Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Movie a Day, day 76: L'Affaire Farewell

If you’ve ever wondered what led to the collapse of the Soviet empire, L’Affaire Farewell offers an intriguing answer. Based on a true story, it introduces us to a high-up KGB officer who smuggled hundreds of pages of key top-secret Soviet documents to NATO in 1981 and '82, apparently doing as much as any other single person to bring down the Russian bureaucracy.

Recapturing that slice of long-buried history is just one of the pleasures of watching this surefooted thriller, which samples a multiplex's worth of genres—odd-couple bromance, Cold War suspense, Dr. Strangelove-style farce, and old-fashioned spy-vs-spy—to come up with a wryly witty, understated style of its own.

Emir Kusturica plays the real-life double agent Vladimir Vetrov, who the movie calls Sergei Gregoriev. Guillaume Canet, looking a lot like Ryan O’Neal circa 1981, plays Pierre Froment, the courier Gregoriev uses to get his information to France, since no one would suspect the French civilian of being a spy. The two start off mutually suspicious, even contemptuous, but they come to respect, rely on, and finally love one another in an understated and moving progression that forms the heart of the film. Read the rest on The House Next Door, Slant Magazine's blog.

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