As France is swept into World War II in 1940, the big question is what will the country do? Fight or make peace with Hitler. But for some people, their personal lives demand greater attention; like the actress (Isabelle Adjani) whose dalliance with a businessman ends in tragedy, drawing others, like a cabinet Minister (Gerard Depardieu), a writer (Gregoire Derangere), a resourceful petty crim (Yvan Attal), a pretty physics student (Virginie Ledoyen) and even a mysterious journalist (Peter Coyote) into the vortex of her self-preserving world. As Parisians desert the capital ahead of the advancing German army and go south – mostly to Bordeux – the big issues and the personal dramas are thrown explosively together.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A thriller, a war story, a melodrama, a farce and a story about love in its various forms, Bon Voyage is a virtuoso film from Jean-Paul Rappeneau, combining all the different tones with great success. It has helter skelter energy and perfectly pitched performances ensuring that – like good champagne – every new mouthful feels fresh.
But it also has terrific dramatic power, which is underpinned by the fact that’s it’s so personal for the filmmaker, Jean-Paul Rappeneau. He associates very deeply with the era and with several characters, and regards the film as an intimate diary, almost, of his childhood years at the time.
The political issue of France’s stance in the war has a continuing burden on her sons and daughters: it was a time of extraordinary division within France, and the disagreements on what course to take were reflected in the torn positions of pro and anti war, of an accommodation with Germany on one hand, and a rebel, exiled government on the other. This is a wound whose scab will never heal. In this film, that conflict is examined at its origins, amidst the hugely entertaining antics of the characters we meet.
Isabelle Adjani’s Viviane is the pivotal character, and she balances the venality with warmth and humanity so perfectly that our natural inclination to deride her motives are constantly teetering on the edge of forgiveness and understanding. Indeed, it is always understanding that seems to drive Rappeneau in the way he treats his characters, even those who we automatically shun, like Peter Coyote’s German journalist/spy.
But there’s scant time to fully analyse this film while you enjoy it, so I suggest you do just that. It is one of hundreds of films that take the war as their starting point or setting – but it’s one that still stands alone.
Gabriel Yared’s music makes a major contribution to the film’s sense of scale; it is treading lithely but firmly on matters of great emotional importance, and Yared’s music supports the substance of our emotional response, without taking away from the film’s lighter touches. Like most creative work of lasting value, Bon Voyage satisfies in the artistic sense, but is also easily accessible.
Email this article
BON VOYAGE (M)
CAST: Isabelle Adjani, Gérard Depardieu, Virginie Ledoyen, Yvan Attal, Grégori Derangère, Peter Coyote, Jean-Marc Stehle, Edith Scob
PRODUCER: Laurent Pétin, Michèle Pétin
DIRECTOR: Jean-Paul Rappeneau
SCRIPT: Patrick Modiano (adaptation by Gilles Marchand, Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Julien Rappeneau, Jérôme Tonnerre)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Arbogast
EDITOR: Maryline Monthieux
MUSIC: Gabriel Yared
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jacques Rouxel
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 3, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: November 17, 2004