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At the start of World War II, the fate of the free world hangs in the balance at the posh Hotel Splendide in Bordeaux. Cabinet members, journalists, physicists, and spies of all persuasions gather in order to escape the Nazi occupation of Paris. High society socialites hobnob with jailbirds. Murderous intrigues, scientific secrets and love affairs flourish. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
It is earnestly delightful in spite of the serious subject of wartime woes.
It's wartime drama - WWII, with French and Jews and Germans, but this one is somehow fun, earnestly so. Director Jean-Paul Rappeneau co-wrote the script to his well-received film "Bon Voyage" (2003). Unlike director Bertrand Tavernier's "Safe Conduct" aka "Laissez-passer" (2002), w-d Rolf Schubel's "Gloomy Sunday" (1999), or w-d Claude Berri's "Lucie Aubrac" (1997), "Bon Voyage" is as chipper as its title sounds - c'est la vie (whatever) - and we have the beautiful talented Isabelle Adjani to thank for. It is her delightful performance throughout as the center of attraction (and attention), the cause and effect of it all, that made the film so enjoyable as it is. Hell, what's another derailment of her plan and expectations - will worry about that another time. The backbone of the story does revolve around a pair of young enthusiasts: Grégori Derangère as Frédéric and Virginie Ledoyen (from Francois Ozon's "8 Women") as Camille. The incomparable Gérard Depardieu, the witty Yvan Attal (of "My Wife is An Actress") and versatile Peter Coyote (juggling French, English and German here) are some of the stellar cast involved.
There are many characters coming and going in this plot of a movie, and how it's all juggled is a skilful knack that requires no analysis - Rappeneau is simply a genius. The story just builds upon itself, one episode after another, or even with overlapping events, but never confusing - that's the delight of it all, somehow every detail turns out right on the screen and we just lap it all up like a tastily presented French dessert, literally so. There's thrills, trills, tender hesitant moments and taut ominous escapes, all playing out in front of our eyes.
From reading the Director's Note on the Sony Pictures Classics' Bon Voyage official site, Rappeneau indicated this is his most personal and successful work ever. Depicting Bordeaux 1940 from memories of his childhood years is very much close to his heart and he "had worked and reworked the script for almost 3 years." This film is a labor of love all round, the cast and crew complementing the director's passion and a formidable script by collaborative writers along with the director and his son Julien - adaptation efforts by Gilles Marchand, Patrick Modiano, and Jérôme Tonnerre.
Music by Gabriel Yared (varied in tone from his previous film scores like "The English Patient" or "Talented Mr. Ripley"), who provided a befitting theme that kept the pace and rhythm of the plot going - almost like a train going non-stop, reflecting Adjani's Viviane's vivacious energy (even when she's tired), keeping her going as she meets whatever comes, walking on with head held high and stylish attire always, no looking back, let alone time for regrets.
Ah, mustn't forget the wonderfully translated, skilful subtitles by Ian Burley, who also did subtitles for films in Italian: "Bread and Tulips" (2000) aka Pane e tulipani, "The Last Kiss" (2001) aka L'ultimo bacio, and Tom Tykwer's "Heaven" (2002).
If you find this much too light a wartime relationship drama, try w-d Mäx Fäberböck's "Aimée and Jaguar" (1999, in German, based on a true story) with brilliant performances from Juliane Köhler as Aimée and Maria Schrader as Jaguar.
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