> Volume 6 > Number 21


Jean-Paul Rappeneau

Isabelle Adjani
Gérard Depardieu
Virginie Ledoyen
Yvan Attal
Grégori Derangère
Peter Coyote
Jean-Marc Stehlé

Release: 19 Mar. 04

Bon Voyage


Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s stuffy melodrama Bon Voyage may share a title with a 1960s Disney movie, but don’t worry, no film is more retrogressively maddening than this French film. As if intent on slapping Jean-Luc Godard and his Cahiers du Cinema cohorts, this film not only takes the supposedly carefree setting of the 1940s French film industry, but also embodies the very Tradition of Quality that André Bazin’s publication tried to disinherit from the French cinematic mindset (it’s so far off-base, that one is tempted to connecting to the even more disingenuous White Telephone films of pre-war Italy).

And while I recognize that Rappaneau is waxing poetically in the styles of the time, I also wonder what pleasure I can get out of a film based on a film technique that wasn’t particularly engaging in the first place. Melodramatic to the core, these overbearing productions formidables had less to say about life than a Joey Lawrence autobiography, and often had acting of the “Whoa” caliber, too. Painfully realized by Rappeneau, the effect is a quizzical hodgepodge of fine actors (from Isabelle Adjani to Virginie Ledoyen to Gérard Depardieu) who can barely make their way through the costumes and sets. What this film needs is someone who can truly chew the scenery (Brian Cox? Marlon Brando? Al Pacino?) to make way for any effective storytelling here.

And irony isn’t the intentions Rappaneau had when making this, at least as far as I can see. This isn’t Far from Heaven, another film built on a bygone aesthetic, because it lacks the self-control to criticize the demon without becoming it. I have little tolerance for even the canonized Douglas Sirk (I can only take La Habanera in small doses), whose positioning within the American Tradition of Quality was never near as thoughtful or intense as, say, Samuel Fuller.

Rappaneau’s film exists somewhere in the spectrum under Sirk, knowing what its doing but not fully realizing its potential as a commentary. Collect all the finest technicians in France without taking a moment to look for writers, and this is what you’ll get. Something tells me, all they needed to do to save this film was send a draft over to Postif or the redesigned Cahiers du Cinema

©2004, David Perry,, 21 May 2004