113 minutes| France| 2009| Subtitled| Colour| Dolby Digital Stereo| 35mm

This fascinating true story traces a game-changing moment in the East-West balance of power back to the ordinary lives of two very different individuals. Serbian director Emir Kusturica is utterly convincing as the bearish, world-weary KGB officer who’s fed up with the unrelenting greyness of Brezhnev-era Russia and trades key military secrets and a list of Soviet agents worldwide in return for western luxury goods like a ‘Johnny Walkman’. Code-named ‘Farewell’, he passes his wares to a meek French businessman living in Moscow (Guillaume Canet, making directorial waves himself these days – see Little White Lies on page 11), who can hardly believe he’s involved in such high-level activity, but must keep it secret from his bossy missus. All this is jaw-dropping in one sense, yet so utterly mundane it rings true. Though Christian Carion (Joyeux Noël) doesn’t neglect the geopolitical angle (B-movie stalwart Fred Ward makes a fun Ronald Reagan), it’s the way the situation slides insidiously into paranoia and peril which makes the drama uncommonly gripping. (Notes by Trevor Johnston).

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