Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Leaving" Is Arriving in Theaters

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"Leaving" Is Arriving in Theaters

(from 9/28/10)

New Yorkers are fortunate because of the imminent arrival of two films starring the most elegant of actresses, Kristin Scott Thomas. Next Friday, you can see her play John Lennon's prudish aunt Mimi in Sam Taylor Wood's Nowhere Boy. Beginning this Friday, you can see her in a much different role in Catherine Corsini's Leaving/Partir. A British film, a French film, two languages, two different characters. Elegant always, versatile, too. In the sexually-charged Leaving, she is Suzanne, who walks out on her successful doctor husband (Yvan Attal) when she falls obsessively in love with a simple laborer and ex-con (Sergei Lopez). Elegant, of course, and never so passionate. Earlier this month, I participated in a roundtable with Thomas about both films. Soon I'll post the Q&A with her about Nowhere Boy, as well as ones with Wood and Aaron Johnson, who plays the young Lennon. For now, here's the part of the roundtable that centers on Leaving. I note my questions.
Danny Peary: The obsessed woman you play Leaving who abandons her husband and family to be with her lover seems completely different from John Lennon's aunt, whom you play in Nowhere Boy. But since they both are oppressed in some way, do you see any similarities between these?
Kristin Scott Thomas: I didn't when I was doing it. It never occurred to me but I guess you're right. They're both coming from the same place; they both have abandonment issues. Suzanne in Leaving just gives up everything because of her desire to feel something; and Mimi in Nowhere Boy is terrified of losing anything, and she's hanging on like mad to John. She has poured every atom of her love into this boy and is trying to control him and is trying to give him what she considers to be best for him and turn him into a doctor or something magnificent. Suzanne is doing the absolute opposite, shedding everything and trying to start again.
DP: Has Suzanne ever done anything like this before?
KST: No, never. This is like a flip out. What attracted me to this part is the idea of her losing everything to the devil, just getting rid of it.
DP: Would it have been any guy or...
KST: ...I think it could have been any guy. She uses Ivan to get out of her situation. It's a mixture of desperation and desire. All these things just suddenly fall into place and she just loses her mind, I think.
DP: So if we in the audience don't fall in love with this laborer and think he's the greatest person in the world and an ideal match for Suzanne, that's an okay reaction?
KST: I think that. If you spoke to the director, Catherine, she wouldnt say that, I know. I think she just needed a real person to get a look at her and see her for what she is. She goes to him, she seduces him, not the other way around. She just needs to feel like she's a real person because she hasn't been feeling that for a long time. I don't think he's a hero coming in on a white charger.
DP: Well, he never does anything particularly great in the film.
KST: No, she's just fixated on this man--"This man is going to save my life."
DP: How would you compare working with Catherine Corsini and Sam Taylor Wood on Nowhere Boy?
KST. Sam was easy. Catherine was the complete opposite, a great big fireball of insanity. But I would make another film with her in a heartbeat, both of them actually. But it was a totally different experience. Sam is very, very measured, softly spoken, very gentle, and light and sunny. Catherine Corsini is grrrr, a hurricane woman--extraordinary, very passionate, with fantastic energy, and working with her is like getting hit by a train.
DP: And you obviously didn't agree with her on everything.
KST: No, we didn't agree and we had massive fights, which she always won. And Partir, Leaving is one of my favorite movies.
Q: You've been very forthright about concentrating on the European film industry, and not really doing Hollywood films anymore.
KST: I don't want to be disparaging, or bite the hand that feeds us all--because the Hollywood industry really nourishes everything else--but it's true that I prefer to be making the kind of movies that I'm making in Europe. They're more exciting to me than the movies that are now coming out in America. It doesn't mean that I don't want to do them anymore, but when you have roles like Suzanne in Partir or Juliette in I've Loved You So Long, or even Mimi in Nowhere Boy, although it's a smaller part, it's so exciting. I think in Europe they're interested in women of my age, and here I don't think that here they are.
DP: You're loved in England, loved in America. How are you received in France?
KST: I don't know. I think they're OK with me. I hope so. I'm scared now, let me knock on this wood. I do have a dodgy foreign accent, it's a bit odd.
Q: In addition to your two current films, you had two French films at the Toronto Film Festival.
A: In Toronto, one [Crime d'amour] was directed Alain Corneau, who was one of the great pillars of French cinema who he died a few weeks ago. It's kind of a film noir. How do you say that in English?
DP: Film noir.
KST (laughing): There you go. It's with Ludivine Sagnier. It's about two women and a fight for power in a big international. The other one is an adaptation of Sarah's Key, a best-selling novel here and in the world. It's about a modern day journalist's quest for the truth and her discovery about what happened to Jews in France in 1942. They rounded up any Jews they could find and kept them in a velodrome until they put them on trains to go to the death camps. It was one of the dirty secrets the French brushed under the carpet for a long time--until in the late 1990s, Jacques Chirac acknowledged that it happened. Last year there was a film about it, and now there's this film. I'm particularly pleased with this film because it brings the story of the Holocaust to today and we see the consequences of it even sixty or seventy years later--the consequences of the dreadful things we do to each other as human beings. History is important is basically, what it's about. History isn't just important because of what happens, but because things also happen afterward.

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