I"m seated in a garden in Ipswich, en famille. By English standards it's a warm day. It could be a scene from Accident, but it could equally be a scene from what Mr C might describe as a middle class French movie, in a derogatory tone. There does indeed seem to be an increasing inclination on the part of French filmmakers to make what might be called 'middle-class' movies, many of them featuring a range of the current remarkable generation of French actresses. Mr C says the only French film he likes is La Haine. Quite apart from the whole new wave phenomenon, I've enjoyed movies over the years by the likes of Rohmer, Mimouni, and probably a host of others whose work could be described, perhaps, as 'middle class'. In a way, given the sometimes predictable, patronising tendency of a middle-class British film industry to try and explore its own agendas through often contrived portrayal of 'working class' life, it seems perhaps more honest to turn the mirror on the class where the film industry emerges from. (Something Cooke noted when he took over the Royal Court, although I'm not sure if his well-intentioned mission to stop rich people delving into the lives of the marginalised/ proletarian in their corner of Sloane Square has quite come off.)
Which is all a roundabout way of saying that the reason Leaving is such a turkey has nothing to do with its socio-politics, and everything to do with its cliched, soft-centred premise and script. That Kirsten Scott Thomas should want to give up her bourgeois sensibilities in order to have fierce sex with Sergei Lopez does not seem altogether unlikely. However, that this will involve her plunging towards an abyss of criminalising impoverishment proves hard to take. With only love to sustain her as she works in a water melon packing factory, with her comically evil husband finding new, devious ways to gain revenge for his cuckolding at the hands of an ignorant ex-con, Scott Thomas sinks towards infamy, a modern day Lady Chatterley.
The film feels like it's been created as a vehicle for Scott Thomas. It's a role which, in theory, any actress would die for, the woman prepared to sacrifice all for love, but the sheer predictability of the template sadly only goes to confirm the prejudices of those who claim 'middle class' French cinema (by which they mean almost all French cinema) is self-indulgent and emotionally vacuous.