André Techiné explores the radicalisation of French youth in his film Farewell to the Night showing at the Alliance Française French Film Festival this month.
It’s been some 60 years since Techiné’s directorial debut with Paulina s’en va (1969) and almost 40 years since he and Catherine Deneuve first worked together in Hôtel des Amériques (1981) (Hotel America) (which was due to screen at the Alliance Française French Film Festival in March) which started an ongoing collaboration between the two greats of French cinema.
Does Catherine Deneuve ever disappoint? In Farewell to the night, she plays Muriel, a grandmother happy to see her grandson Alex (Kacey Mottet Klein, AF FF17, Being 17; AF FFF13, Sister) after many years, but who grows increasingly worried when she realises her grandson and his girlfriend Lila (Oulaya Amamra, AF FFF19, The World Is Yours) are not going to live and work in Canada as they tell her but rather to go join ISIS in Syria. Deneuve, as in every film, in which she appears, is the star of the show and delivers a powerful performance of a powerless grandmother who will do anything to thwart her grandson’s plans. The pain, anguish and determination to do anything she can to stop them is written all over her face.
Mottet Klein and Amamra too play their roles as radicalised Alex and Lila all too convincingly (I found myself getting frustrated with them both). But while perhaps their plans are the reason for Muriel’s despair and anguish, Muriel, through Catherine Denueve, remains the star of the film – as she does in any film she acts in.
There is a quite amusing scene in which Lila tries to convince herself, and Alex, that stealing from his grandmother is not contrary to their religion. It shows how human beings can always manage to convince themselves that their path is the right one even when they perhaps know deep down that what they may be doing is wrong.
The beautiful setting of the cherry orchards and horses gleefully trotting about Muriel’s orchard and equestrian school represent Muriel’s world, one which is slowly tarnished by the discovery of Alex and Lila’s plans. The long-panning images of the beautiful, peaceful property seem to be in great contrast to the world Alex is leaving for. In Farewell to the night, Techiné lets the viewer in on Alex and Lila’s plans before Muriel finds out herself but we too find out little by little.
Director Techiné may be trying not to make any judgment calls about whether it is right or wrong for people to go join the ISIS fight. Similarly, Farewell to the night, does not judge their reasons but implicit in the depiction only of the exploration of the reasons for Alex doing it and not those of his girlfriend Lila is a bit of judgment. Do we not also need to question why a young Muslim woman would become radicalised too?
FOUR CROISSANTS 🥐🥐🥐🥐
Matilda Marseillaise viewed Farewell to the Night via a digital review screener of the film prior to the start of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2020.
Farewell to the Night is showing at the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2020, which will screen in Adelaide, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Canberra, Perth and Sydney from 14 July to 4 August. Sadly due to Melbourne re-entering the strictest COVID-19 restrictions again, the festival will not be shown there at this stage.
For session times and cities go to the AFFFF 2020 page: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/film/farewell-to-the-night/
For more AFFFF 2020 news, click here. Read our interview with Philippe Platel, Artistic Director of the festival here
What’s your favourite Catherine Deneuve film? Which films are you seeing at the AFFFF 2020?