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In this film the adage "truth is stranger than fiction" is well
demonstrated. The real story of Vladimir Vetrov, the KBG Colonel who
leaked vital details of the Soviet spy network to the West in the early
1980's is even more bizarre that the story related here, where Colonel
Sergei Gregoriev (Emir Kursturica) uses a French electronics engineer
Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet), resident in Moscow, to pass secrets
to the French domestic intelligence agency, the DST, and on to the CIA.
Sergei ruled out using the DSGT, the French external intelligence
service because he was aware it had been penetrated by the KGB. As it
is the story here is a little lacking in tension despite the larger
than life Sergei becoming more and more reckless as the story
progresses .Some of the minor parts are pure vaudeville, Fred Ward's
Ronald Reagan for example. However the two principals Kursturica and
Canet, both prominent film directors, completely contrasting
personalities, are very convincing. The 80's cold war atmosphere is
well re-created even the credits are vaguely menacing.
As in several recent spy stories "based on real events" the viewer is left with the impression that the West and Soviets had so thoroughly penetrated each other's security defences that they might as well have monthly meetings to hand over each other's secrets. This story does suggest that the Soviet Union was not able to keep up with Western technology, particularly in computing, and in resorting to stealing software the Soviets sowed the seeds of their downfall. In one instance the West was able to feed the Soviets with enough crook software to cripple their gas pipelines and cause a truly big explosion (without injuring a single person, apparently).
We do get considerable insight into what motivated Sergei, if not Vetrov (who seems to have been a less admirable character). Sergei is s true believer in communism, but he also fiercely loves his son, whom he wants to inherit something worthwhile. In a way the movie is as much about a parent sacrificing themselves for the sake of their child than the old spy versus spy routine. Froment is a less interesting character, but something inside him keeps him involved with the egregious Sergei despite his own misgivings and that of his wife Jessica (a refugee from East Germany with good reason to be afraid). Perhaps it's the opportunity for an otherwise unremarkable person to do something important. Or maybe he just finds it hard to say "non" to a person as charismatic as Sergei.
This film is not an "edge of your seat" suspense thriller but it tells an absorbing story, and is a useful reminder of the spy paranoia that prospered during the cold war.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A few months ago, I was reading a biography about the French President,
François Mitterand and it discussed this Farewell case. As Mitterand
had known about this, you can be sure this was a highly top secret
file. But I can't remember what really happens so I was very eager to
see this movie.
In addition, the cold war time was my childhood and teen years, and as "Watchmen" did earlier, those movies bring now, nostalgia.
Actually, it was an old colleague of mine who thinks to this movie and we left the theater totally pleased. I really like French cinema when it doesn't forget what cinema is, that is to say: pictures moving with sound to tell a story! Usually, French movies are only speeches with no camera moves and silence, always telling about "old" France or failed relationships!
Here, since the beautiful credits, you understand that it will be a great movie and what it's about: CCCP vs. USA. Communism vs. Capitalism. As it's involved spies and moles, this conflict draws on the blood on common, "little" people, not the delusion of "James Bond". It all starts with the courage and bravery of individual people for whom beliefs, truth, justice, liberty are as essential as everything else (familial values, job fame, material life,...). Thus, becoming spy is per se dangerous for one's own life but it threatens all that you can have built in your life, especially family. This danger is depicted with great talent in the movie. Choices are hard and nothing comes easily.
Another aspect of spy life is shown with intelligence: as Mulder would say, "Trust no one": if you are a spy, others can be spy-hunters, thus you get paranoid, suspicious with everyone: the "babushka" (grandmother), the maid, colleagues, the big head of administration. Worst: the golden rule in espionage is that a spy is always alone, thus spies can killed each other without even knowing it. That's the terrible tragedy in this movie
In addition to spy life, this movie offers also deep thoughts about married life, and parenthood. The big adversary there isn't ideology but time. Kids grown up, love flame can be extinguished. You got to be cautious, even more than for your spy business. The infidelity, cheating times in the movie are funny, because they seem so far away for all this political war and yet, they act the same!
But, to be good, a movie needs, beyond ideas, people and here, every one delivers: I didn't know so far the director, Caron as a director but he deserves to be recognized: He has been able to change scope every time (From White House to bench talking about poetry) and he is imaginative: I really liked the sequences of driving, between "Duel" and De Palma, and the end credits.
I don't know if the locations are indeed Russian but you really got the feel of a socialist republic and the 80's: Walkman, Pink-Floyd, Queen and 8mm movies! My father had the same hobby than Farewell and as his son, my brother and I can be seen running on the wall! A very moving moment for me.
The cast is greatly rich with exceptional guest-stars: I remember Ingeborha Dapkounaite from my Russian period. Willem Dafoe is always a (machiavelic) presence in whatever he does. It's funny to see "Hutch" and the participation from Gorby and Mitterand, because they look very much like the real ones. From my point of view, Reagan is too young and energetic but I agree with his pictorial as a cowboy, past actor because the above-mentioned book about Mitterand says the same. And he was also a funny movie critic: just read the poster of this movie!
Now, for our pair of spies, Canet is a good choice because the part needed a low profile, not big mouth actor, which he is. And Kusturica is truly an "Emir", AMAZING! He shows so much humanity within his gruff exterior.
I really hope that this movie will be attended by big crowds and wins a lot of awards (especially for Emir) because their success would be the long-awaited homage to the real people in this story!
Definitively, a reference in spy movie!
FAREWELL is an elegant depiction of Cold War espionage based on true
events that proved catalytic to the demise of the Soviet Union. Pierre
Froment (Guillame Canet), a French businessman who is 'above suspicion'
due to his amateur status, is compelled to deliver high level
intelligence from reckless, disillusioned KGB veteran Sergei Grigoriev
(Emir Kusturica) to Reagan's cabinet via François Mitterrand, thereby
crippling Soviet intelligence.
Whilst Froment and Grigoriev convincingly resemble weary bureaucrats, scenes in the White House lack credibility - perhaps an attempt at satire by Carion, they are nevertheless rendered redundant by the sombre refinement of the film. Cultural boundaries between East and West deliver brief comic reprieve, and signal the imminent disintegration of an already stagnant regime.
Suffused with nostalgia, we observe Brezhnev-era Moscow cast in the lurid yellow light of street-lamps, or bleached white by lens flare, with an effortless attention to detail - Muscovites stand in endless queues on street corners as Soviet vehicles roam empty boulevards flanked by Socialist realist statues. Subterranean scenes add a noir aesthetic, reflecting the shades of deception throughout - in the words of Grigoriev; "I live in lies and solitude".
Kusturica gives a shatteringly affecting performance, conveying Grigoriev's wistful patriotism and hope for his son's future with a rare eloquence. Carion creates real suspense and accommodates subtle plot twists, but there are no cheap thrills here- the film defies the brash conventions of its genre. Understated, fluid camera-work and dedicated performances deliver a film of classic style and depth. 5 out of 5
Cambridge Film Festival Daily
My film group and I saw "Farewell" at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center in New York. We all loved it. I do hope it will have a commercial release soon so more people can see it. The acting was superb, the screenplay riveting. We did not know the story so we were kept on the edges of our seats. I gained a lot of insights into what was going on in the cold war and emerged with a very different take on what had happened and increased appreciation for the leaders of France and the U. S. and appreciation for the brave Russian agent and what he did for the world. I am looking forward to reading the book on which the film was based. The opening and closing were so beautiful and meaningful -- the meaning only grasped at the end. I will never forget them.
Serguei Kostine's book 'Bonjour Farewell' serves as the source of the
historical moments of one of the most important fractures in the Cold
War in 1981 - the act of valor of Sergei Gregoriev - and the script for
this very important and controversial film was written by Eric Reynaud
and Christian Carion who also directed this stunning film (he is best
remembered for his brilliant 'Joyeux Noël' which incidentally starred
many of the actors in this film). It is a disturbing movie to watch, a
film that was condemned by the Russian government, disallowing filming
in Moscow - except for some undercover camera work for an apparent
Coca-Cola commercial, and refusing to allow Russian actors to take part
in the project. It reveals the brutality of the Communist regime of the
time, a period Russia would prefer to remain occult
The story is somewhat convoluted, a fact that makes it even more revealing of the nature of espionage work at the time. Sergei Gregoriev (Emir Kusturica) passes secret documents to French spy Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet) living in Moscow with his wife (Alexandra Maria Lara), documents so important that Froment must take extraordinary risks to pass them to the US Government. In the US President Reagan (Fred Ward) must balance the importance of these documents with the balance of relationships with the French government under François Mitterrand (Philippe Magnan) it is a tense struggle for power and at the crux of it is Froment and the ultimately captured Gregoriev who is tortured to reveal his French espionage contact. The rush to finish at the end of the film is breathtaking and heartbreaking. There is a conversation between Froment and the US Feeney (Willem Dafoe) that places the soul of the Cold War years in perspective.
Every aspect of this film is involving - the acting is first rate from everyone involved, the pacing is in the fashion edge of the seat direction, and the sharing of the innermost secrets of espionage is information we all should study. A reenactment of the Reagan/Gorbachev era as well defined as any film has dared to show us. Not only is this excellent filmmaking, but it is also information about a man's (Sergei Gregoriev) sacrifice that deserve honor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this movie for the first time on board a transatlantic Air
France flight. It impressed me so much that I watched it for the second
time on my way back, and was not disappointed. This is a very good
movie, but not for the American audience. I do not understand most of
their movies either, big deal. It is unlikely it will be released there
I was born in the former Soviet Union and I am about the same age as colonel Grigoriev's son. This film captures very well the atmosphere of those days, including Grigoriev's state of mind and motives, however idealistic they may seem now. When I saw that this was a French movie about Soviet times, I was prepared to switch off immediately after the first matreshka dance. There are so many Western movies about Russia/Soviet Union that feel just outright false. This is not one, mostly, I think, thanks to Emir Kusturica, who deserves great credit for the role of Grigoriev. There are minor blunders, of course, such as bearded embassy residence guards (beards were not tolerated in Soviet military and police). However, they do not change the fact that this is one of the best films I have watched in recent times. It is very French in the best traditions of the French cinema, and it is a bit Russian thanks to rich emotional undertones, which reminded me about another great French-Russian production, Est-Ouest. Very nice bits of humour like President Reagan watching twice the same episode from an old movie, reminded me some episodes from another French movie, 18 ans après. And a very sad but true final, when Grigoriev, a Russian idealist and a francophile without a Swiss bank account, gets shot by the firing squad, while his KGB superior and a longtime US mole (who does have a Swiss bank account) gets new life in the West after sending Grigoriev to death. If you know what I talk about, go watch this film, you will not be disappointed. If not, enjoy your Police Academy.
Farewell is a spy drama set in Moscow/Russia in the early 1980's. It
stars Guillaume Canet and Emir Custarica, both noted directors in their
own rights.It is based on real events with the basic story correct
though the nature of the two leading characters and a few events are
somewhat changed or omitted.
The plot centres around the leaking of Russian intelligence to the French government. Sergei (Canet) works for the Russian secret service but has been recruited by (or volunteered to) the French government to pass intelligence data from his office. Sergei is doing this for purely moral reasons arguing that it will one day bring the system down and give his son a better future. His contact is a French engineer working in Moscow, Pierre, coerced in to helping by the French government and operating as Sergei's dropping point. The story develops around the personal relationship between Sergei and Pierre and also that of their families. Sergei is confident and casual but ultimately a little careless. While Pierre becomes paranoid and with his young family in tow begins to feel the stress.
The data turns out to industrial espionage on everything from the Space Shuttle to the US defence strategy and even secret communication codes. When the American are shown the information by the French (in a neat piece of one-upmanship) it is only a matter of time before action has to be taken and lives are in danger.
The pace is slow and constant and never flat. Tantalisingly delicate, a very light brush from the director allows the actors to communicate in manner rarely seen in Hollywood films. Similar with the cinematography which is used sparingly and always to accentuate the story. Watch out for the early scene where they first meet which simply says 'spies'. Then the scenes of northern Russia in winter.
This is a very smart film with excellent understated performances from all the cast. Watch out for several more famous actors in cameo and small roles. Fred Ward playing Ronald Reagan looks positively weird though they get away with it.
If you arrived here before viewing be sure, it is well worth watching. Spy Game plus.
This is a very empowering, true-story about one man, Sergei Gregoriev,
who probably did more to bring down the Communist government in Russia
- and end the cold war - than any other person who ever lived! This man
should be honored by a postage stamp in every Western country in the
world and in every high school history textbook! What an incredibly
brave human being!
I gained a lot of insights from watching this amazing film. The Russians lost an estimated 26 million people during World War 2. That's 1 in 3 people that died in all of World War 2 did so within the borders of the Soviet Union! I can only imagine the trauma and paranoia that was inflicted on the survivors who later then came to power. It didn't help either that a monster was at the head of government (Stalin) from 1924 to 1953. And, you wonder why the Soviets had a such a mind-boggling intelligence apparatus established throughout the United States? Once this network of spies was dismantled, the Soviet leadership was blind! Out of fear they bankrupted themselves on military spending because they could no longer accurately assess what actual threats the United States posed to them!
Sergei Gregoriev, knew how his government would react to such a threat and he sacrificed everything to make it happen. I don't think he would be happy with the gangster capitalism that took Communism's place. But at least there are no more brutal wars fought in desperately poor countries, which have cost millions of lives because of the Cold War! Future generations will thank you for your sacrifice, Sergei Gregoriev!
What a brilliant movie. Spies, lies,twisted mind games. No explosions, no bullets, no exciting background music, no old hat tricks. Inspite of that, or better, because of that, tense, suspenseful and original movie. Real spies are not superheroes, flying through the air, ducking hundreds of bullets, overpowering dozens of villains with their martial arts skills unparalleled in the universe. Most of the time they happen to be, timid or coerced or dedicated to a cause. Their job is not glamorous, they scurry like rats in a dark alley, they sweat and smell,sometimes they live, most of the time they die. Finally the real spy movie, deep and harsh, leaving the sickening feeling. As usual the decent, courageous people get shoved aside or get killed for a higher cause- saving some ambitious creep's ass.
Farewell is the wrought piece of espionage spy fiction you didn't
really expect to be as good as it is; as is often the case, films and
film-makers take it upon themselves to entrust that elements of
espionage and distrust between superpowers, or people therein
epitomising superpowers, should make for crash-bang, explosive viewing
involving very little narrative; very little character and a whole lot
of wooden spectacle. It is with open arms then, that we welcome in
Christian Carion's 2011 film Farewell; the anti-thesis to Mission
Impossible: II or a badly drawn Bond film of the post-Dalton era. The
film is one of its ilk that happens to have both a soul and a brain;
these characters are people involved in international espionage and
some rather dangerous stuff, but they are people involved in such
things whilst doing their utmost to maintain families; they are people
involved in what they're in, of whom enjoy playing tennis and reading
poetry and listening to Queen they are human beings; they can be
overweight; they can wear glasses; they can relax by watching a
Western, they are not stock action heroes of a ridiculously photogenic
nature; they are not James Bonds darting around in sports cars
out-peddling a space orientated laser beam.
The scene epitomising how Farewell really is different to most others of its ilk arrives with a snappy sequence set on a park bench between two people; as might be considered standard with any film of this ilk, we witness such a sequence that is often the first thing people think of when certain genre buzz words are mentioned. Here, the already seated man witnesses another slump down next to him so that they may continue their business business which would result in serious ramifications should either of them be caught. Instead of cutting to the chase and prolonging causality, the new arrival first mutters about how he hates the fact he is having an affair with someone away from his marriage; that his son knows all about it and, he feels, hates him as a result. Such is the film's nature to take something familiar to the genre, or something with which we will identify, and spin it around to encompass character; to encompass problems away from what would usually be the sole and lone body of content; to take an instance as stereotypical as two blokes meeting on a park bench and incorporate some sort of air of both naturality and substance to proceedings.
The sense that we're being treated like adults begins with the opening sequence, a procession of found footage depicting numerous things Cold-war orientated ranging from shots taken from the fronts of the Vietnam War to numerous technological advancements of the 1970s alluding to the Space Race. All of it is Cold-War orientated and it arrives without voice-overs informing us of what's what and why we're seeing what we're seeing; there is no brief expositional history lesson. Guillaume Canet pays Pierre Froment, an engineer living in Russia with his family of wife and young daughter; the man observes a television set displaying a McEnroe-Borg tennis match, this sense of there being a fondness for that of duelling; a fondness of keeping up with how two super-powers in a respective field are getting along in their long, intense rivalry prominent.
The film is a double-stranded piece, a piece flicking between two men occupying Moscow in the early 1980s doing their utmost to transfer information from secretive sources onto the Americans, and that of the American president of the time in Ronald Reagan (Ward), no less, who dishes it out to his international colleagues, particularly that of then-French Socialist President François Mitterrand (Magnan), when he isn't confining with his own. Pierre's friend is Emir Kusturica's large, life-weary Soviet native to their surroundings Sergei Gregoriev; a man with his own wife and son with whom he does not get along. Sergei uses Pierre as a half-way house in his delivering of top-secret Soviet intelligence which eventually make their way through to the upper-echelons of The White House, a premise spun out by director Carion to really good effect as we delve into this world of lies and power-play.
In spite of the two strands and the array of characters, ranging from this lowly Frenchman to the President of the United States himself, it is Pierre's film; a man caught up in this mucky pool of grime and maltrust and having it go on to affect his home life and general well-being. In a subway fairly early on, it is established how efficient and how clinical the police state work; their picking up of an unknown woman after the insinuation Pierre is in trouble reiterates what he is up against - the verbal establishment beforehand of Pierre's inexperience within this field follows that of Sergei's infiltrating of the backseat to his car with enough ease to fool Pierre as to his even being there. In this regard, the tension is often palpable; if for the fact we often fear Pierre's capture, something that would not stop the film from carrying on with one of its other equilibriums but as to whether his actions will destroy his exemplary home situation and those he holds dear to him. Farewell is the spy thriller peering in at the private lives of these people; the primary stuff about passing on information and keeping informants secret acting as a mere premise to fascinating accounts of how these people exist with themselves; with their families and with one another, the bulk of it making for really good value you could sure do worse for a thriller.
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