Bon Voyage

Movie Review by Anita Kasonkomona

Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Gerard Depardieu, Virginie Ledoyen, Yvan Attal
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau

“Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will – whatever we may think.
– Lawrence Durell.

BON VOYAGE, is a story about a young man, Frederic (Gregori Derangere), who sacrifices his freedom when he goes to jail for a murder he did not commit. The voyage of the film is his journey to locate the charmingly seductive actress Viviane (Isabella Adjani).

The film is set in the late 1930’s at the very start of World War II. Although not a biography, it is based on the life of director Jean-Paul Rappeneau who depicts what it was like having to grow up amongst characters like the ones shown in the film. The character of Frederic is typical as Jean-Paul Rappeneau says: “To tell the truth, in Frederic, as incarnated by Gregori, I’ve found a genuine double. I see in him a bit of the young man I once was. I recognise that silhouette; it is very familiar to me.”

Towards the climax of the film, the director introduces a new element; the Hotel Splendide in Bordeaux, France, where cabinet ministers, journalists, physicists and spies of all persuasions gather in order to escape the Nazi occupation of Paris. It is also where society socialites become involved with jailbirds and murderous scheming, scientific secrets and love affairs flourish.

In the midst of all this chaos, the young Frederic must choose between the manipulative Viviane and the impassioned physics student Camille (Virginie Ledoyen).

The director unfolds the plot gradually, revealing and bringing together at the climax what appears to be a thousand and one sub plots. Frederic finds himself trapped in fighting two battles; winning back the love of his life Viviane and running away from what she’s created for him, being a fugitive.

The film also has moments of hilarity, especially when we meet the suave Jean-Etienne Beaufort (Gerard Depardieu), Viviane’s love interest. His character is somewhat comical. He employs outrageously dated chat up lines, which are so awful that they work, lightening a film that is otherwise set in a serious historical time period.

The film, I feel, is a little too long, but in order to arrive at a complete sense of what happens to each character, the film probably has to be that long. Normally, I don’t particularly enjoy foreign films, but this one is definitely an exception in its quality and precision in recreating that time period.

4 out of 6 stars