Magazine article The Christian Century


Magazine article The Christian Century


Article excerpt


Directed by Christian Carion

Starring Guillaume Canet, Emir Kusturica,

Willern Dafoe and Fred Ward

The French spy picture Farewell is literate, complex and thoughtful.

It's based on the true story of the Russian spy Sergei Gregoriev, code name "Farewell," whose activities in the early 1980s laid the groundwork for the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The movie is both a gripping thriller and a witty exploration of the intricacies and implications of living a lie.

The film was directed by Christian Carion, who coadapted Serguei Kostine's book Bonjour Farewell with Eric Raynaud. It stars two filmmakers who happen to be marvelous actors: Serbian director Emir Kusturica plays Gregoriev, and French director Guillaume Canet is Pierre Froment, a Parisian engineer working in Moscow who begins ferrying Gregoriev's secrets as a favor to his boss, who has links to the French secret service. Gregoriev, a highly placed colonel, is willing to use his access to astonishing information about Soviet moles in the U.S., which French president Francois Mitterrand (Philippe Magnan) conveys to President Reagan (Fred Ward, in an entertaining little performance).

The movie centers equally on Sergei, suave improviser, and Pierre, who's alternately appalled, terrified and fascinated by the unlikely situation he finds himself in. Canet looks like a cafe intellectual in his wire rims and beard, but there's a wariness in his eyes; he always looks as if he's out of his depth. When he's asked to smuggle a Minox camera from the West so that Sergei can copy files, an unnerved Pierre wants to quit, but Sergei talks him into hanging on; he likes having so improbable a handler--he calls Pierre "the perfect little spy"--and he likes Pierre. They form an unorthodox friendship as Pierre brings Sergei books of poetry and records of chanteurs from Paris, along with Queen albums for his rebellious adolescent son. In the necessary solitude of espionage, Sergei sees Pierre as his only confidant. And Pierre begins to value Gregoriev's safety; he urges him to defect with his family before the Soviet government discovers him.


When Sergei begins sleeping with a new co-worker to ease his slipping in and out of her office--she becomes so vulnerable to his charm that she swallows his off-the-top excuses for riffling through her desk--the infidelity becomes both an extension of his double life and a metaphor for it. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.