Bonjour Tristesse (1958) Poster

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Iconic Film of the 1950s
robert-temple-110 March 2009
The wonderfully fresh and vivacious Jean Seberg here shines in her second film. The previous year she had played Joan of Arc (chosen from 18,000 young girls who auditioned for the role), and here Otto Preminger directs his protégé again to superb effect. The film opens with very dramatic music by Georges Auric. This film is based upon the best-selling first novel by the young Francoise Sagan, which created a scandal then but now is not scandalous at all. What passed for 'decadence' at the time was a life of aimless idling by the rich on the Riviera, some gambling, some boating, some swimming, some affairs, and a great deal of insipid self-indulgence. This we see epitomised in Seberg's father, played to perfection by David Niven, a shallow idler and womanizer who straightens his bow tie self-consciously between seductions in the bushes. He and Jean have a 'father-and-daughter-thing' because her mother died long ago, and they really don't want anybody else in their lives apart from casual partners with whom they can romp, only to throw them away when used, joking about them to each other as they get ready to have an evening out. As the film opens, Niven's girlfriend of the moment is Elsa, a charmingly empty-headed creature played delightfully by Mylene Demongeot, who shows such talent as a restrained comedienne. Juliette Greco makes a full-throated appearance in a club, singing the film's theme song all the way through as the dancing and whirling Jean stares at her glassy-eyed over men's shoulders, lost in haunted visions of regret. In 1958, the teenage girls of Britain all swooned over and identified with Jean Seberg, who seems to have originated the shorn boyish haircut which Mia Farrow later copied. Niven as the amiable cad was pretty much what one would expect. But into this mix comes Miss Straight, in the form of Deborah Kerr, who says to Niven when he gets flirty: 'I don't want to be casual.' That's for sure. When Niven finally decides he wants to marry her, she becomes a Little Hitler in no time, bossing Jean around, stopping everyone having 'fun', and generally making herself odious with her control-freakery. This leads to a campaign to drive her out by Jean and Elsa, who has been unceremoniously dumped. Meanwhile, Kerr has fallen hard, and in a revealing shot in the harsh sun we even discover that her true complexion was rather gingery and freckly, something concealed in her other films. Tragedy is not long in coming, hence the 'tristesse'. This is a social document of the 1950s which people interested in knowing what things were once like should watch. The film is directed by a master, Preminger, and Jean Seberg 'makes it' entirely. She is so refreshing, natural, young, real. Poor Jean Seberg. By the age of 40 she was dead. But she left much to remember her by: no one who has seen 'Breathless' (1960) can ever forget her. This film too keeps her wonderful memory alive. Her best acting performance was probably in 'Lilith', but she does well enough here, wholly dominating the screen and acting circles round the old pros. Oh yes, and then there's the inside joke about Eveline Eyfel playing three identical sisters who act as the maid, which is an amusing touch. The Mediterranean sparkles in the sunshine, the pine trees along the beach are exuding their aroma, swim suits dry in minutes: come on in, the water's fine!
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Preminger in transition
tentender18 July 2006
A fascinating, frustrating, though ultimately deeply satisfying film. Many readers have commented on the frustrations, and they are hard to deny. My experience of this movie goes back to the early 70s, when I first encountered it in ideal circumstances, at the Museum of Modern Art during its complete Preminger retrospective, and in a gorgeous, perfect print. A great introduction to a film whose very meaning resides in its glossy surface. The first few minutes of the film powerfully set up the tragedy that is to come: Saul Bass's dripping teardrop titles underscored with Auric's deeply tragic music, followed by the first black and white scenes depicting Cecile's current active but deeply disengaged life. Then, as Cecile arrives home and begins remembering "last summer", the blue Mediterranean sea begins to invade the frame, little by little -- a striking effect, to say the least --, we are there, in the midst of a carefree vacation with Cecile, Raymond and Elsa, and quite successfully invited to forget the tragedy that seems to be in the making and enter a carefree, sunlit world where nothing, seemingly, could ever go wrong. Masterful film-making, and, thus far, perfectly pitched: Seberg's perfectly expressionless and beautiful face has no small part in making it work. That she is less secure in the flashback scenes is unfortunate, but her physical presence at least gives the right signs: this is a very young girl, happy but extremely shallow. (Yes, I will admit that the line readings are quite stiff -- no question she is "acting." But, if one is already in the proper frame of mind they are not all that damaging.) What's important is the holiday mood, and the performances of Niven and Mylene Demongeot are sufficiently effervescent to evoke it. (Demongeot is a real charmer -- beautiful beyond belief and full of joie de vivre.) The arrival of Deborah Kerr on the scene changes all this: a dignified Lady coming into the midst of a world she finds immoral, distasteful and, in the deepest sense, unacceptable: her reaction to realizing that Raymond is, shall we say, shacking up with Elsa is the turning point of the film, the crossroads of comedy and tragedy. And from this point we are invited to see how, step by step, comedy turns to tragedy. What's most wonderful about this film is how diverting that progression is. The world of the French Riviera is, after all, a world of carefree bliss (at least on the surface), and we are given ample opportunity to enjoy that along with the characters in the film: a delightful casino scene (enlivened by the presence of that wonderful actor, Walter Chiari, a truly handsome man with a wonderful flair for comedy, and here, playing opposite Demongeot, particularly delightful) and a visually stunning dance at the dock, a masterpiece of costume design in delicious color and Cinemascope, worthy of a Minnelli musical (and, in its delirious scale, surpassing most of them). Finally, let me just say that the final moments of the film (and I will refrain from spoiling them) are among the most moving in all cinema: an evocation of self-loathing and emptiness that remains unrivaled in its beauty. Yes, beauty. Caveat emptor: It is useless to see this film in the pan&scan version (I have had the experience, and it is horrible). The Columbia DVD edition looks great (absolutely NO extras, by the way; it appears to have been simply dumped on the market -- odd treatment of a masterpiece). Oh, yes, my title heading: Preminger's previous films had mostly dealt with "little" events -- noirs, small comedies, etc.; most of his subsequent films ("Exodus," "The Cardinal," "Advise and Consent," "In Harms Way") with Big Events. This one is still on an intimate scale, but has much in common visually (particularly the masterful use of CinemaScope, to which Preminger took like a fish to water) with the later films.
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Jean Seberg weaves her magical charm on the viewer like none other.
ztruk200115 November 2004
Jean Seberg is an absolute joy. I just wanna give her a big fat hug and kiss... well that's just two things anyway. What makes Otto Preminger's film so wonderful is that Seberg is the right age to play the part of a spoiled rich girl coming of age. Also the film is given an authenticity and heart because it was written by Françoise Sagan when she was the same age as Cecile (Seberg). That's right, this amazing and brilliant work was penned by a 17-year old.

The plot is fairly standard. A young girl living with her playboy father becomes jealous of his new love and when marriage is proposed she does her best to break it up. Gee nothing remarkable there. What is remarkable is the characters and their relationships. They have an extra amount of depth and the situation between Cecile and her father, Raymond (David Niven) borders on the incestuous. This gives it an added dimension and depth when Anne (Deborah Kerr) threatens to "steal" her father away. Another place where it avoids clichés is dealing with Anne. Kerr plays her magnificently and with a warm passion. She is not the wicked step mother here, but a sympathetic and self sacrificing woman who wants to bring love and stability into Cecile and Raymond's morally ambiguous and flighty lifestyle. This film while a modest success in America was a huge hit in Europe and inspired Jean-Luc Godard to work with Seberg.

Bonjour Tristesse also foreshadowed the films dealing with the idle rich that quickly popped up in its wake including two masterpieces, Antonioni's L'avventura and Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Preminger directs Bonjour Tristesse with a sure hand and I love how the flashbacks are in color and the present day scenes are in a somber black and white to fit with the mood. Oh and yes the story is told in flashback for the most part and the technique along with Seberg's narration gives a heightened sense of loss that Cecile and Raymond feel towards the events that transpired concerning Anne. Remarkable film and Seberg is so delightful and hot running around in her bathing suit practically the whole time.

Grade: A
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Sagan soaper
blanche-23 August 2008
David Niven and Jean Seberg say "Bonjour Tristesse" in this 1958 film directed by Otto Preminger and also starring Deborah Kerr and Mylène Demongeot. Niven and Seberg are Raymond and Cecile, a father and daughter vacationing on the Riviera and having a superficial blast for themselves. Raymond has his current girlfriend Elsa (Demongeot) living with them as well. When a good friend of Raymond's late wife, Anne (Kerr) comes to visit, things change - at first for the better, as the four of them continue the party atmosphere. Later, when Anne becomes Raymond's fiancée and begins to discipline Cecile, the fun stops. Cecile decides that Anne will have to go.

The film is told in flashback, black and white representing the present and glorious color used to tell the story, which is narrated by Seberg.

There's lots about this movie that is fascinating, and some of it just sort of falls flat. The idea that a deep-thinking, responsible career woman comes into the lives of two bon vivants is an interesting one, and you couldn't ask for a better cast. The beginning of the film, and even Cecile's plan to get rid of Anne that she brings Elsa and her own boyfriend Phillipe in on has a lighthearted feel to it. What Raymond and Cecile never considered is that there are ramifications for actions, Cecile due to her immaturity and Raymond because he's Raymond.

David Niven is terrific as the dashing Raymond, who loves a party, and Deborah Kerr gives a warm performance as Anne, who truly loves him and wants to ground both him and his daughter. The curiosity here is Seberg. She is as always the perfect gamine. Any time she's in a scene, you can't take your eyes off of her. She's so darn beautiful. Yet I don't think I've ever heard her say one line that I believed. And she's one actress where it just doesn't seem to matter. We hear a lot about "it" - well, she really had it.

Gorgeous scenery - you want to leave for the Riviera immediately. And, truth to tell, spending some time with Raymond, Cecile and Elsa before the arrival of Anne wouldn't be bad either.
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Otto Preminger's Rivera
robertguttman16 March 2019
Film makers love to show off the Rivera, and for good reason. It's one of the most spectacular venues in the world. However, it's interesting to compare Preminger's Rivera with those of Hitchcock in "To Catch a Thief" and Powell's in "The Red Shoes". In "The Red Shoes" the Riviera is merely a setting in which artists work obsessively to create their art while paying virtually no attention to it. For Hitchcock, the Riviera is a lush background for intrigue. In Preminger's "Bonjour Tristesse" the Riviera represents the lifestyle that the characters desire; luxurious, sensual, hedonistic and, ultimately, empty. "Bonjour Tristesse" is worth seeing for the Riviera, which looks fabulous, and Jean Seberg, who looks fabulous. However, the story is as shallow as the characters.

I do not think that it would be giving away the plot to say that the viewer is led to believe from the very beginning that he is seeing a tragedy. After all, the title translates as "Hello, Sorrow". Furthermore, the opening exposition, filmed in somber black-and-white, leads one to believe that the lives of the protagonists have been devastated by some great tragedy. However, from the very beginning it is also obvious that this impression is not true at all. The father and daughter are depicted as a pair of shallow, selfish, hedonists who care nothing for anything or anyone beyond each other and their own immediate gratification.

The story does not even mention exactly what, if anything, it is that the father does for a living. He is obviously extremely wealthy, but is never seen to do any sort of work or transact any business. It was apparently sufficient for the author that he should be nothing more than a rich, idle, middle-aged playboy who changes his cars as frequently as his daughter, who never wears the same outfit twice, changes her clothes.

In short, not only are the characters in this story not real people, they are not even sympathetic unreal people. It's bad enough having to put up with an hour and a half movie about mannequins without them having to be unlikable mannequins.
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One of the most beautiful films ever made; see it on the big screen only
Aw-komon5 July 2000
I'll never forget seeing a pristine print of this magnificently shot (entirely on location in the French Riviera) Preminger classic on the huge screen of the Egyptian theater in Hollywood (I refuse to watch the cut-up video version currently available), and let me tell you, there is no more poetic or romantic film in existence. Forget the silly, soap-opera pretext of a Francoise Sagan plot, just sit back and let the 'real' story, the visual poetry drift over you and take you away. Now, I'm not saying this because I'm in love with both Jean Seberg and Deborah Kerr (how can you not be, the way they look on the screen here), but because this is the quintessential Otto Preminger film, where he takes the trashiest of romance novels and proceeds to make a case study demonstration of how irrelevant 'standard' plot devices can be in the cinema by making a visual masterpiece out of it.
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what's not to like?
muerco6 February 2007
Yes, it's a soap opera, and yes, it's in some ways derivative of Sirk. But I just love this movie, as much as any movie of its type from the '50s. Short, swift, luxuriously filmed, and perfectly cast, "Bonjour Tristesse" is the best of Preminger's many best-seller adaptations ("Advise and Consent," "Exodus"). On a formal level, the movie is beautifully constructed throughout; the blocking and movement in and out of the frame is practically balletic, especially in the black-and-white sections. Even with her bland affect, Seberg is simply magical (and completely believable), with one great outfit/swimsuit after another. Niven and Kerr fit their roles exquisitely well, with the exactly right degree of self-awareness and (to some degree) self-loathing. I saw this movie recently 20 years after I first saw it (and was charmed then) and was not disappointed--it was exactly as good as I remembered. I can't think of any Preminger film more entertaining or more worthy of reaching a wide public. Enjoy!
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a reflection on Seberg
Fiona-3914 February 2001
This is an absorbing, intriguing and slightly bizarre film. I agree with the other comments here - the camera work is beautiful, the Riviera looks fab, Seberg is startling, and David Niven (how come no-one's mentioned his performance yet?) is a particularly slimy, lecherous old man. Seberg really does deliver an excellent performance. She's a fascinating person anyway, and here her ambiguity, her modernity, her beauty and her youth all come into their own. And the title song's fab too! Well worth a watch, if only to revel in the stunning scenery and Seberg's haunting screen presence.
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Bonjour Tristesse
Smalling-223 May 2000
A good-for-nothing, unhappy high society girl recalls a summer when she destroyed the love of her rich playboy father and his respectable bride, because she was afraid of finishing their hedonistic lifestyle.

Well-acted, starry cast and very graciously made but, in atmosphere, oddly faithless adaptation of a sharply cynical novel, which tends to glamorize and ennoble its originally unlovable characters against luxurious backgrounds. It holds the interest, however, and the glossily colorful photography of the sunlit French Rivera in the past alternating with the bleakly black and white present, is particularly excellent.
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Sunshine with No Shadow
dougdoepke9 May 2009
Reviews of this film are more interesting and thought provoking than most. A number of them convey critical insights that certainly deepened my appreciation. Yes, the film is flawed, but it also resonates beyond standard soap opera mainly because of its tragic central premise. That the movie doesn't fully realize its aim, I'm sorry to say, is largely because of limitations in Seberg's performance. I agree, she's a lively and compelling screen presence with a freshness that's genuinely appealing. However, the role of Cecile calls upon more emotional depth than Seberg manages to convey, especially with the absence of troubled emotions. Thus the sense of tragic outcome stems from sources other than Seberg's performance. Now, there are several ways of looking at Cecile's emotional make-up and maturity, but there's one I believe that most strongly recommends itself and also puts Seberg's performance in the best light.

On this view, Seberg has Cecile's character just right during the sunny Technicolor phase. Cecile is simply too immature to realize the potential consequences of her scheming actions. Thus, Cecile (Seberg) attaches no more gravity to breaking up her father's relationship than she does to skipping her studies. She's all spoiled selfishness wrapped in a winsome smile. And it's not until the car crash that she realizes the consequences of her selfish act, and experiences an emotional depth for the first time. Her scheme thus results not from making a wrongful choice but from not even realizing that a choice is being made. This view would vindicate nine-tenths of Seberg's unconflicted Technicolor performance, but not the black- and-white phase where Seberg fails to convey the conflict required. This view would also explain the added features of narration, color change and Saul Bass graphics once Preminger realizes that Seberg's performance is not enough to convey the necessary sense of tragedy.

Despite this central flaw, the movie remains oddly haunting. Maybe it's because of a sun- washed paradise so carelessly lost, or of a summer of such promise turned into a lifetime of regret. I really like the observation that father and daughter behave as though actions have no consequences. As a result, their humanity is only realized once the importance of this lesson is tragically driven home. Only by then, it's too late. In my view, the movie remains regrettably underrated.
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Another study in a teenage girl's destructive dislike for her widowed father's lover
Nazi_Fighter_David21 May 2007
The films of Otto Preminger share for the most part a detached objectivity in their attitudes to character and moral issues…

In "Bonjour Tristesse," his gamine protégé Cecile (Jean Seberg) is a very peculiar girl, maybe spoiled and willful and arrogant and lazy…

Anne (Deborah Kerr) had made her look at herself for the first time in her life…And that turned her against her… And now, her father is not having fun anymore, which was probably another reason she decided to get rid of her… How carefully and how seriously she went about that decision, is the tale of Françoise Sagan, published in 1954, by the time she was nineteen…

Raymond (David Niven) is a bundle of surprises… For him, it's such a wonderful fun to have Cecile for a daughter… And loving Anne doesn't mean that he loves his daughter any less… The wealthy playboy becomes serious from the moment that Anne arrived… He could never think of her as just someone to have fun with… He does have fun with Elsa (Mylène Demongeot) but that's a long way from being all he wants… Now, he has never wanted any woman the way he wants Anne…

Anne spent her honeymoon by the sea 12 years ago… She had quite a debate with herself before coming down to the French Riviera… For knowing that Elsa was there, she got stupidly angry and decided to leave…Then the prospect of packing and looking for a hotel was too much after that long drive so she decided to stay…

Being too sophisticated (maybe for discovering occupied territory), Anne was as suspicious of summer as she was of Raymond in spite of the fact that she knew him 15 years ago, and was quite sure that with him, nobody is safe…

For Cecile, Anne is prim and prissy and prude… For a woman who hates vulgarities—even when they're funny—she could never be seriously interested in a man like her father… So part of her was angry, part was happy, all of her was excited… Her father had brought a girl to the seashore, made her go out in the sun and then when she was a mess of peeling, dropped her like a hot lobster… It was unfair… Yet even while she was angry at him, she was proud that he had gotten the unattainable Anne… Anne looks now softer… She moves easier… In the morning, she seems as though she had the most wonderful secret in the world…

Suddenly she becomes aware of a great responsibility towards Cecile, as it would be good if she stops seeing Philippe (Geoffrey Horne) and studies for her philosophy examination…

Cecile becomes furious at her interference… Anne wants her to study and not to see Philippe… So what shall it be? For her, there'll be a man to take care of her…And she doesn't need a diploma for that…

Now she hates Anne… For her, she has changed her father…She'll change her and will change everything
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Lushly presented view of love and teen angst.
Poseidon-331 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Director Preminger (a man who went through many different phases in his work) seemed to have a thing, at least for a time, for precocious young ladies (see also Maggie McNamara in "The Moon is Blue", which also starred Niven.) Here, he directs a story about a playboy father (Niven) and his adoring, but restless, daughter Seberg whose idyllic vacation in the French Riviera turns sour upon the arrival of a motherly fashion designer. Niven and Seberg are frolicking carelessly, along with his current squeeze Demongeot, when word arrives that Seberg's godmother (Kerr), a friend of her deceased mother's, is on her way to visit. At first, Kerr is appalled at the set-up and with the way Seberg behaves, but once she realizes her options are few, she begins to lighten up and enjoy herself. She enjoys herself so much that, pretty soon, Niven is smitten with her and curvy, platinum-blonde Demongeot is out on her tail! Meanwhile, Seberg has fallen for local hunk Horne and they contemplate taking their relationship to the next level. When Kerr begins to assert a degree of control over Seberg and influence over Niven, this sets in motion a plan to wreck her and Niven's relationship, but in fact a great deal more than that is wrecked. In a gimmicky (but reasonably effective) move, the film opens in stark black & white, with Seberg narrating (in an unfortunately pretentious and irritating way) until the film flashes back to the glorious French scenery and Technicolor seeps in, eventually filling the screen with lavish beauty. Occasionally, the action shifts back to the black & white present day, though the bulk of the film concerns the flashback sequences. Seberg, still sporting her close-cropped hair from "Saint Joan", her previous film with Preminger, is a striking and interesting presence. Any lack of seasoning in her acting is compensated for by her exquisite beauty and her radiant energy (which does occasionally stray over the top.) Niven adeptly handles his role, though he is given fairly few close-ups in the film. He and Seberg share an unusual (and controversial) relationship with her calling him by his first name and with both of them frequently kissing each other and interacting physically. Kerr, by now ensconced in ladylike roles, gives an excellent and shaded performance, though her initial costume is ghastly; a big taupe sack, basically. She deftly treads the line between unsympathetic interloper and caring, concerned, sensitive matron. Demongeot gets a rare chance (in English-speaking films, anyway) to play a decent role and she handles it well, bringing much humor and energy to it. Horne, frequently clad in skimpy swim trunks, is delectable and charming. Stalwart character actors Chiari and Hunt appear briefly as amusing casino patrons (and Hunt is Horne's mother in the film.) Greco is shown on screen in the present day section and sings the title song. It's a strangely unheralded film considering how splendidly it is photographed and how charmingly and effectively performed it is. The story is rather captivating as well. It's well worth a look.
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Style over substance. Great anyway.
ags12320 April 2007
Very enjoyable film. Easy on the eyes, but not much depth. Soap opera story plays out rather unconvincingly, but the lovely scenery and engaging personalities make it all worthwhile. What a great way to spend 94 minutes: lost in the carefree lifestyle of the French Riviera at a time when the world seemed calm. Pure fantasy now! David Niven is more charming and relaxed than usual, in contrast to the typically tight-laced Deborah Kerr, who tries to impose some decorum upon the hedonists. Jean Seberg is delightful. Though her acting is terrible, she makes up for it with warmth and beauty. It also helps that she spends most of the film running around in bathing suits. She beat Mia Farrow to the short cropped hair by ten years. Preminger's one clever device of using both color and black-and-white photography adds visual interest, but fails to convey the heartbreak it's intended for. Recommend this film for pleasant escapism.
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Taking notes on a Teen Noir
melvelvit-116 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A young girl feels responsible for a tragic event on the French Riviera...

Cecile (Jean Seberg), an immature teenager, fears her hedonistic but emotionally unsatisfying life will change once her like-minded playboy father Raymond (David Niven) decides to wed his late wife's prim and proper best friend, Anne (Deborah Kerr). Bound and determined not to let that happen, the superstitious Cecile sets up a scenario for Anne's benefit that precipitates a fatal accident. Ann finding out that Raymond was incapable of changing was bound to happen on its own sooner or later but a guilty conscience caused a young girl to change Ann's accident to suicide in her mind. Fear of change is expected in a child and, if they can, children will try to influence adults. The events that unfolded that fateful summer, although sad, were not particularly unusual ...but not if seen through the eyes of a child. Cecile's reaction to the tragedy would eventually mature given the right conditions but, in an odd filmic extension, arrested development will have Seberg/Cecile pedaling Parisian papers in Jean Luc Godard's BREATHLESS the following year.

This is a visually stunning film with the black and white sequences symbolizing an empty, lifeless present contrasted with the vibrant colors of a romanticized, melodramatic past are particularly effective here and this device was later used for the same reason in Wade William's 1992 remake of Edgar Ulmer's DETOUR. Jean Seberg makes the movie and was far better than she was ever given credit for but her radiant beauty is almost matched by the Monroe-like Mylene Demongeot playing Niven's latest lady-love. Deborah Kerr breathes life into a decent woman who's sense of right and wrong clashes with reality in the wrong environment and David Niven is suitably debonair, doting, and shallow as Cecile's child-like father on whom the girl models her behavior. Darryl F. Zanuck's mistress, Juliette Greco, sings the title tune as herself.

I've never read the teenage author Francois Sagan's novel but BONJOUR TRISTESSE is not nearly as dark as I remembered it and now plays like "The Teenage Confessions Of A Drama Queen" right down to the detached yet overwrought voice-over narration. The inherently tragic irony here is that, by not changing her life-style, Cecile's life has been irreparably altered ...or so she thinks at that young age. Although highly praised in France, both Seberg and the film were not kindly received at the time of its release but time has proved Preminger's instincts spot on.

I'd give this a "Recommended" even though many find it fodder for SATURDAYNIGHT LIVE's "Bad Cinema".
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A curiously passive, unmoving experience...
moonspinner5514 December 2007
Wealthy playboy father and his precocious seventeen-year old daughter share a sassy, flirty relationship with one another while teasing and leading-on potential romantic partners for both. But the fun and games are called to a halt once dad is reunited with an old friend of the family, a chic fashion designer who would like to see both father and daughter get serious about their lives. Talented writer Arthur Laurents adapted his screenplay from Françoise Sagan's book, yet even with Otto Preminger directing a classy cast, this soaper set on the Riviera never comes to a boil. Preminger sees the idle rich as spoiled and decadent, dancing away mindlessly into the night, yet the players (David Niven and gamine Jean Seberg as father and daughter, Deborah Kerr as Niven's fiancée) bring a lot more heart and human interest to the piece than was probably intended. As such, the characters are more embraceable than the writing and handling, and portions of the film are puzzling or awkward. Still, film-lovers of this era in cinema will no doubt bask in the lush surroundings, not to mention in the enjoyable performances and beautiful photography (black-and-white for the present day, color for the past). The script might have benefited from more honesty in the finale--the 'irony' in bringing these dead-end lives full circle isn't very cutting--and there are two supporting characters who are given the shaft by Laurents. There are certainly pleasures to be had here, however, most notably in the scenes between Kerr and Seberg. **1/2 from ****
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Dated, but Still Enjoyable
claudio_carvalho12 October 2005
In the French Riviera, the spoiled and futile seventeen years old girl Cecile (Jean Seberg) is spending the summer vacation with her father, the widow playboy and bon-vivant Raymond (David Niven), and his girlfriend Elsa (Mylène Demongeot). Cecile has a serious Complex of Oedipus with her father, and they have a quite incestuous relationship. The successful designer and former friend of her mother Anne Larson (Deborah Kerr) arrives in their seaside house invited by Raymond to spend a couple of days with them, and the life of Cecile changes when Raymond proposes Anne to marry him. Full of jealous, Cecile plots with Elsa to separate Anne from Raymond.

"Bonjour Tristesse" is a film that became very dated, but it is still enjoyable, mostly because of Jean Seberg, who is amazingly perfect in her role, and the charming cast. The direction of Otto Preminger is very precise, as usual, using the black and white to picture the present and colors for the past. Jean Seberg, Debora Kerr and Mylène Demongeot are extremely beautiful and David Niven is great in the role of a silly millionaire with no other preoccupation but women and entertainment. In the present days, it can be clearly seem that the story shows, but does not emphasizes, an incestuous relationship between Cecile and Raymond. The costumes of Givenchy and the Cartier jewelries glitter the colored part of the movie. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Bom Dia Tristeza" ("Good Morning Sadness")
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Teen Fantasy Soap Opera
Piafredux7 June 2006
Jean Seberg had not one iota of acting talent. Like all her films, 'Bonjour tristesse' suffers not at all from her looks (though she is perhaps the first of those modern women whom Tom Wolfe gleefully, accurately describes as "boys with breasts": publicists, of course, use the word "gamine") but suffers grievously from Seberg's dull, monotonous, killing voice. In all her films when had to play anger, Seberg played it with grossly audible, distracting, gasping panting between her monotonously droned verbalizations. Oy.

Preminger's adaptation of Françoise Sagan's breathlessly juvenile, fantasy soap opera plot is noteworthy only for his lush cinematography - but then that's difficult to funk on the photogenic French Riviera, and perhaps for his apt, but certainly not groundbreaking, employment of black & white for the present day scenes from which Seberg's monotone narration delivers us to the flashed-back-to color past.

Juliette Gréco has a brief moment, as a nightclub chanteuse in the black & white spotlight, delivering in smoky Dietrichesque voice the bleak existentialist lyric of the title song. This moment is nowadays, in retrospect, more than a wee bit drôle. Except, of course, if you're French - particularly if you're a French "68-er" longing for the glorious days of the barricades roundabout the Sorbonne - and your kids riot to retain the lifelong sinecures which have blighted and emasculated France's economy: then you still believe in Sartre and Foucault and all such arcane, irrelevant theorists.

David Niven has the hardest role, having to play with sufficient gusto an aging hedonist who's yet to grasp that life isn't all about Sagan's teenybopper notions of a hip, cool, swingin', "mon copain!" Papa. Deborah Kerr delivers her usual, consummately professional presence, convincingly playing the woman who suffers undeservedly Seberg's spiteful teenaged snot-nose jealousy (fulfilling Sagan's shallow teen fantasy of the Classical theme of "there can be only one Queen Bee in the hive"); in fact, to Kerr belongs this film's sole great and memorable on-screen moment.

The dialogue is unnatural - I agree with an earlier reviewer who said that it sounds to be "badly translated" from French; combine the unnatural scripting with Seberg's incomparably dull, unendurable monotone and you can save that Valium for another night. Atop all that the ineptly synched post-production voice dubbing is, almost throughout, obvious and thus much more than irksome: this is especially true of the dubbing for Mylène Demongeot because it spoils her otherwise very pleasing dumb blonde performance.

Hunky Geoffrey Horne gets the short end of the stick here - a very good looking young man who also suffered from a less-than-lovely, uncinematic voice which, when paired with Seberg's drone, yields unconvincing scenes of puppy love. (Horne was, shall we say, merely adequate in 'Bridge On the River Kwai,' perhaps because his end was held up by those great cinema pros William Holden and Jack Hawkins instead of being unsupported by the regrettably ungifted Seberg).

In sum 'Bonjour tristesse' is pretty to look at but it's shallow, immature soap: thin gruel with suds.
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Juvenile Script from Juvenile Novel: Possible Spoilers
gelman@attglobal.net17 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The over-heated plot of "Bonjour tristesse" is taken from a juvenile first novel by Francoise Sagan, which became a best-seller, though God knows why. For teenagers wanting to get rid of a potential step-parent it may have a certain appeal. Don't be taken in by the fact that David Niven plays the playboy father and Deborah Kerr the step-mother-in- prospect. Unfortunately, too much rests on the frail shoulders of Jean Seberg. She's beautiful and easily fulfills the image of a spoiled teenager. The problem is that she can strike poses but she can't act. Anyone who saw her as Joan of Arc in Otto Preminger's St. Joan -- Seberg's first film -- knows she was incapable at 19 of carrying a film. This movie, also by Preminger, fulfills the "promise" of the first. It was her second movie; she was now 20. What was Preminger thinking? That Niven and Kerr could compensate for Seberg's lack of acting capacity? Not a chance? Seberg's character is at the center of the story and, pretty though she is, convincing though she may be physically as a 17 year old, she can't meet the emotional demands of the role. I don't know if she ever became a successful actress in her short life because she did not have an impact on my consciousness in her later pictures. But anyone who thinks this film is better than mediocre needs a taste check. In spite of Niven and Kerr, this remains a juvenile story executed in juvenile fashion by a beautiful young girl who badly needed acting lessons.
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"Oedipus II"
MartinHafer4 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This film starts off in a very unusual manner. While the credits are done by Saul Bass in color, the film itself is black & white. I am not sure if any other films have this distinction, but it certainly is unusual. Then, throughout the film, it switched from color to black & white--a daring move that may or may not distract the viewer.

As another reviewer pointed out, the film has very strong Oedipal overtones. The film centers on the life of two rather free-thinking people--a father and daughter (David Niven and Jean Seberg) who seem amazingly chummy--more so than is typical. They hug and kiss so often and have very vague personal boundaries that the viewer most likely will feel a bit creeped out by them. And, the father and daughter talks about the father's love life with the young bombshell Mylène Demongeot--his latest conquest. Unusual to say the least! Because there is this seething undercurrent, things turn out very bad when a domineering woman (Deborah Kerr) comes back into their lives and threatens the relationship between father and daughter. Unlike Dad's other women, Kerr seems less willing to share him with Seberg--Mylène (who was quite young) acted more like a goofy sister or friend to Seberg instead of an adult. Kerr is definitely NOT goofy or much fun for the daughter. In fact, Kerr begins acting like she is Seberg's mother soon after her arrival .

Now this brings me to a major problem with "Oedipus II", I mean "Bonjour Tristesse". Niven is a bit of a bohemian...yet he suddenly gives up his fun-loving life for the wet blanket, Kerr. She is neither young nor sexy and seems as much fun as a missionary at a sex workers' convention! So what, exactly, motivated Niven?! I have no idea. While I am a pretty conservative type guy, I thought Kerr was dull and anti-fun--so why would Niven, then, be drawn to her?! Now I could understand Seberg disliking this new arrangement--that, at least, made sense. After all, Kerr is rather awful and Seberg just wants to have fun.

Now I actually think the Oedipal angle, while creepy, was pretty interesting. While they never could have gotten away with this in the 1950s, it would have really been interesting if Niven and Seberg's relationship had been much more intimate--or at least more strongly implied. Then, the creepy love triangle might have been a lot more explosive and interesting. But, while I am thinking about it, Kerr's character needed to become less unlikable. This is because she was too easy to hate and too one-dimensional. As I said above, it made no sense that Niven could want to marry this awful person. So, toning down Kerr and increasing the father-daughter sexual tension might have made the film a lot more interesting--and completely blown away audiences of the day--so much so, that this might not have made it past the censors.

So, as it is, is the film worth seeing even if it is a tad sanitized for 50s tastes? Well, the idea of Seberg plotting to destroy Kerr is awfully intriguing. Plus, to a degree, you must agree with Seberg--though not her methods. After all, I felt like rapping Kerr's character in the mouth myself and wanted to see something bad happen. Because of this and good acting, the film really is interesting and hard to stop watching--like a high quality but sleazy soaper such as "Peyton Place". Beware that it is a bit slow at the beginning--bear with it, it does get better--and it ends quite well. In fact, the ending is quite haunting--and lingers even after the final credits have rolled.
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Adieu Entertainment
krdement14 December 2007
This is shallow hedonism and/or social commentary wrapped in a tragic tale about a jealous young woman's scheme to drive apart her father and his fiancée. Is it incest or just a view through the eyes of a daughter with an Electra complex? Who cares? All of the characters, except for Anne (Deborah Kerr) are vacuous and vile. Seberg is poor (I agree with the "boys with breasts" comment of an earlier review). The plot plodded. This predictable material was sufficient for about 30 minutes of film that unfortunately was stretched over an hour and a half! If you want to see great gowns and jewels on the Riviera, I recommend "To Catch a Thief" - in which you will get the added bonuses of an entertaining story and likable characters.

I like for films to entertain me. I personally don't really care where a film is set. Whatever the time or place, I want a good story - comedy or drama. I also want to see some enjoyable characters. It doesn't hurt if I can relate to them. Poor Deborah Kerr gives a typically good performance, and so does David Niven in a despicable role.

The "2" rating is solely for Kerr and Niven, and for the cinematography - the rich color scenes and the murky, foreboding black and white scenes. Unfortunately, all the great cinematography in the world cannot salvage a poor story with un-enjoyable characters. A sow's ear is still a sow's ear. Consequently watching this mess was a serious waste of my time.
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Otto Preminger comes Face to Face with Jean Seberg
wes-connors13 July 2009
Pretty teen-aged Jean Seberg (as Cecile) recalls an idyllic summer spent, on the French Rivera, with playboy father David Niven (as Raymond), and their lovers. While Mr. Niven bags younger "hot lobster" Mylène Demongeot (as Elsa), Ms. Seberg hooks up with handsome young Geoffrey Horne (as Philippe). Their lives are interrupted when older, still attractive Niven-ex Deborah Kerr (as Anne) arrives on the scene. Aware of Ms. Kerr's prim ways, Niven moves out on his mistress. As soon as Ms. Demongeot is dispensed with, Niven announces he is engaged to Kerr, with whom he's been having less vulgar fun, anyway. Seberg is happy, until Kerr decides to play step-mother, and advises Seberg to shed boyfriend Horne and concentrate on more educational pursuits.

Otto Preminger's "Bonjour Tristesse" is lacking in character development. Both Seberg and Kerr needed to inject more friction in their increasingly adverse relationship; and, Niven needed to show his character and lifestyle were worth the struggle - most lacking is Seberg, the real star of the film. Instead of holding your interest, you think they're wasting your time. A mutual incestuous interest, between father Niven and daughter Seberg, may be discerned in the way they kiss, and speak to each other - but, it's difficult to determine with certainty, given cultural norms. The film's main strength is its lovely alternating black-and-white to color photography, by Georges Périnal.

***** Bonjour Tristesse (3/17/58) Otto Preminger ~ Jean Seberg, David Niven, Deborah Kerr
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Oddly cast, cold and colorful at the same time...
JasparLamarCrabb21 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Otto Preminger directs this light as a feather story. Bohemian Jean Seberg and her equally bohemian widower father David Niven holiday in the South of France with nutty Mylène Demongeot. Things are fine until family friend Deborah Kerr shows up. Nivens, a degenerate womanizer, finds the conquest of Kerr too hard to resist. That's fine with Seberg, as long as Niven loves her and leaves her (as he's done with all the women in his past...including Demongeot). When it appears as though she's becoming second banana in Niven's life, Seberg exact revenge on Kerr. Preminger tells the story in flashbacks from Seberg's perspective and cleverly combines black and white with sunnier color scenes. The cinematography by Georges Périnal is stunning. The film features some of Preminger's least heavy-handed direction, although he rarely allows any close-ups, which makes it difficult to make out what the actors are really feeling. Arthur Laurents wrote the script and it's full of acidic dialog and funny scenes (mostly involving bird-brained Demongeot). Seberg acquits herself fairly well, but Niven is at his least appealing...and he shows no chemistry with either Seberg or Kerr. Preminger really mis-steps with that casting. It's a role that seems tailor made for someone closer to Charles Boyer. With Geoffrey Horne as Seberg's would-be suitor and Martita Hunt as his daffy mother. Juliette Gréco, playing herself, sings the title song in a Paris nightclub. The great titles are by Preminger regular Saul Bass.
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It's time for a do-over
rgcustomer23 August 2010
Normally I hate remakes, but I think it would be hard to make this film worse than it already is, so I say "Go for it!" because the story might be worth telling.

The story actually isn't much, and deserved a better script and tighter editing to keep the audience interested, not to mention better direction, and acting (including Seberg). I was constantly having to replay scenes, because my mind would drift away from the film, as it was so dull.

Even the music was bad. I mean, by the zillionth time they play a variation on that theme ... good grief, we get it already! It must have been a bargain.

The characters never really evolve one way or another. They just sort of change (or not) for no particular reason. It's devoid of feeling, even when there should be feeling. We're just supposed to assume it makes sense, without actually taking that journey with the characters.

The narration was a big negative as well. Sure, the character may be annoying and childish, but that's no reason to subject us to annoying and childish ramblings.

I did enjoy the cinematography, and the use of colour.

Even in the 6.5 - 7.0 range, this film is overrated. The pity is that it could have been done well, and wasn't.
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Imitation of Sirk
eyeseehot15 April 2006
Otto Preminger Sirking it up on the Riviera. The sets and photography are beautiful, and someone might have taken the general idea and made a good movie. The black-and-white Paris contrast is interesting, especially with the transition from dancing in the nightclub (where the title song is the best thing in the film), with fragments of color fading in and out until a full transition. But Preminger is only a poor man's Sirk. He's an imitator, not an original.

The script depends on a French sensibility that doesn't quite translate. The lines often read like badly translated French. The conflict is between the loose and fun but decadent and empty French hedonism and the English prude (Deborah Kerr, ostensibly a top fashion designer) who wants to turn it around, to the point of insisting Seberg break up with her boyfriend and spend her days studying philosophy. The incest theme is toyed with, uncomfortably and unconvincingly. David Niven is a canny old pro who gives some life to a character essentially empty, and Kerr carries her weight, but Seberg's acting is so bad it makes me cringe. If only her face could have been transplanted to a real actor. Though the film has its points, on the whole it's dead on arrival.
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The Bad Seed, with Gowns by Givenchy
gross-64 February 2002
In one respect, it's like 'The Wizard of Oz,' with Paris in black-and-white and the Riviera in color. But it's supposedly about possessive love, destructiveness and moral decadence, while actually being about designer gowns, shots of the Riveria, lots of big expensive cars, and music-and dancing interludes that suggest Vincente Minnelli on one of his off-days. Watchable, but a remarkable example of desperate, dark plot material and glitzy style heading in opposite directions. (Was this the model for 'The Talented Mister Ripley? Does anyone sense an affinity between Jean Seberg and Matt Damon?)
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