Elias Savada, 7 May 2004
Some viewers of Jean-Paul
Rappeneau's latest film, the $30-million Bon Voyage, have
likened it to feature-length episode of F Troop, that
mid-1960s post-Civil War military farce that extended the bumblings
and profiteering schemes that situation comedy writers two decades
ago envisioned of the still pioneering days in the American Midwest.
It's an unfair comparison.
First off, it's
the wrong war: Bon Voyage starts in the confusing months
leading up to France's entry into World War II. Second, there are no
cowboys and Indians. There's also only one American.
dissimilarities aside, I'll agree there are amusing bumblings, a
handful of military types, and even some profiteering afoot. There's
also comedy, drama, mystery, fun, intrigue, and fate-filled chaos
rolled up in a slam-bang story, flavored with Rappeneau's own
childhood recollections of his country's defeat by the Germans.
output as a director is a mere seven features since 1966, apparently
likes to take his time between projects. Without a doubt, his most
appealing film was 1990's Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Gerard
Depardieu. Among that hulking Gallic sex symbol's nearly 150 roles,
his only Oscar nomination was for Rappeneau's version of the
oft-filmed Edmond Rostand classic about a man with a famously
elongated nose. Obviously indebted to the director, Depardieu is
back starring in Bon Voyage, after having a bit part in
1995's Le Hussard sur le toit (US: The Horseman on the
Roof), Rappeneau's stylish 19th century romantic tale set
against the European cholera outbreak. Depardieu, like the rest of
the cast, merrily engages in respective stereotype within the realm
of sophisticated farce. Love-struck minister Jean-Etienne Beaufort
(Depardieu), opportunistic movie star Vivianne Denvert (Isabelle
Adjani, looking terrific behind those false eyelashes as she closes
in on the half-century mark), idealistic scientist's assistant
Camille (Virginia Ledoyen), rascally hoodlum Raoul (Yvan Attal),
struggling writer and sad puppy sap-to-a-crying damsel Frédéric
Auger (Grégori Derangère, Rappeneau's alter ego with a passing
resemblance to ER's Noah Wylie), and determined,
back-stabbing journalist Alex Winckler (Peter Coyote).
The charm of
Bon Voyage is in its dapper dialogue, sparkling wit, marvelous,
historically-sensitive production design (Catherine Leterrier) and
fluid camera work (veteran Thierry Arbogast), and delicious,
well-orchestrated movement that teems throughout the feature. There
are a handful of widescreen exteriors that evoke the desertion of
Paris and the overwhelmed masses in Southern France as the German
invasion commences; they're breathtaking on their own merits, but
help to frame the Bon Voyage's frantic pacing. Early in the
film, the young Frédéric, called to the aid of the gossip-repellant
movie star (who prefers Jeanne Lanvin's Scandale perfume to
the real thing), finds himself caught in a rainstorm in someone
else's car with a broken windshield wiper. Circumstances preclude
him from contacting the authorities about the dead body in the car's
trunk, yet fate causes him to swerve, hit a police call box, the
have the boot lid pop open. Quite amusing.
Oblivious to the
headlines that scream of the impending war, Vivianne goes about with
her self-serving agenda, leaving Frédéric in jail (writing his
novel), and eventually heading south to the relatively safe haven of
Bordeaux. There, the entire cast comically stagger over each other
in the escalating tales of murderer-set-free (and the vengeful dead
man's nephew who pushes this chapter to a wild melee in the posh
Hotel Splendide dining room), German spies chasing after a secret
chemical weapon (wherein newsman Winckler shows his true stripes),
upper class "humilation" (i.e., more vindictive lies and generally
harmless evasions by the faux-faced Vivianne), and
love-among-the-ruins (in which Camille removes her glasses and shows
what an intelligent, stunning young woman she is) that populate the
second half of the film.
well-orchestrated climax finds the German espionage network hot on
the trail of Camille, her mentor, Professor Kopolski (Jean-Marc
Stehlé), and their precious cargo attempting to flee to safety in
England, but forced through capitulating French authorities to
bypass more than one political roadblocks. Nothing a head-butt and
friendly chit-chat can't help overcome. Within such an abundance of
intertwined drama, Rappeneau has tossed in an ample dose of comedy.
"Many comedies collide—the comedy of power, the comedy of personal
interests, the comedy of love," Rappeneau offers in the film's press
is a film drenched in rich character and drunk with the buffoonery
of life amid chaos and circumstance. It's a rousing Gallic gem.
here to review the interview.
PG-13 - Parents
Some material may be
children under 13.