Farewell Stars Badly Dressed Bureaucrats Instead of Spies

A homely bit of international Cold War cloak-and-dagger, starring badly dressed bureaucrats instead of chic spies, Farewell is based on a vital early-’80s espionage break involving the KGB, DST French intelligence, and the CIA. Heads of all concerned governments appear in the film, but more attention is paid to the domestic lives of the reluctant agents as they’re infected by the habit of deception. Emir Kusturica plays Sergei Gregoriev, a Soviet colonel disillusioned by Andropov’s Russia, living off hopes for his son’s future and memories of an old appointment in Paris. In exchange for a little conversational French, he begins leaking information about the overseas spy network to Pierre, an engineer working in Moscow (Guillaume Canet—like Kusturica, principally a director). That information trickles down to Ronald Reagan, played by the great Fred Ward, who seems to always be watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; its famous “Print the legend” may refer to Farewell director Christian Carion’s narrative liberties—Gregoriev is a sanitized version of the real Vladimir Vetrov—or the obfuscation preached by Willem Dafoe’s CIA big shot (William Casey?). Valance is one of the key texts in a film that emphasizes the part that culture plays in loyalty, along with 19th-century Romantic Alfred de Vigny and Queen, whom Sergei’s teenage son is seen rocking out to on his contraband Walkman, a scene infused with the promised freedom implicit in decadent Western pop.

 
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