What Goes Around… – Rediscovering ‘The Time to Die’ / Le Temps de Mourir (France 1970 – 80 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - September 17, 2014
What Goes Around… – Rediscovering ‘The Time to Die’ / Le Temps de Mourir (France 1970 – 80 mins)

A strange and mysterious movie, ‘The Time to Die’ is an arty yet engrossing sci-fi thriller from France. Although I am not a big fan of art-house, the intriguing set-up, stunning locations and sheer beauty of leading lady Anna Karina, kept me interested throughout.

An unnamed woman on horseback (Anna Karina) is riding along a beach carrying a reel of tape. When the horse collides with a tree, the woman falls to the ground, dropping the tape, where it rolls down a bank before hitting a man lying on the grass. He picks up the tape and takes it to the mansion of his boss Max Topfer (Bruno Cremer) who has a large computer which holds important files on everyone. The videotape shows the boss, a sort of bureaucrat, being shot to death in his own office by businessman Hervé Breton (Jean Rochfort). He now tries to do all he can to avoid his own death from happening.

A Euro-oddity, ‘The Time to Die’ is a puzzle from beginning to end, although in the final scene we sort of realise what is happening, which is that all the characters seem to be trapped in a repeated series of events which only Anna Karina’s character is aware of. The tape itself is mysterious, as it shows an event that has yet to take place, and even when Topfer destroys the original, a replacement is delivered to the mansion. Karina’s nameless woman seems to hold some of the answers, as she is the only person who remembers important future events, whereas everybody else is like us, living in the moment, unaware of what is going to happen.

As the disheveled and often confused woman, Anna Karina is very good here and looks absolutely stunning throughout, with some wonderful close-ups taking in her beautiful, large eyes. Karina was going through a new phase in her career following a stint in Hollywood after her long association with ex-husband Jean-Luc Godard. After making a handful of entertaining movies, including the wonderful comedy-drama ‘Bread and Chocolate’ (’74), Anna appeared in another puzzle-like picture; Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s ‘Chinese Roulette’ (’76), a wonderfully dark psychological drama. As the mysterious boss, Bruno Cremer went on to have a lead role in William Friedkin’s cult adventure ‘Sorcerer’ (’77). Stage and screen legend Jean Rochfort would go on to win a French Cesar award for the acclaimed drama ‘The Watchmaker of St. Paul’ (’74), and more recently won new fans for his portrayal of a retired poetry teacher in the excellent 2002 thriller ‘Man on the Train’, with Johnny Hallyday.

Director André Farwagi made his feature debut here, and went on to make the Nastassja Kinski sex comedy ‘Boarding School’ (’78). The beautiful photography was by Willy Kurant, who earlier shot another French- set movie with a beach backdrop; the frustrating Marlon Brando thriller ‘The Night of the Following Day’ (’68).

I’m not going to even try and decipher the true meaning of the movie. It may be informing us that we are limited in our abilities to change the future, especially our own. Whatever it’s true meaning, ‘The Time to Die’ is at times a stunning movie to look at, often hypnotic, and one that improves on repeated viewings.

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