Occupied France the subject of a deft, breezy comedy? Believe it. Bon Voyage gathers a collection of romantics, fools, and survivors, and puts them together in Bordeaux in 1940. Loosely arranged around the ditzy figure of ... more »a famous grand-dame actress (Isabelle Adjani), these hapless creatures trip over each other very amusingly during the course of a couple of frantic days. The central character is actually a young writer (the winning Gregori Derangere), who's torn between panting after the actress or aiding the pretty daughter (Virginie Ledoyen, 8 Women) of an important scientist trying to escape to England. It would be hard to say that any of this amounts to anything substantial, but director Jean-Paul Rappeneau whips it together very attractively, and the Bordeaux location offers luscious views of a pre-war city. Rappeneau's delightful 1966 comedy La Vie de Chateau, set in Normandy just before D-Day, treads some of the same turf. --Robert Horton« less
Intrigue, Chase, Farce as Only the French Can Do It
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"BON VOYAGE is the brainchild of director Jean-Paul Rappeneau and seems to be a bit of satire on the mega movies of Hollywood, only with a French perspective. The story revolves around a murder in the home of a French movie star diva Viviane (Isabelle Adjani, who just does NOT seem to age!) immediately after the premiere of her latest film. A woman of many trysts and affairs she "acts" her way through obtaining the help of past lovers (from the Minister of the Interior - Gerard Depardieu), an espionage agent Alex (Peter Coyote), and a writer Frederic (the elegant and very fine Gregori Derangere) who responds to the murder and eventually takes the blame and the prison sentence for Viviane. The year shifts to 1940, the Germans are approaching Paris, and the Parisians flee for Bordeaux. In this shuffle one Professor (Jean-Marc Stehle) and his devoted assistant Camille (Virgine Ledoyen) are trying to escape to England with the world's only supply of Heavy Water (a potential ingredient in creating atomic warfare), eluding the Germans who want to confiscate it. Frederic escapes prison, reunites with his lovable sidekick Raoul (Yvan Attal) and the chase ensues! Will Viviane escape Paris safely and which of her manipulated lovers will accompany her? Will the Heavy Water find its way to England? Will Paris/France fall to the Germans or retain its dignity, awaiting the Allied Forces? All of these strings of the great web of intrigue intertwine in the most unexpected ways and it is this interplay that provides the pleasures of this very Hollywood-style broad comedy/epic/action/intrigue movie. The acting is as superb as one would expect from this troop of some of France's cream of the crop actors. A terrific entertainment movie - that happens to have class!"
Achingly accurate script, riveting performances. . . 5 stars
Infinite Catalyst | Monument, CO | 03/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is set in the weeks just before Germany's invasion of France. Pandemonium was (as accurately portrayed in the film) not extreme, yet tension and fear suffused the environment that opened before the French citizen. I found every character in this film far from cliché, and at the same time, very close in personality and behavior to someone that I immediately knew, or had know. Because of this, the film and its characters were intensely engaging.
There's been some grumbling about the historical accuracy and atmosphere of the film...FYI to the naysayers: Most Historians agree; the occupation of France was the least traumatic German occupation of the Allied Countries in WWII. Why? Because the French military already knew that the Maginot line -- due to its early 30's technology and feeble armaments of an actual defense -- would fall in a matter of days against the German Blitzkrieg. So what did the inhabitants of the Country do? The majority fled to other provinces or stayed as contently occupied citizens, posing no threat to the Germans, except for the resistance -- an 'organized' group of French eccentrics who sought to prevent the destruction of valued paintings and works of art.
With that out of the way, I found the atmosphere of the film as pleasing as a lounge or cafe with phenomenal food and live music at a pleasing decibel, to accompany the experience of visitation. Allow me to explain. The lighting of the film was neither dark, or overtly decadent, and the cinematography was extremely natural, and very far from stylized. As far as performances go, wow. In theatre terms, the only overacting in the film was done by Isabelle Adjani, who plays the female sub-protagonist: a flighty, vane, playgirl who through a small teaspoon of intentional satire was conveyed brilliantly. Gerard Depardieu plays a masterfully subtle Prime Minister of France, and as usual, allowed the strength of his acting to carry him, not exaggerated facials ticks or attention-drawing line delivery. The young writer and protagonist grew on me as a character, and even the actor who played him seemed to loosen up after the first ten minutes of the film and really slip quietly into his role.
On a side note, I am confused as to why the professional Amazon reviewer made the quip in post-summarization of the films plot elements: "it would be hard to say that any of this amounts to anything substantial," when near the apex of the film, the protagonist has to aid an important scientist in 'smuggling' heavy water, (D20, an aqueous substance with the specific viscosity to control the collision of a neutron with an atomic nucleus) out of the country while receiving trouble from German conspirators in France. Hmm... Someone might not have watched the entire film... It seems ironic, that nothing was more substantial in the 1930's than Heavy Water, literally from a chemistry perspective, or metaphorically from a worldview, since the race to an atomic reaction was a center piece of the war.
For me, because of the reality of the personality of the characters and the manifestation of this through the vehicle of phenomenal acting, I really enjoyed the film. It wasn't anywhere near slow, or historically inaccurate. I laughed at many points during the movie and was happily rattled by the physiognomy and intrigue -- the vibrant hue of the people that colored the mosaic chips of this cinematic achievement.
Plenty of jeopardy, plenty of raucous and subtle hilarity, a cornucopia of riveting performances, and all without sacrificing historical accuracy. What else could you want in a film?
"Bon Voyage" Is A Good Ride
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 05/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw Jean-Paul Rappeneau's "Bon Voyage" a while ago, but for some reason amazon didn't have it, so I wasn't able to write a review. Now that they finally do have it, it's been so long since I've seen it, I'm having trouble recalling it. Here's what I remember. Jean-Paul Rappeneau's "Bon Voyage" is a mix between a WW2 drama\romance\comedy and the amazing thing is, it pulls it off. "This was one of the most pleasureable experiences I had at the movies this year. And the audience I saw this with found the experience just as enjoyable. Isabelle Adjani (she needs to act in more movies and I'm guessing it's just a matter of time before she gets a call to appear in an American film) plays Viviane Denvers a famous actress who has the ability to seduce men no matter what the circumstances. After the premire of one of her films a terrible incident occurs, I don't think I should reveal it. And Denvers finds herself in a lot of trouble but someone else takes the fall for her. Sadly this is where my memory starts to fade because I can't remember the character or the actor's name!!! Soon "the guy", Viviane, and the man she's been seeing Jean-Etienne Beaufort (Gerard Depardieu), a man who knows people in high places and offers Viviane some security all find themselves staying at the same hotel. This is the comedic aspect of the film. Next we have a story concerning the fate of France hanging in the balance as a professor has some valuable chemical that needs to get out of the country before it falls into the hands of the Nazis. This is the action part of the film. Now, wait a minute, don't get bored, there's more. We have a romance blooming, or so we think, between "the guy" and Viviane. And we are wondering does she really love him or is she using him again? All of these sub-plots in less capable hands could have turned into a diaster. There would simply be too much going on and certain aspects would not be given enough time to explore their ideas but Rappeneau handles the material like a pro. And he is a pro. Director of the 1996 film "The Horseman on the Roof" and writer of such films as Louis Malle's "Zazie dans le Metro" and "That Man from Rio", Rappeneau makes sure nothing gets left out, and leave us wanting more. "Bon Voyage" is also one of the best looking films I've seen so far. It has terrific cinematography from Thierry Arbogast and stunning production and costume designs from Jacques Rouxel and Thierry Delettre and Catherine Leterrier. If your in the mood for a French WW2 comedy\drama, that doesn't take itself too serious, this is your best bet. So far one of the year's best films. Bottom-line: Director Jean-Paul Rappeneau almost effortlessly is able to create a film world of humor, action and romance in such a way where everything combines perfectly. Has lots of eye candy and some very entertaining performaces especially from Isabeelle Adjani. Well worth seeing. One of the year's best."
S. E. Fanning | Nashville, TN | 02/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What more could you ask in a movie? Romance, murder, laughter, deceit, wartime? Oh, right, that's called "Casablanca."
A truly marvelous movie with outstanding production values. Not a franc (or Euro) was spared and it shows.
Isabelle Adjani was 48 when the movie was filmed and plays a character aged all of 25. She looks it, darn her!
Gerard Depardieu make a graceful exit from his movie career and looks magnificent.
"Bon Voyage" is exciting, tense, funny, and bittersweet. Bravo to all!!"
Screwball romance worried by the rumble of approaching Nazis
Clare Quilty | a little pad in hawaii | 06/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"An early, typical scene in "Bon Voyage" takes place in a Parisian jail in June, 1940. A public defender has been called up for military service but tells his client it's no biggie, he'll be back on the case in three weeks. "Not even Hitler wants war," the lawyer says. "He'll make peace. You'll see." Ahh, nothing like the sound of famous last words, which happens to be one of this movie's many specialties. But at least the onset of World War II helps the client, Frederic (Gregori Derangere), escape from prison. Fred's a hapless but occasionally dashing writer who's been falsely accused of murder, thanks to his ex, the silky, crystal-eyed gold-digger Viviane (Isabelle Adjani). Viviane hitchhikes from one sugar daddy to the next and has fled to Bordeaux with a cabinet minister (Gerard Depardieu), and with Frederic not far behind. Once they reach the city, which is in chaos, they become entangled in a plot involving a rickety physicist, his endlessly resourceful assistant, an amiable ex-con, a shady reporter and several bottles of heavy water that absolutely, positively must not fall into the hands of the Germans. Despite an obvious debt to "The Third Man," "Casablanca" and Tintin comics, "Bon Voyage" is actually more like a vintage screwball comedy that grows increasingly worried by the rumble of approaching Nazis. At times, the movie has maybe a few too many spies, politicians and scientists running in and out of the plot, but that's also part of its charm, especially when the heroes rise above their own concerns and work toward a greater good. The movie was directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, whose previous film was 1995's fantastic "The Horseman on the Roof." That, too, was a love story set against the sprawling backdrop of war, with characters leaping from one tense situation right into another. "Bon Voyage" operates in more of a minor key but still offers a nostalgic ode to movies, and wars, that were seen in black and white."