Bonjour Tristesse

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Limited Edition of 3,000 Units

Columbia Pictures/Twilight Time/Otto Preminger/1958/United States

Running Time: 94 minutes

Region Code: Region Free

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Video: 1080p High Definition

Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH

French college student Françoise Sagan’s confessional, incendiary and angst filled tale was the culmination of an attempt to combat boredom and melancholy, impressively constructed over one dull summer, and considering the mature themes explored in the film, and the devious, manipulative schemes concocted by the young, central character, it is incredible to think that the author was only 18-years old when she released her best-selling, debut novel (an instant, overnight sensation) on which the film was based.

Instantly noticing the opportunity for a worldwide success, the film rights were cleverly seized upon by the ever astute Otto Preminger (funded by himself), and a screenplay was soon constructed by the two-time Academy Award nominee (The Turning Point -1977), and two-time Tony Award winner (Hallelujah, Baby! – 1968, La Cage aux Folles – 1984) Arthur Laurents, best known for his work on West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959) and The Way We Were (1973), brilliantly and faithfully adapting Sagan’s original text.

Primarily unfolding around a lavish estate on the idyllic French Riviera, the plot depicts the calculating endeavours of the spoiled, blasé and decadent, 17-year old Cécile (Jean Seberg), who, after flunking out of school, spends her carefree days by the sea, apathetic to the meaningless, romantic affairs of her rich, playboy father Raymond (David Niven). However, when the arrival of the refined and cultured fashion-designer Anne Larsen (Deborah Kerr) (a close friend of Raymond’s late wife and Cécile’s mother) threatens to disrupt her untroubled, debonair lifestyle, Cécile cleverly begins to manipulate her father’s new romantic affections in an attempt to break up the newly established relationship and retain her casual and undisciplined values. The story unfolds in flashbacks, featuring a narrated voice-over by Cécile/Seberg, with the intertwining, present day, black and white ‘bookend’ scenes effectively contrasting the vibrant, colourful yellows and golds of the Côte d’Azur and the bright blues of the Mediterranean, as presented in the striking and beautifully captured flashbacks.

At age 20, and in only her second feature film appearance after her eponymous role in the disastrous, and unfair failure that was Preminger’s ‘Saint Joan’ (1957), Jean Seberg, now best known for her role as Patricia in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960, new wave masterpiece ‘À bout de souffle’ (Breathless), delivers a very strong, effectively devious and beautifully accomplished performance in what is a highly complex and challenging role, displaying excellent levels of maturity and understanding. The only real quibble is in regards to her slightly awkward, artificial delivery, which sometimes comes across as just too affected and contrasts the tone of her character, but overall it is a very impressive performance, and, onscreen for almost the entire duration of the film, she does an excellent job to hold her own against the ever outstanding David Niven and Deborah Kerr. If Seberg displays a lack of experience then it is more than accounted for in the tremendous pairing of Niven, who would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role the following year for ‘Separate Tables’ (1958) and the six-time Academy Award nominated Kerr (how did she never win?), both giving expected, top quality and wonderfully executed performances in what again prove very complex roles to effectively pull off.

Preminger, who had already received an Academy Award nomination for his film-noir masterpiece ‘Laura’ (1944), and would two years later would go on to deliver arguably his magnum opus, the outstanding ‘Anatomy of a Murder’, once again affords the film his masterful director’s touch, elevating the film to a higher quality level and truly helped by his decision to shoot the majority of the film on location. The film has been criticised over the years for the pretentious, extravagant style utilised in the piece, and I must say I find this a slightly puzzling criticism to make, as that is ultimately the essence of the piece and retains a faithful authenticity to the original novel. Though the film is never going to please all viewers, it is nevertheless a visually sumptuous and intelligently crafted piece of cinema, featuring astonishing location cinematography and artistic set design, and fully delivers what it sets out to achieve.

After suffering a difficult time with their previous, ‘Halloween’ release of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1990) (see review) (due to, in my opinion, very unfair criticism over the new look transfer of the film), Twilight Time are straight back on top form, here delivering a truly outstanding blu-ray presentation of Preminger’s sumptuous film, thanks to a stunning High Definition master, courtesy of Columbia Pictures. The 1080p transfer, presented with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, delivers a crisp, clear and excellently rendered visual presentation, offering strong, sharp levels of clarity and definition; excellent levels of contrast, with the deep, rich blacks and crisp whites of the black and white scenes wonderfully contrasting the bold colour scenes and a vibrant and beautifully saturated colour palette, really allowing the vivid tones and colours to pop and fully capturing the stunning cinematography of Academy Award winner, and regular Preminger collaborator, Georges Périnal (The Thief of Bagdad – 1940). There are very minimal, if any, signs of age or damage to be found, with no clear signs of any digital manipulation or enhancement, maintaing a brilliantly authentic quality to the film and delivering an excellent level of natural grain and texture.

The lossless English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is similarly as impressive as the visuals, thankfully offering strong, clear and natural sounding dialogue for what proves a very ‘text-heavy’ film. The only point to note is that Seberg’s narration does appear differently rendered to the other dialogue, with the reverb levels maybe tweaked slightly too high, but overall the audio presentation is very pleasing and Georges Auric’s stirring, blues score is beautifully delivered, though it appears much stronger on the isolated score track.

Special Features:

Isolated Score Track – A dialogue free, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track featuring the film’s score by Georges Auric.

Domestic Trailer – Featuring an interview with Françoise Sagan, the author of the original novel.

Booklet – A 6-page booklet featuring beautiful production stills and a brilliant and insightful essay by Julie Kirgo.

Overall:

Preminger’s gorgeous and arguably underrated film proves a highly rewarding and intelligently crafted piece of cinema, featuring some truly captivating vistas of the beautiful French Riviera, and has never appeared as strong as in this stunning blu-ray release from Twilight Time. As with all Twilight Time releases, there are only 3,000 copies available, so I would highly recommend snapping up this title as soon as possible to avoid disappointment!!!

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