Bonjour Tristesse

Otto Preminger

T. it.: Buongiorno tristezza!. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Françoise Sagan. Scen.: Arthur Laurents. F: Georges Périnal. Mo.: Helga Cranston. Scgf.: Raymond Simm. Su.: David Hildyard, Red Law. Mu.: Georges Auric. Int.: Deborah Kerr (Anne Larson), David Niven (Raymond), Jean Seberg (Cecile), Mylène Demongeot (Elsa), Geoffrey Home (Philippe), Juliette Gréco (se stessa), Walter Chiari (Pablo), Martita Hunt (la madre di Philippe), Roland Culver (Mr Lombard), Jean Kent (Mrs Helen Lombard), David Oxley (Jacques), Elga Andersen (Denise), Jeremy Burnham (Hubert). Prod: Wheel Productions. Pri. pro.: 7 marzo 1958 DCP. D.: 94’. Bn e Col. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Paris is a melancholic cloud, a drive in a convertible along the Luxembourg Gardens towards a gray dawn (good morning, heartache), a slightly rumpled tuxedo on a mature bon vivant, a New Look, raven-colored dress that evokes memories of Sabrina and Givenchy. And then a sparkling blue sea begins to creep into the frame, from the top right side, and now we know that Paris is not pictured in black and white just for that old photogenic allure (made legendary by photographers from Atget to Cartier-Bresson, and directors from Lumière to Godard: no city has ever been as corrupted by colour as Paris), but because the lives of these two "dissolute Parisians", this tender and jovial Oedipus played out every evening by a fatuous, lovable man and his 18 year-old daughter, are weighed down by what happened l'année dernière, on the Riviera. What happened could be called the loss of innocence, and for Preminger, innocence has a colour, a tone colour - and that tone colour is blue. "A tone colour isn't exactly the same as what others call a pure color, despite having so many of the same characteristics: not yielding to other colors in the picture, to affirm itself as an entity unto itself with its own laws, independent of any other tonal influence [...]. This color, which we can observe in Matisse, in Miró, in Léger, in Kandinsky, has a precise will to ring out in an authoritarian, egocentric manner, considering its own essence as something of innate value, for its particular chromatic nature" (Gillo Dorfles, 1952). The colour appears right away in the opening credits by the great abstract artist Saul Bass, a blue tear on a pictorial face, and then flashes again in the blue of the sea, in the bright hue of the sky, in the carelessly tied shirts of faded denim, in a bathing suit, in a terrycloth hood, in the cerulean eyes of a nymphet who refuses to leave her Eden - and the consequences will be tragic. Preminger, a connoisseur and collectioner of contemporary art, directed his polychrome film bleu with astounding competence and touching results, playing with counterpoint ('tone color', of course, being a term used to describe music as well): red ribbons on straw hats, sunburned skin, the balmy green of pine trees. And sudden, pure backgrounds, a fauve-like density that moves towards the abstract, against which that face and neck are outlined - fragile and modern as they are. Nobody knew how to capture the charm of Jean Seberg, bright falling star, like Otto Preminger, not even the venerated maestro of the nouvelle vague. He had discovered her the year before, and she appeared as Joan of Arc (by G.B. Shaw) in his most unfortunate film; he had already subjected her to the sweet torture of close-ups. And some of that torture returns in the final image of Bonjour Tristesse, Jean/Joan/Cécile, child with a face dirtied not of mud but with cold cream, that same face finally streaked with tears.
Bonjour Tristesse is a masterpiece that brings some flaws, something has maybe got old, something comes tenderly close to parody, beginning with Juliette Gréco - yet so moving. But these are mere trifles. The dramaturgical skill in moving between the past and the present, a specialty of the competent Arthur Laurents (The Way We Were) - movements that, oh well!, weren't appreciated by the author of the 1954 short and brilliant bestseller, Françoise Sagan -, the mastery of Cinemascope, the chromatic glory make this a work of art in the most delicate and technical of sense of the term, all elements that should obviously concern restoration very closely.
(Paola Cristalli) 

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Restored in 2K by Sony Columbia in 2012