Flightier and more accessible than Bertrand Tavernier’s uncannily familiar WWII dramedy Safe Conduct, Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Bon Voyage is also less dependable. Before the Germans invade France, would-be writer Frédéric (Grégori Derangère) helps diva actress Viviane Denverts (an ageless Isabelle Adjani, 48 going on 28) do away with the body of one of her lovers. The Nazis arrive just in time to perpetuate a prison break, and soon Frédéric is rubbing shoulders with politicians, flames, spies and romantic foils in Bordeaux. Over the course of two hours, Rappeneau’s constantly moving camera observes his characters as they shift alliances and avoid capture. The major plot thread follows Frédéric’s attempts to help a professor and a student, Camille (Virginie Ledoyen), smuggle Heavy Water out of the country, all the while trying to clear his name. Despite her supposed love of mirrors, Viviane seems uncomfortable watching herself on film. In Bordeaux, Rappeneau positions her relationship to Frédéric and a French politician, Beaufort (Gérard Depardieu), as theater for the displaced, upper-class masses. The story is playfully overplotted, and though the characters lack depth, Rappeneau’s happily contends himself cataloging the non-stop intrigue. At its best, this exercise in fly-on-the-wallism brings to mind Altman’s Ready to Wear, only far less shrill. Pity, then, that the farcical tone of the film is so inconsistent—Adjani and composer Gabriel Yared hit the right Sirkian notes, and despite some last-ditch self-reflexivity, Rappeneau never allows his camera to completely unhinge. The filmmakers will tell you otherwise, but there’s never a sense here that these characters are living out the movie Viviane can no longer make. Bon Voyage is cute but it’s no Underground.
- Sony Pictures Classics
- 114 min
- Jean-Paul Rappeneau
- Patrick Modiano, Jean-Paul Rappeneau
- Isabelle Adjani, Gérard Depardieu, Virginie Ledoyen, Yvan Attal, Grégori Derangere, Peter Coyote, Jean-Marc Stehlé, Aurore Clément
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