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In Paris, thirty-one-year-old gay fashion photographer Romain learns he has a terminal cancer. As chances with chemotherapy are only slim, he chooses to live the rest of his life without treatment or mollycoddling, hiding the truth from his lover Sasha and his family, being cruel to kindly push them away. He visits his estranged grandmother Laura for a few days and has a small talk with a waitress he chance meets along the way, a waitress who, upon a second chance meeting, asks him for an unusual favor. Romain returns to Paris where he privately puts his affairs in order and awaits the end. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / revised by statmanjeff
"time slips away and the light constantly fades..." (the Cure, Seventeen Seconds from the eponymous album, 1980).
Here comes François Ozon once again with a long-anticipated vehicle and a prickly topic which has been used countless of times in cinema with varying results: a person who has an incurable disease and who's going to die soon. She's got only a few months, even weeks to live. How does she react? How does she live her last moments of life? This is the thrust of Ozon's latest opus "Le Temps Qui Reste" (2005) and it is a remarkable movie in which Ozon eschews what could have caused the fiasco of the film: pathos. There's no whiff of it in Romain's slow way towards death. According to his author, it is the second opus of a trilogy begun with "Sous Le Sable" (2000) and which will close with a third film about the death of a child. It's true that "Le Temps Qui Reste" has a few common points with "Sous Le Sable": both end with a sequence in which the main protagonist is standing on a beach but the difference between the two films lies in the fact that in "Sous Le Sable", the viewer and Charlotte Rampling weren't fully sure about Bruno Cremer's death. Maybe did he abscond, maybe did he leave Rampling whereas here we are absolutely sure about the terrible truth: Romain is going to die in spite of the words pronounced by the doctor aiming at bringing an inkling of hope. Besides, the sequence at the hospital is credible. A doctor has to tell his patient that there is a glimmer of hope although he pertinently knows the tragic exit. The sequence which comes after where we can see Romain sitting on a bench, looking around him also rings true.
So, Romain is a young photograph in his early thirties. He's homosexual and lives with his lover in a quite comfortable flat. His life shows all the signs of professional and sentimental success. But one day, everything falls apart when one day he learns that he has a generalized cancer. Where Ozon retains the attention is how he shoots the evolution of his main character. The author of the fabulous "8 Femmes" (2002) has once said that he didn't care about the New Wave (although he puts Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol in his straitjacket of favorite filmmakers). Well, I don't care for it either apart from notable exceptions. Among these exceptions, there's "Cléo De 5 à 7" (1961) by Agnès Varda, probably one of the most accessible movies of this movement in spite of the gravity of the topic. The topic is the same as "Le Temps Qui Reste" and the psychological evolution of Cléo is more or less the same as Romain's. Ingoing at the beginning of their tragedy, mature at the end as death comes closer. In Romain's case, Ozon presents him as an obnoxious, brazen and egocentric young man who only lives for his job. Then he has an argument with his family an evening (the sequence of the dinner is quite incommoding) and then with his lover. He decides to visit his grandmother (Jeanne Moreau) and his stay at her house constitutes the crux of the film. He finds himself with a person who lives the same situation as him. He tells to her: "because me and you we are close to death". In Varda's piece of work, it was a young soldier Antoine who helped Cléo to accept her disease and so made her fearless facing death because he saw death very close to him too (the context was in 1961 during the Algerian war, a "dirty war", the equivalent of Vietnam for the USA). In Ozon's flick, Romain's stay at her grandmother's altered him: he tries to reconcile himself with his family, his lover and is even ready to make a baby to a family (the young woman is played by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi who held the main role in Ozon's precedent film, "5x2", 2004). After that, Romain seems to have become another man, he has accepted to belong to the world that surrounds him and appears to be at ease and relieved amid it (see the last almost timeless sequences when he's by the sea). So, if the first part of the film was disturbing, the second one has a placating whiff. Romain's visit to his grandmother is the central and crucial moment between the two. Ozon's camera knows how to capture the situation, the feeling, the gesture, the look and the director has a real genius to let the what is left unsaid show through.
As Romain slowly but surely makes his way towards the adamant death, there are flashes of his childhood which arrive in his mind. Maybe, they help him to accept his own death. Moreover, it is often said that old people behave like children. In a way Romain also behaves like a child, at least in the beginning of the movie, then, there's still time to become a grown-up.
"Le Temps Qui Reste" is a small cracker which maybe won't cater for all tastes because of its thorny topic. But it has the merit to put aside formulaic or corny ingredients. As for Ozon, more power to him although it's very likely that like some of his fellows (Patrice Leconte), he'll still have to wait for a long time to receive the honors he deserves
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