the audience squirm.

As for content, there is nothing really new either and fans of the great now-defunct series Six Feet Under will already be familiar with all the themes treated here, from living with a disease to accepting its fate and the homosexual world. Time To Leave is not a film about themes, but rather a work on moods, the poem of a discreet condemned man, as the final haunting scene — once again on a beach — can attest.

  Fred Thom

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