French film

After extolling the virtues of French cinema a few days ago (see earlier) I had the pleasure of watching Bon Voyage the other night, the new film from Jean Paul Rappenau. He only makes a movie every few years because he takes so long to pick and set up what he really wants to work on, so it’s always an event for cineastes. Rappenau, of course, directed my favourite film and best movie of all time, Cyrano de Bergerac back in 1990 as well as The Horseman on the Roof with my beloved Juliette Binoche.

He again uses the magnificent Gerard Depardieu as a cabinet minister taking up on an affair with the incandescent beauty of Isabelle Adjani (well into her forties and still one of the most stunning women on the planet – can’t believe her perfume house dropped her for a younger woman. Good complexion always wins out regardless of age). Adjani plays a femme fatale movie star who manipulates the men around her but finds events moving too fast as France lurches into war and finds itself over-run rapidly by Hitler’s forces in a matter of weeks.

Rappenau re-creates a glowing nostalgiac vision of the 40s, without being syrupy, beautifully photographed with, as always, great attention to detail and mise-en-scene. A secondary plot has the lovely (where do the French find these actresses???) Virginie Ledoyen (best know to English-speakers as the girl from The Beach) as a gamine, nerdy student assitant trying to help her professor to escape to Britain with his heavy water experiments while the fleeing French government, including Depardieu’s minister, flail around in panic and ghastly German agents move amongst them… Utterly wonderful and the sort of film that everyone will love and come out feeling great after. In Hollywood hands it would have been syrupy, but Rappenau is a master and working with the best.