I’m not sure of how many Cold War movies came out in recent years. The Lives of Others, obviously, was one of the best films in recent memory, chronicling the illegal publishing of articles in East Germany and the officer who secretly helped them. We can add Farewell to that list, another powerful movie about the passing of Soviet secrets to the west.

What made each of these movies great was the human tales they told. With Farewell (which I’ll be sticking to from here on out), a Frenchman, Pierre, living in Moscow becomes involved with the passing of those secrets. He becomes above suspicion and is able to transfer everything without trouble. His wife, Jessica, is suspicious, and when she learns the truth, she wants no more of it. She’s more concerned for her children, of which they know nothing.

The soviet in the film, Gregoriev, has a family of his own, much smaller and older than Pierre. The love is lost between himself and his wife, and the relationship with his son is lukewarm at best, especially when the mistress unexpectedly shows up at the house one day.  Gregoriev can’t be trusted, nor can he trust others with the secrets that he has, save for Pierre, his French contact and secret passer.

During the course of the film, Gregoriev passes secrets to Pierre, who goes to his government contact, and then that gets passed along to both the French government and the United States government.  Neither of them are too trustworthy of each other: Reagan is against the French electing communists to their government, even if the election was fair, and the French find the US too pushy.  The film isn’t anti-US – this is a French film – rather, by the end of the film, it’s against the utilitarianism that dominated Cold War politics.  Pierre becomes disenfranchised with the prospect of living in America as a result of what occurs, while Gregoriev, well, he hints at what will occur to him throughout the film.

Powerful, with great performances all around, and beautifully shot.

A

Note: this film is playing at the Ritz Five right now, and will be opening in Ambler soon.

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