Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bonjour Tristesse

Based on the novel by Francoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse is the story of a young woman whose life of decadence by the arrival of an old friend of her mother who wants to put an end to her father’s playboy’s lifestyle. Directed by Otto Preminger and screenplay by Arthur Laurents, the film is an exploration into the world of decadence and how a woman would intrude into that world to bring some order. Starring Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg, Mylene Demongeot, and Geoffrey Horne. Bonjour Tristesse is a dazzling and exhilarating film from Otto Preminger.

The film explores the carefree and decadent lifestyle of a playboy and his teenage daughter as a visit from an old family friend would cause some disruption and tension prompting the young woman to create a break-up with the help of her father’s flighty mistress. All of which is told from the perspective of the young woman Cecile (Jean Seberg) as she thinks about the summer where her late mother’s friend Anne (Deborah Kerr) makes an unexpected visit at the French Riviera as a guest of Cecile’s father Raymond (David Niven). It’s a film that has a unique narrative that moves back and forth with Cecile doing much of the narration as she is seen at parties in Paris where she spends much of the time thinking about the summer.

Arthur Laurents’ screenplay reveals much of what Cecile and Raymond do as they would often be joined by Raymond’s young mistress Elsa (Mylene Demongeot) in their parties. Yet, Anne’s arrival would change things as she wants Cecile to do so much more as well as show Raymond that there’s more to life than partying. It would eventually some conflict between Cecile and Anne as the latter just wants to have fun as she is also in love with a young law student in Philippe (Geoffrey Horne). When Anne and Raymond decide to marry, it would drive Cecile to do something to end the relationship where in the scenes in Paris. There is a sense of regret that looms Cecile where she is at these parties dancing and such but has lost a sense of joy.

Otto Preminger’s direction is truly mesmerizing for the way he presents an air of style in the film where the scenes set in Paris are shot in black-and-white while the rest of the film is shot in gorgeous Technicolor to display the beauty of the French Riviera. Preminger uses a lot of wide shots and elaborate crane shots for some of the film’s livelier moments to capture the locations as well as some of the parties the characters go to. Yet, he also maintains a sense of intimacy in his framing in the way the relationship between Raymond and Anne develops where there is that sense of Cecile in the background as she starts to become upset. Preminger knows when to heighten things up for the melodrama where its third act would showcase everything that Cecile had been planning with Elsa and Philippe. Yet, the presentation of a key moment in the film has Preminger focusing on what he isn’t showing which makes it more effective as it would play to the sense of regret that would loom Cecile in Paris. Overall, Preminger crafts a very poignant coming-of-age film where a young woman faces the reality of her empty life.

Cinematographer Georges Perinal does brilliant work with the film‘s different photography styles with the rich look of the black-and-white shots set in Paris with its use of lighting to set the film‘s somber mood to the use of ravishing Technicolor for the scenes in the French Riviera as it captures a sense of vibrancy and beauty in those locations. Editor Helga Cranston does excellent work with the editing with its unique approach to rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s humor and melodrama. Production designer Roger K. Furse and art director Ray Simm do fantastic work with the set pieces from the lavish home that Raymond and Cecile live in as well as restaurants and such they go to. Sound editor David Hawkins does terrific work with the film‘s sound to play into the atmosphere of some of the locations as well as the sound of objects. The film’s music by Georges Auric is spectacular for its lush orchestral score to play into the sense of romance and melodrama along with some dance pieces in the film.

The film’s incredible cast includes some notable small roles from Eveline Eyfel as a trio of maids Raymond and Cecile often get confused by, David Oxley as Cecile’s date in Paris, Martita Hunt as Philippe’s mother, Walter Chiari as a South American playboy that Elsa meets, and the famed French singer Juliette Greco in a cameo appearance as a club singer. Geoffrey Horne is superb as Philippe as a law student who falls for Cecile as he just wants to be a good guy who wants to have fun but also be responsible. Mylene Demongeot is terrific as Raymond’s mistress Elsa as this vain and quite dim woman who cares about having fun as she doesn’t like Anne who is the exact opposite of her. Jean Seberg is amazing as Cecile as this young woman whose life of parties and living a carefree lifestyle is challenged by Anne’s presence as she would devise a plan to break up Anne’s relationship with Raymond only to regret it later on.

David Niven is fantastic as Raymond as this charming playboy who likes to have fun as the presence of Anne gives him a chance to lay back and be with someone close to his age as he tries to accept these new changes in his life. Finally, there’s Deborah Kerr in a radiant performance as Anne as this fashion designer who has accomplished a lot as she tries to show Cecile and Raymond a life that isn’t decadent as she tries to come to terms with their lifestyle and Cecile’s sudden cold behavior towards her as it’s a great performance full of humility and sadness.

Bonjour Tristesse is a phenomenal film from Otto Preminger. Featuring the outstanding performances of Deborah Kerr, David Niven, and Jean Seberg as well as the beautiful score by Georges Auric and Georges Pernal’s evocative cinematography. It’s a film that is filled with a lot of style as well as captivating story about a young girl coming of age and deal with the idea of change. In the end, Bonjour Tristesse is a remarkable film from Otto Preminger.

Otto Preminger Films: (Die GroBe Liebe) - (Under Your Spell) - (Danger-Love at Work) - (Kidnapped (1938 film)) - (Margin for Error (1943 film)) - (In the Meantime, Darling) - (Laura (1944 film)) - (A Royal Scandal) - (Fallen Angel (1945 film)) - (Centennial Summer) - (Forever Amber) - (Daisy Kenyon) - (The Fan (1949 film)) - (Whirlpool) - (Where the Sidewalk Ends) - (The 13th Letter) - (Angel Face (1952 film)) - (The Moon is Blue) - (Die Jungfrau auf dem Dach) - (Point of No Return (1954 film)) - (Carmen Jones) - (The Man with the Golden Arm) - (The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell) - (Saint Joan) - (Porgy and Bess) - (Anatomy of a Murder) - (Exodus (1960 film)) - (Advise & Consent) - (The Cardinal) - (In Harm’s Way) - (Bunny Lake is Missing) - (Hurry Sundown) - (Skidoo) - (Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon) - (Such Good Friends) - (Rosebud) - (The Human Factor (1979 film))

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