A Short Appreciation of Jean Seberg.

BONJOUR TRITESSE was directed by Otto Preminger from the novel by Françoise Sagan. In 1957, the year of its release, this film was rated as mediocre, boring, and disappointing, at least in the United States. A failure.

Adapted from the book of the same name, which had been a succès de scandale the previous summer, the story takes place in Paris and in the south of France, on the Mediterranean coast. The Parisian scenes, filmed in black and white, serve as a framing device, opening and closing the film while the central part is filmed in sparkling colors, a masterpiece of the director of photography Georges Périnal.

The central character in the film is a teenage girl, Cécile (played by  Seberg), who loves her father (David Niven), perhaps, a little too much. During a long and hot summer, her father has fun with a succession of mistresses. These beautiful women never have any problem with Cécile who talks and laughs at their expense with her father. However, when Anne (Deborah Kerr), an old friend of her mother arrives, Cécile realizes that the relationship between her and her father is different: Anne and her father have fallen in love. Devastated, Cécile decides to end their relationship by any means possible.

The following summer, Céline and her father return to Paris, preparing for their usual vacation in the south of France. This time, something doesn’t seem right.

Unlike their American counterparts, the French critics, among whom the brightest stars of the New Wave, in particular Truffaut and Goddard, were full of praise for the film, singling out Seberg with her haunting eyes and iconic boyish haircut. Two Parisian sequences in black and white still remain in the annals. The incipit opens with a dance by Seberg. The vision of an independent, sensually elegant and furiously modern woman imposes itself on us. Detached from her partner, she looks at us with her deep gaze, breaking the fourth wall, as her narration begins. And her voice reaches us. Implacable. The final scene is dramatically opposed. The natural woman uncovers her face, removing the mask that society imposes. A heartbreaking scene of truth. We feel like we are imposing on something, embarrassed to be there.

BONJOUR TRISTESSE” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

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