Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Director: Catherine Corsini
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Sergi López, Yvan Attal
Bernard Blancan, Alexandre Vidal, Daisy Broom
With the concept of a romantic novel and the execution of a realist work-with strokes of Truffaut- Partir proves to be a perfect showcase for the renaissance of Kristin Scott Thomas who, once again in French, takes hold of the screen with melancholic ferocity.
She plays Suzanne, a well to do woman living with her husband Samuel (Attal) and children (Vidal and Broom) after whom she looks day after day.
When she starts renovations on her house she meets Spanish construction worker Ivan (López) who she immediately likes. After a strange accident she begins to get close to him and soon they begin a torrid love affair for which she's willing to leave everything.
From this point on the film becomes a simple, but never simplistic, study of bourgeoisie ennui and how the middle classes turn into the labels they fear so much.
On her own, Suzanne has to get back to a job she hasn't practiced in two decades (while she filled the role of "wife" and "mother") and discovers that love is not enough to live on (as she probably was taught before her marriage).
Director Corsini is a bit condescending towards the social class she criticizes and apparently forgets to create profound triggers to the events that unfold. When the film starts Suzanne doesn't seem to be miserable and her passive aggressive rebellion isn't convincing enough to justify her unorthodox actions.
Perhaps Corsini was less preoccupied with intent and had set her mind on pure emotion which gives Suzanne the characteristics of an Emma Bovary or a Lady Chatterley.
Thomas makes the most out of this and delivers some of the best work of her career. Hostile and detached in scenes with Attal (who is remarkable despite the film's attempt to make him a villain) she finds herself completely transformed in her moments with López (again channeling raw male sexuality).
"You act like a whore in heat" exclaims Samuel as Suzanne flees a family dinner to meet her lover.
At that moment it's difficult not to pass judgment on her character but as soon as she meets Ivan, her face lights up with contagious happiness.
Few actresses can do what Thomas does with her face; she only needs to lift an eyebrow to evoke heartbreaking disgust and a smile to show us how one surrenders to happiness.
"This is the happiest day of my life" she says in English to Ivan during a rapturous encounter; even if he doesn't comprehend the words, he knows what she's talking about.