Monday, October 15, 2012

Farewell (movie review)

This is a French title, which you might think hard to find in my neighborhood.  Not so, given Movie Madness.  Filed under French, amidst the Thrillers.

That said, it's PG-tame and thankfully not bloody, not too horrific.  In that sense it's a good kid-friendly non-shocking intro to Spy vs. Spy (ala Mad) with the French caught between superpowers, trying to preserve some sense of family values and humanity amidst the monsters (CIA and KGB).

The French engineer wasn't asking to be involved in espionage, but given the setting, the French Residence (embassy) in Moscow, this seems hard to avoid, especially when an idealistic Russian spy (the worst kind) decides to change world history for the benefit of his engineer son.

Like the dad in Breaking Bad, this Russian dad has trouble communicating about his world to his offspring, let alone to his wife.  The sense of subterfuge,  of dad being up to something, pervades the French family as well, though those kids are pretty young to be following any adult plot.

The movie purports to be to be based on true events, but we have to decide for ourselves what that means.  Given how far Willem Dafoe is from William J. Casey, both in appearance and character, we can push the dial pretty far into fictional.  "Feeney" at least rhymes (no doubt the intent).

Casey's tenure marked an apogee in CIA-KGB understanding (like Apollo-Soyuz), with the USSR not "too big to fail" after all (a not ungraceful exit, for a country that size). Russian spies would slip in for dinner in DC, then slip loose from their handlers, a thawing of the Cold War.  Perestroika, Glasnost.  Fast forward:  Litvinenko, the Russian spy in England, fighting quasi-solo against corruption, a saint.

But one could say all of the above is consistent with Farewell, in the sense of there being some high level coup that enabled the USA to "go dark" for awhile.  You could spin that as a rupture in security, with plans for the space shuttle, submarine routes, test plans, all sloshing out in the open, to the embarrassment of the spied upon.

In retrospect, Emir Kusturica's character, Sergei Gregoriev, the Russian, is like another Manning, treated as a traitor by his contemporaries.  The illusion of stopping the leaks would lead Reagan to take bold action -- is what this storyline infers (and the rest is history).

I tried Battlestar Galactica again as a part of this same rental.

The first two disks were enough to remind me of the fantasy, its many borrowed elements.  It's a put-together interior, a mental vista, an invisible landscape, not unlike this French embassy in Moscow, a thinly veiled dollhouse of a world.

Like we're really looking into the mind off the dollhouse's (meetinghouse's) overseers, perhaps young boys as these are also "action figures" (if "dolls", as in "idols", are a problem for some reason).

Looking good in uniform, in silhouette perhaps:  it's a lot about dressing up and acting the part.  In spydom too of course, fashion matters, plus there's the car you drive.  James Bond's has a defibrillator.