August 6, 2021

André Téchiné films with grace the blind impetus of youth

The opinion of the “World” – not to be missed

After a somewhat disappointing half-hearted historical drama (Our roaring twenties, 2017), André Téchiné, 76 years old, one of the finest and most generous storytellers of French cinema, returns as refreshed with a new film, which not only revives familiar motifs from his cinema (the expanses of his South-West native, the pangs of youth taking a tangent, the presence of Catherine Deneuve, her favorite actress), but also delivers her own variation on a hot topical subject, sometimes made difficult to hear by the media uproar. Inspired by the collection of interviews The French jihadists (Les Arènes, 2014), by journalist David Thomson, the film looks at the religious radicalization of young people who are not necessarily disadvantaged, sometimes even well integrated, and on the fierce and disconcerting desire that pushes some of them to go the war in Syria.

Read the interview with Catherine Deneuve: “We shoot too many films in France today”

Muriel (Catherine Deneuve), a strong and experienced woman, runs with her partner, Youssef (Mohamed Djouhri), an equestrian center flanked by a sumptuous cherry orchard. She receives, for a few days of vacation, her grandson, Alex (Kacey Mottet Klein, revealed by Téchiné in When we are 17, in 2016), before he moved to Canada permanently with his girlfriend, Lila (Oulaya Amamra), a caregiver and familiar with the center. But, once there, the young man shows signs of impatience and withdrawal. Recently converted to a rigorous Islam, he plots a secret departure for Syria, in a trio with Lila, who is to become his wife, and their young imam, Bilal (Stéphane Bak), in the hope of living there and fight there in accordance with their faith. To carry out this plan they still lack a tidy sum that Alex steals from the coffers of the equestrian center, at the risk of alerting his grandmother to his clandestine activities.

Wall of illusions

Far from retracing the mechanism of indoctrination in jihad, as Philippe Faucon had been able to do with The disintegration (2011), Farewell to the night probes more intimately the gulf, the blind rupture, between generations whose aspirations have ended up differing. Between a grandmother whose accomplishment took the form of a house business (the equestrian center) and a grandson in search of moral and spiritual purity leading him to reject his origins altogether, it is quite a relay identification that no longer works. Faithful to the romantic vow of Téchiné’s cinema, the film alternates, through a fluid montage, the points of view of youth and maturity, each reconsidering its own reflection in the gaze of the other. The filmmaker leaves scope for his characters as well as their contradictions, observes them in their approaches as in their deviations: when, for example, Lila comes to religiously justify the theft of Muriel, or that Alex considers as a “chance” the fate of the martyrs.

The beauty and relevance of the film are primarily due to the fact that it does not seek to explain the desire for jihad of the three young characters: psychological fragility, loss of a parent, Internet addiction, bad conscience, thirst for the ideal. , rejection of materialist society, appear as so many possible causes, but never sufficient in themselves. Thus avoiding the pitfalls of didacticism or social exposure, the questioning of the film passes above all through the staging, whose flexible mobility (the admirably spun shots of the director of photography, Julien Hirsch) accompanies the flight forward or the emotional crossover of the protagonists. The camera makes movement its question mark: what moves Alex and his friends? What are they running after? What hidden motive, what morbid desire? Through these questions, Téchiné traces a well-known furrow in his cinema, which consists in filming the youth in its tracks, be they incoherent or irrational, because they define its own beauty. Mission accomplished with Farewell to the night, which does not ask us to admire or to hate its young heroes in disgrace, but to observe simply, and with attention, the wall of illusions into which they sink.

French film by André Téchiné. With Catherine Deneuve, Kacey Mottet Klein, Oulaya Amamra, Stéphane Bak (1 h 43). On the web:

The cinema releases of the week (Wednesday, April 24)

  • Farewell to the night, French film by André Téchiné (not to be missed)
  • Monrovia, Indiana, American documentary by Frederick Wiseman (not to be missed)
  • 90’s, American film by Jonah Hill (to see)
  • Today nothing, French documentary by Christophe Pellet (to see)
  • I see red, French film by Bojina Panayotova (to watch)
  • The Mercy of the Jungle, Belgian, French and Rwandan film by Joël Karekezi (must see)
  • Don’t cut!, Japanese film by Shinichiro Ueda (must see)
  • Victor and Celia, French film by Pierre Jolivet (to see)
  • Avengers : Endgame, American film by Joe and Anthony Russo (why not)
  • Desperate, Italian film by Edoardo Winspeare (why not)
  • A tram in Jerusalem, Israeli film by Amos Gitaï (why not)
  • but you are crazy, French film by Audrey Diwan (we can avoid)

Also on display:

  • Standing, French documentary by Stéphane Haskell
  • Empathy, Spanish documentary by Ed Antoja
  • The Le Corbusier spirit, French documentary by Gilles Coudert