Bon Voyage (9/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

Vivien Denvers (Isabel Adjani) is a pampered, self-centered, acclaimed actress in Paris, circa 1940, who can wrap any man she meets around her little finger, and does. Raoul (Yvan Attal) is a writer who’s been carrying the torch for Vivien all his life. When she calls him for help he finds a dead minister in her flat and she inveigles him to help her get rid of the body, which lands him in jail. But the Germans are coming and Vivien then turns to Minister Jean-Étienne Beaufort (Gérard Depardieu) for protection and forgets about Raoul. Raoul escapes with the help of his friend, Frédéric (Grégori Derangère). They hop a train to Bordeaux, to which the government is fleeing, where they meet the lovely Camille (Virginie Ledoyen) and the Professor (Jean-Marc Stehlé) with whom she’s traveling. Camille and the Professor have the McGuffin (here it’s heavy water to produce an atomic bomb) they want to get out of France to England, but Raoul is running away from the police while chasing Vivien and writing his novel. Oh, and Nazi Alex Winkler (Peter Coyote) who’s got the hots for Vivien, too, is lurking around the fringes. And that’s just the start of the movie!

This is a nonstop, peripatetic, neo Hitchcockian farce imaginatively directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, immeasurably aided by wonderful music by Gabriel Yared. In a film like this the music can make or break it, and here Yared’s music continues to remind you that this is a light-hearted thriller, and makes this a terrific romp.

Not only does it capture the chaos of a government in ruin, it makes a comment on the French capitulation to the Germans, the resulting Vichy government, and how most of them were willing to do anything possible to survive. It validates the premise that there were far more French collaborators than French resistors.

This 114-minute film has a fast pace from start to finish, a thoroughly enjoyable entertainment. In French with subtitles.

April 10, 2004

The End